Lux is local journalism rethought in the age of Wikipedia and Twitter, breaking free from the limitations of the print medium that are still surprisingly evident in today's online news sources.
Instead of publishing traditional articles, Lux is a news site that provides the two components of each story necessary to allow readers to stay up to date at whatever frequency and depth they desire:
- A continuously updated/re-written narrative of the entire story up to the current moment. This journalist-written text represents the synthesized understanding a well-informed reader regularly following a certain topic would gain over time.
- A realtime stream of the sources behind a story: Original data, source documents, links to articles on other sites, streaming video from live events, reader contributions, etc.
This is the journalist's input, unfiltered, shared as it happens. At regular intervals, the most relevant of this content is then worked into the main text of the story.
A Lux story thus satisfies the needs of the entire spectrum of users: People entirely unfamiliar with the subject matter can get a quick overview as well as a deep understanding of an issue within minutes, while news junkies can subscribe to realtime updates to a particular story.
It's a simple but powerful idea that dispenses with tradition and uses the strengths of the online medium to make more out of journalists' efforts.
With a cross-disciplinary team, we will develop software to provide the necessary backend as well as innovative frontend UI for creating, managing, displaying and navigating those two components and then conduct a narrowly-focused test phase in Vienna, Austria with students and volunteers to develop the right journalistic workflows for operating such a system, creating an open source template for the news site of the future.
How will your project improve the delivery of news and information to geographic communities?
Lux will enable people to make more informed local political decisions.
Today, only people consistently following news articles are well-informed about local issues: To fully understand any specific topic, you must have been following it since the very first developments. There simply isn't a low-effort way to get trustworthy summaries of local political stories.
Lux changes that: At any point in their history, Lux stories provide a well-written overview of everything that's known about a story up to the current moment, instead of only providing a dated snapshot like an article that soon gets lost in an endless archive.
With particular regard to our test market of Vienna, Austria, even a bootstrapped test run will have a huge impact on the local media scene, which is home to one of the world's most dominating tabloids (40% market share) and where electoral success can be achieved through fear mongering and distortion of facts.
While we'll initially only be able to cover selected major issues (focusing on corruption and other political and economical scandals) and are going to have to rely heavily on third-party research, Lux will produce the best available overview of each issue covered, leading to a more well-informed community.
What unmet need does your proposal answer?
Presenting local news in the Lux format has many advantages that meet unmet needs:
- It allows for both more real-time and more in-depth coverage on events that develop successively over long periods of time.
- It allows readers to follow stories at their own pace: They can read up on ones they don't personally care about monthly or even just on the day before an election, and follow ones they do care deeply about up to the minute.
- It better fits the needs of today's news consumers, who increasingly arrive at news stories not from the front page of a medium they scan daily, but out of context through a link from a social network or search engine.
- It allows readers to jump into a developing story at any point of the story arc without any prior knowledge.
- It increases the efficiency of journalists, who don't have to reiterate the background of an issue every time an article on a new development is published.
- It encourages transparency about the sources behind a news story by opening up this data.
- It technically better fits the medium internet: Story pages will build up authority (PageRank) over time, increasing their discoverability through search engines.
How is your idea new?
The format that Lux will present local news in has never been tried before.
Some online news outlets offer "topic pages" that collect all the articles on a topic and sometimes provide an extra summary. We go an important step further, focusing our journalists' efforts on the summary and breaking what would be the individual articles down to their source bits.
The most similar experiment so far, Google's LivingStories, failed because of complex and unfriendly UI and a lack of updates, attention or marketing. We will investigate using parts of their open-source code in our project.
Wikipedia is a great source for agreed-upon facts about past events. However the downsides of its open nature outweigh the advantages for developing stories of interest only to limited geographical regions. For example, Wikipedia.de's coverage of Viennese political events is abysmal. Wikipedia also forbids original research, offers no usable way offollowing updates and is not engagingly designed.
Lux is like having a professionally researched and written, richly designed Wikipedia article plus an engaged Twitter account for every single local news story.
Beyond the basic format described above, Lux stories will offer innovative features like the ability to "drill down" into text (expanding more detail about a paragraph), automatical highlighting of changes since the reader's last visit, a full history with a "time slider" to reconstruct how a story developed, subscription to stories' streams (RSS or Twitter), and low-effort ways to contribute/react to stories that go beyond traditional comments.
What will you have changed by the end of the project?
Lux aims to provide the strongest possible public proof of concept for a better format and process for high quality journalism on the web. Our main goal is to see the format we develop implemented widely.
By the end of the project, we will have proven that there's a better way to represent news online than with articles.
We will have documented the challenges (both technical and related to journalistic process) that such a new approach brings and the solutions we will iteratively discover.
Austria will have gained a new online medium, offering high-quality coverage of selected topics – and while the business model is not the focus of this application, we will make every possible effort to keep this running in a sustainable way through all known ways of monetization: advertising, donations and public grants and the sale of print products (dossiers).
We've put together a cross-disciplinary, cross-generational team of information designers, web developers, journalists and journalism faculty, who will contribute to the project in various roles.
Christopher Clay (27) holds an MSc in Information Design and has extensive experience with both running a technology company and designing social software. He is the founder of Soup.io, a microblogging startup that was listed as one of the "100 essential websites" by The Guardian in 2009, won the TechCrunch Europe award as "Best boot-strapped startup", the prestigious international competition Seedcamp and a prize by the Austrian news agency APA. The site boasts up to one million unique visitors per month.
A firm believer in the power of technology to change the world for the better, he was a founding member of Metalab, a collaborative hacker space in Vienna, Austria in 2006, conceived of a bottom-up online campaign for a minor local political party in 2008, contributed in various roles to a crowdsourced funding process for media art and runs the local startup community wiki Startupwiki.at.
He drives the user experience vision and will ensure that the challenges facing the team will be tackled with the iterative, metrics-driven approach of a web startup, using "lean startup" methodologies for maximum efficiency.
Heinz Wittenbrink (54) teaches social media and online journalism at the "Journalism and Public Relations" degree program at FH Joanneum, Graz, Austria, and has been blogging about these topics since 2005. He has worked for media companies including Bertelsmann and Burda, and is a published author on news technologies like RSS. His students will provide some of the early journalistic work on the project.
Helfried Bauer (43) just left his job as editor-in-chief of WIENER, a major local magazine (circulation 145,000). He contributes years of experience with the editorial process at various papers and magazines across Germany and Austria.
Markus Hametner (23) is a board member of Metalab, freelance software architect and computer science master student. In his spare time, he organizes street games in Vienna with hundreds of participants. Aside of his BSc in computer science, previous experience includes being a technical cofounder of the startup mjam.net at age 20.
Julian Ausserhofer (25) is a graduate turned research assistant at the Journalism degree program at FH Joanneum, as well as a doctorate student for Journalism and Communications at the University of Vienna. He is also part of a VJ collective.
Nicole Kolisch (38) is a freelance writer for WIENER and led the push towards the use of blogging and other innovative technology at the magazine.
Andres Mendoza (20) is simply one of the smartest people I know :)