The other day in class we were discussing what it means when news editors and other gatekeepers are no longer confined to publishing what fits in a given issue or paper. That is, what happens when we must no longer abide by the The New York Times‘ famous motto “All the news that’s fit to print?”
Havoc, chaos and mayhem happen, that’s for sure — especially when it’s become increasingly difficult to discern the real news from the fake. Janet Murray wrote, “The computer can contain and transmit more information in humanly accessible form than all previous media combined, ” and she wasn’t kidding.
These days it’s not about whether you know what’s going on in the news, it’s about how and where you’re getting your 411. When there’s so many sources and modes for consumption, it’s easy to get lost in it all.
That’s where theSkimm and Quartz come in: to curate the best of what’s happening in our world and feed it to us on a neat, silver platter (or straight to our inbox and smart phones respectively)! What each company does isn’t that different. It’s the way the content is delivered and presented that changes the game and makes each one so noteworthy.
So let’s start with a breakdown of each news service:
TheSkimm is a daily (Monday through Friday) news briefing delivered right to your inbox around 6AM. The idea is, you read theSkimm, and you’ve got all the news and info to start your day. What’s more, it’s sassy and entertaining with a healthy dose of links to full stories and teeming with hip lingo.
The two co-founders (Danielle Weinberg and Carly Zakin) realized when talking to their young, professional friends that there is simply too much news out there and not enough time to take it all in. The solution: “[They] read. You Skimm.”
And clearly people are buying that. As of November 2016, more than 4 million people receive the Daily Skimm to start their day.
Meanwhile, Quartz is a self-proclaimed “digitally native news outlet… built primarily for the devices closest at hand: tablets and mobile phones.”
Born in 2012, they originally focused on the iPad. Since then they have expanded to the computers and mobile apps — launching their first a year ago (February 2016). What I find so fascinating is the Quartz app.
Designed to mimic the iOS iMessage interface, “you get messages that read like texts from a friend—if your friend were a news-obsessed but reliable source with an irreverent tone of voice,” wrote one Wired reviewer.
The way it works is you receive notifications throughout the day or if there is a breaking story. Then upon entering the app, you’re presented with a news topic (a couple explanation sentences and a graphic or two to give you the overall gist). From here you are given a choice: tap on some relevant emojis to learn more or move on to the next topic.
Both Quartz and theSkimm are digital adaptations of the newspaper (or a news program on TV). But being digital media, they allow (or should I say afford) a little bit more.
TheSkimm set out to solve the problem of accessibility. Because the encyclopedic capacities of the Web are endless, it became nearly impossible to read and process all that’s out there. And what Weinberg and Zakin came up with really has a participatory feel to it, in the sense that it’s light and conversational.
The way it’s organized and presented is worth noting too. As one NYTimes writer said, theSkimm is “focusing on the least sexy of media: email.” They capitalize on the fact that people check their phones for messages and emails as soon as they wake. So now, young (and old!) professionals are starting the day with theSkimm instead of the Today show.
Visually, the email is neat and clean with the signature turquoise accents. Plus it’s meant to be consumed in minutes, which I really think makes people more inclined to read it.
Since I personally subscribed to theSkimm a few years back, I have noticed the proliferation of other news sources that have followed suite with their own Daily Email Briefs. I think what sets theSkimm apart is that they’re not trying to promote their own stories, but rather aim to educate and share the most worthy stories.
Quartz, on the other hand, isn’t only a morning thing; the app interacts with you all day long. I find it particularly cool that they notify you when the markets close, and provide a brief snippet of the day’s goings-ons.
Like theSkimm, it’s not personalized or tailored to your interests. I think this is cool as it provides users with a better sense of all the news that’s out there rather than just what they might personally read. As one TechCrunch contributor said, “I was fed a random, Hail Mary topic on something I only opted to learn more about 20 percent of the time.”
It really taps into Janet Murray’s participatory affordance. In order to choose “tell me more” about a particular topic or hear about something else entirely, the app requires participation. And unlike your friends or family who may take minutes or hours to respond to your texts, once you decide which route to take, Quartz gets back to you instantaneously. Today when I received a text-like notification from Quartz, I was reminded of a line from Murray’s chapter: “the responsiveness of digital media… excites our desire to do something, to see what will happen.”
If you can’t tell already, I think both theSkimm and Quartz are exciting modifications to the way we consume the news. I too desire to know what will happen down the road for this field.