If I had to chose another lesson it would be this: items are best utilized for their natural context.
If the shoe doesn't fit, forcing your way into it is both painful and useless.
Contextual relevancy (the correct foot) is essential to obtaining the desired value (the prince) out of content (the shoe).
We would do well to remember this.
A 90 minute movie may be enjoyable from the couch on a
big screen tv, but it would be unwatchable when viewed a cell phone. While a 30 second YouTube clip looks great on my cellphone, it is
unwatchable on my TV. Context drives the content experience.
And the implications are many.
The Current Dynamic: Content generators (newspapers) give the nod to feed aggregator users (Google Reader regulars), by creating RSS feeds. These feeds feature the newspaper's existent text content and do not require additional formatting or redesign. This content works reasonably well in the aggregate environment.
However, even as an avid feed aggregate user, I still prefer to read lengthy articles in their native environments. There is a tangibly real value in reading content together with the pictures, formatting, sidebars and color schemes it was intended to be viewed within.
The Challenge: Many brands are trying to live in the context of an aggregate experience (widgets in social pages, Google Reader, podcasts, etc.) by creating mini-microsites in the form of widgets and long form commercials in the form of podcasts. A magazine ad would perform poorly on television.
New Channel > New Experience > New Marketing.
The Solution: It's time that marketers began thinking about the aggregate user and the flaws of the strip-and-syndicate model. We need to be building distributed utility that fits the need of the user within the context of the user, rather than the models that suit the brand low hanging fruit (text). We need to think strategically within user and platform centric models, ultimately delivering unique utility that drives brand objectives.
It's time we started designing for success.
The Current Dynamic: RSS strips everything. It strips the design, the context, the subsequent conversation. RSS Readers strip much of the richness of the content in favor of the simplicity and ubiquity of pure text.
In a social media environment, RSS often strips even the social out of social media.
The conversational aspect of blogs as I see it, lives in three places -
- blog to blog conversations within the blog posts themselves,
- conversations living within the comments sections on blogs, and
- conversations (many of them public) taking place on external social media channels, such as Twitter.
Read a blog in an RSS reader and you're only getting 1/3 the social capability of the channel.
The Next Steps:
We can and will learn to aggregate and syndicate well. But a new format is needed.
- Wouldn't it be great is Google Reader could adjust the tonality and feel of their reader based on the piece of content being viewed?
- Wouldn't it be fantastic if an aggregator could adjust the UI to the nature of the content (text, video, audio) rather than vice versa?
- Wouldn't it be neat if Google Reader could display a few dynamic widgets on the page?
- one containing related posts from across the blogosphere
- another could contain comments and discussion threads in the blog comments together with the ability to contribute within the reader interface
- a third would contain related media from across the internet - Twitter, traditional digital media, YouTube videos, etc.
Key Takeaway: Syndicated media need not lack for context. However, without context, media is often stripped of it's richness and ultimately, value.
By all means, syndicate and aggregate, but do so with caution.