the audience wants to participate

Thanks Alain Bachellier @ Flickr

Oliver Reichenstein suggests that the audience of a broadcast (TV, Radio or even Print) is usually a passive consumer, a legacy from the early days of radio. But a more powerful transformation to our society was put in motion around the time Radio and TV became mainstream: the fundamental cultural transfer mechanism stopped being the written word and was replaced by the oral tradition, much in the same way tribal societies did in the past. These are McLuhan’s words, not mine.

In his “the people formerly known as the audience“, Jay Rosen pursues the idea of how modern technologies have shifted the balance between audience and the traditional producers of news. A modern newsroom has to be built around the notion that the public WILL get involved in the process of gathering the news. Such was the insight offered by Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera when talking about their most popular stories. So, the most important collaborator in a newsroom today is THE AUDIENCE.

So, to build around the audience as an active participant, I’ve put together a few design directives for my video dashboard project, using the advice from Oliver himself (“The user interface doesn’t connect eye with screen, it links head and hand”):

  • The video dashboard should be able to process videos elsewhere, simply by subscribing to a RSS feed. Ideally the feeds will be machine-tagged so intellectual property rights are obeyed when finding the videos. After all, the videos will be subject to a massive transformation in order to be usable within the dashboard.
  • The curation process should be with the audience. Open access to the contents of a given stream would allow those interested in specific topics to get raw access to the library and influence which videos get more attention throughout the process.
  • To police content, we need a community-driven approach, one that requires little effort for the community to enforce and requires a lot of energy for trolls to game. Every user gets to flag inappropriate content with a single action, but only the community as a group gets to push content up in relevance, by actually watching the content.
  • We need to provide clear indication of which content is fresher within the stream, as it is more likely to be important. This aligns with the “breaking news” culture in newsrooms everywhere.
  • The feedback method for the audience to participate in the curation of content should be trivial, can be followed by anyone with access to the stream and has an immediate impact on what others will see afterwards. Implicit feedback in the form of javascript events resulting from certain actions from users will be captured and used to render the dashboard for future users.
  • To keep the interface simple, only basic gestures will be used: swipe to move around the dashboard, single click/tap to watch content.

Release a dashboard to the audience and see it transform under their control, revealing the snippets of content that will shape the next story.


3 Responses to “the audience wants to participate”

  1. Raynor Vliegendhart August 2, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    > To police content, we need a community-driven approach[...]

    > We need to provide clear indication of which content is fresher within the stream[...]

    Perhaps the dashboard should also provide a clear indication which content is currently unpoliced? For example, unpoliced content could go into a sidebar and until it is deemed by the community to be relevant, it would be moved to the main area of the dashboard.

    For the freshness of content, I think a three tiers approach would probably work. For example, when you go to the mobile site of Twitter (without being signed in) located at, you can see popular topics being divided into “now”, “today” and “week”.

  2. juan August 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    In the particular scenario that this tool would be used in a newsroom, chances are that the majority of the content will be fresh and submitted by the community. What I’ve done (following my own design directives) is to display content that has gotten the more “air time” in a larger canvas than other snippets. I’m thinking that same rule would be used to make that content “stick” to the top of the stream. So the top of the stream would always be a “trending now”

    As for freshness, yes, I like that time-based segmentation approach.


  1. the pitch to news organizations | - November 25, 2011

    [...] I had provided a quick snapshot of what the tool could look like and even provided a concise set of design directives that would make sure the tool remains true to the idea of openness and transparency and is built on [...]

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