October 6, 2006

Looking at the (MSNBC) Big Picture

As an Internet user, I don't usually open anything that takes up my entire screen, or has any kind of content that requires a player. I don't really have time to look at them. I like my news, when I can read/watch/listen to it, fast and efficient.

Before Anne Stadler and I traveled to New York last year, we were asked to read and watch this content-filled flash presentation(?) on class in America. I loved that the reader could pick what elements of the story one could choose, but I didn't like that for each topic, a new window opened. The story seemed to be what Ashley Wells, creator of MSNBC's Big Picture, dislikes: "a rehash of what print is." The rehash is the content, and the added elements of interactive charts and graphics seems to load down the already heavily advertised webpage with even more hard-to-load content.

On MSNBC's Big Picture, however, I found the one screen, though a pop-up, to be a smoother representation. The content of a story, integrated through graphics, sound and video, was a package. Though perhaps not as well-written as the New York Times content, the flawless structure of the story invites the visitor to click the screen elements and take an active role in discovering the story.

I particularly enjoyed searching through the airport baggage for terrorist weapons. Okay...so I'm proven wrong. Games can be fun.

The next site I found in Big Pictures through Google was the Enron scandal. One of the first Big Pictures, it is a little more rudimentary, but still engaging for the visitor.

I am currently working in a library, I should note, which doesn't have sound. However, all of the Big Picture content I could understand because the visual elements tell the story, just as much as (I can imagine) the narrations. I especially found this true in the September 11 Big Picture: The Darkest Day. In fact, not having the sweeping narrations and tear-jerker background music made the story powerful.

If I were creating one of these presentations (which I probably will for my final project), I would not use very many narrations over everything; instead I would, place them in individual sections, which the user could select, and turn off at will.

Up-to-the-minute news in a Big Picture presentation isn't very practical, however, for time and functional purposes. The creators work, according to Wells, up to 16 hours a day on one presentation, and impatient users, like me, would bypass this resource and probably find news elsewhere on a "traditional" online webpage.

I think the MSNBC Big Picture designers found their ideal audience when they began creating presentations for the Oscars. I actually remember some of the ones featured in the book, with Peter Jackson's round head juxtaposed above Clint Eastwood's angular face. Stunning. Not only is the design well done, but the visitors, interested in Arts and Entertainment, and hence predisposed to make time for enjoyment will also take the time to open up and spend time in The Big Picture interface.

Reading this case study really has me thinking about the Setonian's online content. We often do rehash the articles that have appeared in print, but we are offering more online content. We have added links to certain stories in the past, but I am thinking about implementing the first Flash presentation to the Setonian for my project. The Setonian deals with issues of Catholic Social Teaching (our focus for the course theme), so implementing a story into a Flash package sounds like an ambitious, yet fun, undertaking. This is the exactly kind of journalism I've wanted to do for a very long time.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at October 6, 2006 4:08 PM | TrackBack

Amanda, you're on a roll. I can't wait to see what you can do with this.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 7, 2006 11:49 PM

Sounds cool... And with the oft spiritually supercharged holiday season approaching, I'm sure there will be plenty of CST-related articles and photos to build a package from.

Posted by: ChrisU at October 10, 2006 12:18 PM

I was thinking of doing something big on the Unity Rally. It has a long history, a lot of organizations are getting involved and SHU is taking part.

Posted by: Amanda at October 10, 2006 1:52 PM
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