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Publishing News: Rebooting online news presentation

Ben Huh has a fling with news, checking in on the Twitter archive, and readers can now fund authors directly.

Here are some of this week’s highlights from the publishing world. (Note: These stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

I can has better news presentation?

MobyDick.pngBen Huh (@benhuh), CEO of the Cheezburger, Inc., loves his Cheezburger project, but he’s also ready to have a fling with news. In a recent blog post, Huh addressed the stagnant state of news presentation and consumption, which he’s hoping to address with his new project Moby Dick.

In the post he described how news sites are not embracing new technology or exploring new ways to report and present the news:

The limited amount of space on news homepages and their outmoded method of presentation poses big problems for the distribution of news as well as consumption by the public. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery.

The traditional methods of news-writing, such as the reverse pyramid, and the various “editions” of news, pose big limitations on how news is reported and consumed. Unfortunately, Internet-based changes such as reverse-chronological blogging of news, inability to archive yesterday’s news, poor commenting quality, live-blogging, and others have made news consumption an even more frustrating experience.

Because it’s easy to find news outlets that are doing it wrong, I reached out to Huh via email for his thoughts on news organizations that are headed in the right direction. Our short interview follows.

If one of journalism’s problems is digital presentation, who is doing it right?

Ben Huh: I love that MSNBC is trying out new ideas and new formats. Not everything works, but it’s the trial and error that will help come up with answers. The Huffington Post’s Big News pages are interesting, but are still limited to the old blog format. I do love Techmeme, and they do a wonderful job of curation.

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Inside the Library of Congress’ Twitter archive

Library of Congress Reading Room 1 by maveric2003, on FlickrIn April 2010, Twitter announced it was donating its entire archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress. Every tweet since Twitter’s inception in 2006 would be preserved. The donation of the archive to the Library of Congress may have been in part a symbolic act, a recognition of the cultural significance of Twitter. Although several important historical moments had already been captured on Twitter when the announcement was made last year (the first tweet from space, for example, Barack Obama’s first tweet as President, or news of Michael Jackson’s death), since then our awareness of the significance of the communication channel has certainly grown.

That’s led to a flood of inquiries to the Library of Congress about how and when researchers will be able to gain access to the Twitter archive. These research requests were perhaps heightened by some of the changes that Twitter has made to its API and firehose access.

But creating a Twitter archive is a major undertaking for the Library of Congress, and the process isn’t as simple as merely cracking open a file for researchers to peruse. I spoke with Martha Anderson, the head of the library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIP), and Leslie Johnston, the manager of the NDIIP’s Technical Architecture Initiatives, about the challenges and opportunities of archiving digital data of this kind.

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Would you fund your favorite author’s next book?

questionmarkPublishers can start preparing for some new competition — from readers. A new crowdfunded service called Unbound launched at this year’s Hay Festival. The platform, which sounds similar to Kickstarter, allows readers to fund the books they want to read. A post at the Guardian describes how it works:

The Unbound.co.uk publishing platform … allows writers to pitch ideas online directly to readers who, if they are interested, pledge financial support. Once enough money has been raised, the author will write the book, with supporters receiving anything from an ebook to a limited first edition and lunch with the author, depending on their level of investment.

And Unbound didn’t launch with unknown self-publishing authors — Terry Jones is on board, as are Tibor Fischer and Gavin Pretor-Pinney.

This raises the question: Would you fund your favorite author?

  • Share your thoughts and check out the conversation in this story’s comments

Got news?

Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.

Photo: Library of Congress Reading Room 1 by maveric2003, on Flickr

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