I’m participating in Crossover Nordic this week as a mentor to a group of creatives and geeks who have come together to work on developing cross-platform media ideas. Crossover is a ‘lab’ directed by Frank Boyd who I’ve worked with extensively in the past on BBC Innovation Labs. At the Innovation Labs I’ve participated as a commissioner of cross-platform content; this will be my first acting as a mentor and I’m looking forward to it. We’re in a spectacular setting – the Slussen Pensionat on Orust – off the west coast of Sweden.
Today we’re getting to know each other – almost none of the participants or mentors know each other and we’ll need to colaborate and educate each other during the week. Frank introudced the day talking about how Crossover is hoping to create an international network of ‘geeks, lovies and barrow boys’ (the three groups that are required to work together to make digital distribution work) to enable great cross-platform projects.
In getting to know each other, I think we’re mainly split between geeks and lovies (creatives) here. We spent the morning talking about our media habits throughout the day. I was suprised by the variety we saw in people’s routines. A few observations:
- There was alot of people who had ‘continuous partial attention‘ behaviour with media. Emails checked every few minutes while they’re doing something else; radio playing in the background throughout other activities; using the laptop, tv and mobile at the same time;
- Big differences in behaviours between people with and without children;
- Lots of mobile use – especially for checking news and social media – more so than I think we’d have in a group this size in the UK (this, of course, made me happy).
The thing that really struck me was that nearly everyone said they ‘checked online news’ – exactly those words. I wondered if this meant the same thing to all of them. Do they all go to traditional editorial publisher/broadcasters and digest carefully curated headlines and stories by journalists?
I ended up facilitating a conversation about this. We talked about how many people did each of the following behaviours and I’ve ranked them, roughly, in order of their initial popularity (there was a group of about 25 people):
- Getting professionally-created, packaged news from a traditional newspaper/text provider (eg. The New York Times)
- Getting professionally created video news (eg. BBC)
- Using a news aggregator of sorts (eg. Google News)
- Using sites (or services) that exist facilitate social sharing of news (eg. Digg)
- Getting ‘drips’ of news through other types of personal recommendations that come in a more ambient fashion – not in a destination they’d gone to for news (eg. stories friends have posted in their Facebook news feed, forwarded via email or Instant Messenger, etc)
People seemed surprised when I asked about the last category. At first, people didn’t say they did it but as the discussion moved on, more and more people realised they do check the news this way, though they’re not concious of it as a news-gathering behaviour. Those who said this was a means of getting news, they said it was really powerful because it was so personal.
I’ve had a hunch for a while that this was probably the case and think there’s a lesson for online news products there about weaving their content into other parts and behaviours of people’s lives. I’m thinking about how this could apply where I work, on mobile – how else can news and information be ‘dripped’ to people in and around the other things they do with their mobiles? Sure we have news-based SMS alerts, but I think there’s a much longer (and more interesting) way to go on this.