Should we think of articles as particles or waves?

In the optimizing your narrative session, the speakers were divided about which analogy fits best for news. Purposefully, they arrive at the same conclusion physicists reached about light: Both.

Vox Media made the waves argument, demonstrating their StoryStream concept. They explained it as a step of refinement between live blogs and final wrap ups.

“Atomic unit of content is not the article” Trei Brundrett said.

In a hypothetical about an Apple event, Brundrett explained notes or play-by-play are taken in a live blog. Meanwhile short stories are pulled out and fleshed out in the StoryStream tool they custom-built.

The principal idea is that news comes and travels in waves.

Quartz’s Zach Seward argued in favor of particles, acknowledging the desire for atomized news and displaying examples of success with targeted story nuggets. He also discussed the methods of distribution.

“The new news habit is no habit at all,” he said.

He went on to argue, “It’s less likely that they are actively trying to obtain news in a set time of the day. It is more likely that the news is coming at them” as in social media and push notifications to  smartphones.

For those, he said, the prepared and targeted particles have the best success.

The arguments overlap, just as the design and editorial decisions that determine what we can do with both approaches.


–Phil Tenser, KMGH

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One thought on “Should we think of articles as particles or waves?

  1. […] idea may still not be fully realized, but in 2013 I attended a session that questioned what the “atomic unit of content” truly is. I thought of this recently when I heard a speech about an upcoming app, and I think of […]

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