A recent report from the Associated Press finds that news consumers are engaged in a futile search for depth and context. Ethan Zuckerman offers a different perspective in his excellent analysis of the findings:
The [report] authors argue that news fatigue is a function not just of negativity, but of too many headlines. Some of the people in the study (basically, everyone who has internet access at work) report restlessly reloading news websites waiting for something new to appear. This is a pretty unsatisfying experience with most news stories, which don’t change all that fast, but it’s an easy form of news to get and one that cable news networks now appear obsessed with. It was less clear to me than from the researchers that this constitutes a consumer desire for depth – it simply looked like boredom with the same old headlines to me. [Emphasis added]
My take is that these seemingly insurmountable and divergent needs — avoiding boredom and finding context — can both be served by one simple tool: hyperlinks. A series of well-placed, hand-picked links expands the boundaries of a particular story without affecting the core narrative. No other medium offers such an elegant and powerful mechanism. No other medium gives readers a choice to go deeper.
Unfortunately, that choice is only available if editors aggregate and embed links. Simply making content available through Web sites, mobile devices, newsletters, RSS feeds and Twitter isn’t enough. As the AP report suggests, consumers want something deeper (or less boring), and editors are uniquely positioned to provide that service by exercising the unique curatorial skills they’ve developed in the news trade. Ignoring links — or relegating them to rarely-read closing paragraphs — is an egregious disservice to the audience because it withholds the very things consumers crave.