AOL's digital prophet: Humanize the web experience

parMargaret Looney
10 nov 2011 dans Digital Journalism

Journalists might communicate with readers thanks to tech gadgets and new-fangled media, but when they plug in they must remember to stay human and make utility a priority.

AOL’s digital prophet - yes, that's his actual title - David Shing spoke about how communicators have to humanize the web experience to stay in touch with their audience.

The speech was part of a Digital Capital Week event titled “Future Media Trends.” Here are IJNet's takeaways.

If attention is the new currency, Shing says, we’re running low on cash. Shing points out that over 50 percent of the seven billion people on the planet are under 30 and they’ve never known life without the Internet.

The digital generation uses search engines to get information at record speed because it’s useful for their fast-paced lives. Though Shing said “Google is to blame for the rubbery brains we have today,” the fact remains that aside from informing, communicators must make information easy to access.

If you’re an original reporting advocate, re-think the aggregate post. Shing says the web is “completely overwhelming” in its capacity for generating information and “completely underwhelming” when it comes to finding exactly what you’re looking for. When curator sites gather relevant content for their readers, it gives “more time in people’s day to discover something.”

His three "don'ts" are also worth keeping in mind:

  • Don’t add a multimedia extra for the sake of a fancy screen shot. “Don’t cop out. Think about a digital companion that would do really well,” he said.
  • Don’t try to create a new hoard of followers. If you’re looking for readers, harness the power of pre-existing communities. Tap into available platforms that enable people to take part in the process in an “authentically digital” way.
  • Don’t betray “good old-fashioned, hand-shaken partnerships,” even if they seem out of scope. Straight-edged Intel teamed up with street-cred magazine Vice to launch The Creator’s Project, a global network embracing creativity and technology.

If you don’t have 3.82 million followers on Twitter, don’t fret. According to Shing, it’s more about the power in the numbers. “Your social footprint could be quite small,” he said. “It’s not a popularity contest.” Whether a story is dressed to the nines with digital extras or not, good content will get passed around.