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From the New York Times, a hint as to what the secret sauce of Ezra Klein’s much touted Vox.com will be: content repurposification recyclement.

In this high-tech universe, Vox Media’s content management system — which even has its own name, Chorus, and is used to publish all the company’s websites — has earned recognition. … 

Mr. Klein, hoping to avoid incrementalism — “the biggest source of waste is everything the journalist has written before today,” he said — instead wants his journalists responsible for constantly updating pages that are the ultimate resource on a topic. 

“It would be like a wiki page written by one person with a little attitude,” Ms. Bell explained. 

To help accomplish this, the developers have been building a tool they call the card stack. The cards, trimmed in brilliant canary yellow, contain definitions of essential terms that a reader can turn to if they require more context. For example, a story updating the battle over the Affordable Care Act might include cards explaining the term “insurance exchange.”

Isn’t that Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard that was released on the Apple Mac in 1987?

Here’s an example of Vox: on Ukraine.

Vox is like a cross between 1987-style HyperCards and 1992-style Frequently Asked Question lists. That’s not a criticism: those were pretty good formats and it’s especially a shame that the FAQ went out of fashion. So, maybe they will come back into fashion?

As for Ezra’s idea that journalists should just reuse their old stuff, well, I’m all for doing less work. Personally, I think you people should stop demanding new stuff from me — I’m still working on my opinion on Paul Walker’s death and now you want my Mickey Rooney, too?!? — and just go mull over my old stuff until you have it memorized. For example, is Monday the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwanda genocide? Well, if you want to understand the fundamental Tutsi v. Hutu issues that will be trotted out misleadingly tomorrow, I wrote a movie review in 2005 offering a new anthropological theory that explains them perhaps better than anything anybody had come up with before (and definitely better than anything I’ve come up with on the topic since).

But readers seem to draw a fundamental distinction between “yesterday’s news” and “news” thus requiring constant Feeding of the Beast. Is great content management software really going to make that distinction go away for Vox and allow Klein to lavishly monetize yesterday’s news? He seems to think so, although Jeff Bezos apparently didn’t agree with him.

Well, best of luck to him.
       
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Have you noticed how aside from the relatively good-looking Ezra Klein, nearly all of the new culture/political writers for the online publications– Matthew Yglesias, Noah Berlatsky, Daniel D'addario, Adam Serwer, Alex Pareene–look like the same balding, frizzy-haired, bespectacled beta male? It's actually uncanny. It's like there's a factory somewhere on the Acela line where they're churning these guys out.

  2. “It would be like a wiki page written by one person with a little attitude”

    She just gave away the recipe for great journalism!

  3. The cult of the Rwandan "genocide" is less to do with what actually happened there and more to do with its use as a propaganda tool to help US influence and hurt French influence in Africa.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “It would be like a wiki page written by one person with a little attitude”

    This reminds me of the Poochie the dog episode of the Simpsons (best episode ever btw)

    (Poochie/Homer) The name's Poochie D
    And I rock the telly,
    I'm half Joe Camel
    And a third Fonzarelli.
    I'm the kung fu hippie
    From gangsta city,
    I'm a rappin' surfer,
    You the fool I pity.

    The dog had attitude but no substance and everybody hated him.

    Dan in DC

  5. This sounds like the Ministry of Information. Will old articles be edited to remove embarrassing details?

  6. I've never understand how the Juicebox Journalists got to be so visible so quickly.

    Sure, they are solidly liberal but so is just about every other journalist working today.

    And their lack of real-world experience shows in just about everything they write.

  7. I poked around Vox a bit. I really like the idea, and I'm all for having an opinion, but these are a really tiresome bunch of earnest youngsters.

    Take this statement from the Obamacare story:

    "Obamacare will significantly increase the number of people with health insurance coverage."
    They hyperlink "coverage" but give zero context or explanation for how, why or if, in fact, the whole sentence is true. And the remaining links in the card don't really help. And the writing is either incredibly dumbed down, or the authors are just juvenile.

    Also, that "smartest minds-toughest questions" is hilariously overblown. Is there any profession outside journalism with a more inflated sense of itself? I've met plenty of lawyers and surgeons with way more humility and perspective.

    I think I read this from somebody here: Historically, journalism was something literate working-class kids did when they wanted to escape the factory or farm. Now it's a guild with a whole college curriculum of its own. It's still just selling to advertisers, so average journo salaries remain miserable. There's not enough money in the business to attract "the smartest minds."

  8. Ezra Klein is under the impression that he is a journalist? Last time I saw Klein on TV, he was appearing all over TV serving as a propagandist for Obama Care. He assured people that all the Republican's criticisms of it were baseless and silly. He is a flack – a mouthpiece, not a reporter.

  9. Personally, I think you people should stop demanding new stuff from me.

    Well I, for one, think you produce too much stuff. It's very difficult to keep up sometimes with both the posts and the comments. One post a day would be plenty.

    Which is not to suggest that I'm not in awe of the relentless pace and fantastic scope of your work, because I am. I am just selfishly asking for less because I don't like missing stuff, and many posts go by totally unread because I don't have the time.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    5371:"The cult of the Rwandan "genocide""

    Ah, scare-quotes, the mark of deconstruction. Don't be coy. If you don't think that it was genocide, be so good as to tell us what it was.

    5371:" is less to do with what actually happened there and more to do with its use as a propaganda tool to help US influence and hurt French influence in Africa."

    Dubious notion, seeing as how the USA did nothing to stop it.

  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "Have you noticed how aside from the relatively good-looking Ezra Klein, nearly all of the new culture/political writers for the online publications– Matthew Yglesias, Noah Berlatsky, Daniel D'addario, Adam Serwer, Alex Pareene–look like the same balding, frizzy-haired, bespectacled beta male? It's actually uncanny. It's like there's a factory somewhere on the Acela line where they're churning these guys out. "

    I'd say a beta-male face and body predisposes a man to be a "Progressive" —out of anger and bitterness over his youth.

  12. Klein may have a point. The nightly and cable news is about anchor charisma and frenetic covering of the accident-du-jour. They have the grip on the reactive market. If there's a plane crash, people want to see the footage, now. The internet serves the in-depth market that wants commentary and comments along with the story. Newspapers serve – people that want to relax with a newspaper, whether that's with morning coffee or while commuting. There's probably a market for something like a correspondent course on world events, something that gets more challenging the more you put into it, like a computerized test.

    On the other hand, he's treading awfully close to wikipedia and its legions of basement-dwelling (could be a lab, doesn't have to be mom's basement) savants. And free is hard to compete with. Maybe his market is people who like the depth of wikipedia, but prefer a bit more bias in their worldview.

  13. The average news story has a half life of 36 hours.

  14. The Internet is HyperCard.

    And HyperCard is hypertext.

    And hypertext is Ted Nelson's Xanadu.

    [Then there is that CERN guy, whatshisname, who just came up with the protocol.]

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Have you noticed how aside from the relatively good-looking Ezra Klein, nearly all of the new culture/political writers for the online publications– Matthew Yglesias, Noah Berlatsky, Daniel D'addario, Adam Serwer, Alex Pareene–look like the same balding, frizzy-haired, bespectacled beta male? It's actually uncanny. It's like there's a factory somewhere on the Acela line where they're churning these guys out.

    There's something similar going on with CBS New. Two of the roving correspondents are slightly boyish looking. On purpose to make Scott Pelley look more manly?

    Jeff Glor

    Seth Doan

    Lugash

  16. Emperor has no truth.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    @ Big Bill …. Ted Nelson … The Tesla of the internet (the guy, not the car). Well, sort of.

    Meanwhile …. plagiarism is more of an academic concept than anything else. That is all members of the Academy has for a work product and they guard it with passion.

    And then you have, so called, self plagiarism. Which always struck me as a dubious concept. All consultants would be out of business if they couldn't recycle the same solutions on multiple clients.

    For news outlets, it seems more like a money issue. They paid for the stuff once, and don't wanna pay someone twice for highly similar work, or have someone else get it the benefit of something they paid for.

    Meanwhile, I have heard the phrase, "mark up" — meaning you take some sort of boilerplate and recycle it for a particular client. Especially stuff like SEC filings and the like. Writing all that fine print from scratch would make you crazy if not blind. A modern form of self abuse.

  18. . . . and amazingly enough, on Ukraine Vox manages to recycle tepid conventional wisdom. Just like everyone else does.

    Wow these kids are amazing!

  19. Steve, were you at the UC Santa Barbara party/riot/brawl this weekend? What are your thoughts on it?

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/06/southern-california-street-brawl/7386671/

  20. There's something similar going on with CBS News.

    Except neither of those guys are balding, frizzy-haired, or bespectacled. Nor do they look very beta; they're both pretty decent-looking, thirty-something guys. But yeah, aside from not having any similarities, they are pretty similar.

    As for Vox, I know it's a "work in progress," but right now it looks like a really dumbed-down wikipedia. Someone in the comments said it was like Scholastic News for adults. I disagree; it's like Scholastic News, period. The "flash-cards" feature is all-too-accurately named.

    I don't think it's a bad a idea, but right now it's not a good product.

  21. This seems like an original idea. Nate silver's venture looks lame now…

    One problem, however, is that the articles are going to be really long, and most people don't have the time or attention span to read a wiki article about each news item.

  22. Vox resembles BuzzFeed and Gawker. Clickbait for kids who crave CORRECT opinions

  23. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    1. Hypercard was somewhat of a slight innovation for its time. Twenty years of web slideshows, listicles, and much more (none of it beyond slightly innovative either), Vox's cards aren't exactly hi-tech.

    2. I've created a post, a conversation, and related Twitter campaigns trying to get @DLind and @awprokop to answer my questions (the first about a card, the second about a Jeb post). In case anyone wants to have an impact on Vox, help me get answers.

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