If we were to look at some of atomic bits of a typical piece of information that a person consumes these days online, there might be a headline with text, at least a couple supporting sentences of text, maybe an image that could either be a photo, illustration (maybe a fancy animated gif), and a different media type like audio or video clip. This doesn’t take into account dynamic data forms like analytics of course. But for the typical person to person experience the above data points make up a majority of the interaction. Now considering how a person might actually intake some of that info to make sense of it, there’s no one standard outlet. In terms of news it used to be a newspaper or corporate tv, now it’s just about anything that might have a screen on it. Laptops, mobile devices, tv’s, those monitors in elevators, instant messaging, email, txt’ing, game devices and probably a thousand more.
That simple story with a headline, text, image and media type combined now have to be able to play nicely with all those devices mentioned above, and not only that have to be able to interconnect with the devices. For instance maybe I want to read my email on my laptop, mobile device and forward it on to my tv at some point. They’re all pieces that are being defined by content and how it flows together. That atomic piece of content changes depending on how it’s viewed within different contexts and it’s impossible to know what they all could be. The challenge is to make those bits have enough hooks that they can latch on to anything, show other potential items of value and let it grow organically. That also means letting others take that content and merge it with other medias that are out of the hand of the original creator. It’s a scary proposition but just like water content has to be treated as a building block and not seen as something that only one person controls.
The other question is motivation—why would I even bother passing along that important piece of content, or take the time to create something new out of it? Sure people like being creative but there also needs to be financial incentive. While pay walls are being floated out there, I can’t really recall the last time someone passed me on an article from FT. If anything, those that pass on and create new content from the building blocks should see some sort of financial incentive, a concept that probably would drive most people that create the content in the first place insane. But if there was a manageable way that both those that start something and those that make it valuable can work hand in hand the digital content stream that is the new UI could be a win win for everyone involved.