Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A richer first draft of history

Amazon is claiming to offer newspapers a new lease of life with the larger-screen Kindle DX, which transforms reading the printed versions of publications into an easier-to-carry internet-delivered digital experience.

The trend is towards a more literal and fixed digital representation of newspapers, likely to appeal to older audiences. However, in many ways, the more interesting experiments in new media are happening elsewhere, and have more to do with changing the fundamental reading (and writing) experience.

Silicon Valley's Apture, like a camera aperture, can give a wider depth of field to web stories with its service.

This week, it has been demonstrating new formats for displaying embedded media in stories, with its tools for the media industry, while last week, it announced Reuters as its latest customer, joining BBC News, the Washington Post, New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

At first glance, Apture looks similar to Snap , a longer established service, which began by giving thumbnail previews of web pages as users moused over links in stories. Snap has expanded these "Snap shots" to playing videos or audio within small pop-up windows, showing photos, maps, Wikipedia entries, share price charts and other bite-sized media linked to from the story.

Apture has gone deeper, allowing writers to make the same connections and, in addition, upload materials and link to an actual page within a pdf, or a specific soundbite within a video. Clicking on photos or links in its mini-windows opens up separate mini-windows, while clicking back on the story dismisses the windows one-by-one. A window can also contain several pieces of linked media.

Its back-end tool is very rich as well - a tabbed search engine suggesting many different kinds of media and sources for links.

"The web is the richest communication medium we've ever had but we keep publishing flat documents and connect them with links to more flat documents," Tristan Harris, Apture chief executive, told me, explaining why the company set out to change things.

The service allows news services to link without losing their readers to another site, while at the same time, providing a multi-dimensional experience on the page

Mr Harris believes users of Apture are changing their writing habits. For example, they may omit the "nut graph" or "bollocks par", as we say in the trade - the boilerplate paragraph repeated in every story that gives the background to a situation or an explanation of a concept.

"Apture lets you do that. Why let your staff do the work to reiterate the same points over and over again when you can write less, it can really fundamentally change the way you create content," he says.

While Apture is enriching the journalist's first draft of history, Livescribe, the digital pen company, has released a feature this week that makes available the draft of that first draft.

Its pencasts - the interactive Flash movies of notes and recordings captured by its Pulse smartpen - can now be embedded on a blog or webpage. Here's an example from my notebook, please excuse the unintelligible handwriting and indecipherable shorthand. At least the audio makes sense.

06.18.2008 11:05a
brought to you by Livescribe

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