Is This the Golden Age of Digital Media?
It's like a puzzle. When you put it together, something's going to happen.
When it comes to art and media, we're often caught in a tug-of-war between legacy and innovation, nostalgia and the next new thing. This tension can create things that are both beautiful and interesting. Instagram and its sepia filters blend the best of today’s technology – the ability to create instant, socially shareable pictures on your smartphone – with the nostalgic look-and-feel of aged photographs. Films like The Artist and Hugo successfully combine modern day movie-making technology with content and structure that pays tribute to the early days of cinema.
But not all art forms have been able to nimbly navigate between the processes and infrastructure laid down by their predecessors, while also taking advantage of the newest advances to the medium. One of the most noticeable places we've seen this is in the evolution of digital media. Today’s digital publishers are forced to contend with the legacy systems put in place by both digital and print. The result is an experience that feels unfocused, cluttered and confused.
In order to create a new standard in quality digital publishing we need to start viewing it as an entirely new medium and rethink the current relationship between content, editorial design and user experience.
When people first started experimenting with cinema as a means to tell stories , filmmakers would duplicate the logic and progression of plays, shooting static shots in a single room. It wasn’t until a few innovators started to understand the nuances of film that the true notion of “movie magic” was explored. With just a few snips of film and cleverly timed shots, people could disappear from screen and rockets could fly to the moon.
We’re now at this precise crossroads with the Web. The technology and infrastructure is in place to support a robust digital media experience that surpasses our expectations. But the solution isn’t purely a technological one. We need to create a new approach to telling a story, creating socially textured narratives that couldn’t exist in print. Instead, stories will have layers of context with reader interactions and conversations becoming part of the story. The user interface will be a seamless part of the experience of consuming content, letting readers explore in a far more fluid and elegant ways.
We’re already seeing this shift take place. Sites like Buzzfeed are based around social curation in some parts, algorithms in others. The Verge in the US, and ITV News in the UK have switched to a model of real-time micro updates instead of holding stories until they've fully matured. Our own Dogster blends strong editorial content with deep community interaction and Remodelista combines product databases with editorial curation.
By concentrating on creating experiences that can only exist on the Internet - experiences that marry amazing content, beautiful editorial design, and intuitive and simple user interfaces – we’ll finally be able to usher in digital media’s “Golden Age.”