Thursday, September 28, 2006

New media

New media what is it about
I have been dealing with new media since 1993. This is not a typo or my dyslexia acting out but a realization of how long I have been in this industry. To anyone who can remember a world before the web the early 90’s brought the first wave of multimedia due to the availability of CD-ROM on every home computer. Interactivity meant providing the user with a menu to choose from. While user generated content was a letter (real paper not email) to your customer support staff. At the time the technology provides the ability to hyperlink from one article to the other and create easily accessible links to related content and media. We spend countless hours to decide what was the most important function on the main menu through which the user could navigate through the site. There was no ability to personalize or get any type of real time feedback about your product. Going live in beta was unthinkable and costs Disney millions due to bugs in CD-ROM products that had to be recalled. But the single most important difference between the mid 90’s and today was the place the user or consumer took in the process. You guessed who the user was and what he/she would do. Asking them or getting any real feedback was impossible and the product designers and editors thought they know more then any user about the respective subject, user experience or functionality. When developing Olympic Gold (a 100 year history of the Olympic Games) we had about a dozen editors on staff with another 20 or so experts contributing in their area of experience. At Sportingo we have about half a dozen editors and potential of tens of millions of experts that can contribute from their knowledge and experience. The beauty is that the wisdom of tens of millions of avid sport fans around the world is greater then that of any editorial team you could put together. Instead of guessing what users what you can ask them, or better yet analyze how they use your site and change it accordingly.
This new approach has its share of pitfalls including abuse of the system, consistency of the content, determining quality, fact checking etc. Yet with all its shortcoming it has the potential of creating a much more compelling experience then ever before.
More on how we can cut down on the possible abuse of an open system in my next posting.

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