Design, HCId, Journalism, Language, Travel

What the travel industry has to do with journalism

Airports are among the most magical places on earth. By design.

Some say we’re in an age of ignorance. And why? We have more information than ever before. It’s just too much.

I’d like to revisit some thought’s I’ve explored about reinventing the news. Let’s discuss how I expect to see news storytelling taken out of the traditional vacuum of websites or apps and integrated into our lives when its most useful.

Though my days as a traditional journalist are over, I still frequently think about this problem. Well, that and how my reporter friends can get paid to report.

Why don’t people read? Why don’t I read? Why don’t people care? Why is it so hard to know what’s happening in the world? Why isn’t there more time? In fact I spent a year of graduate school working on this problem.

Context in storytelling

I made Newskite which collected audio snippets from people around the world. Each caller answered a question what they were hearing about a certain global event like the Earthquake in Japan or the protests in Egypt. What this did was give a global and real context to a geographically centralized problem–truly showing the human impact on world events.

Personalized News

What I’d like to see is something similar to News.me, a personalized news concept I made that predated Newsite. It leveraged the power of social feeds and individual data to write news stories for you. It did not recommend news your friends liked–that does not work in an age if ignorance. It figured out how you, the reader, are linked to some news story that any one of us might otherwise ignore.

Steve Crisp/Reuters

Today on the New York Times Front page I see Kenyan Part Says Vote Count Should Stop. An article that seems unrelated to my daily going-ons. But if smart machines could scrape my data and see I once participated in earth hour, am potentially concerned about energy conservation, the elections in 2007 led to power outages and it’s a risk again, what impact that could have on other energy resources and how that influences what happens in my backyard. There are infinite ways to draw links between what’s happening somewhere far away in the world to what happens in my daily life. I then wanted to use natural language processing to rewrite stories, using the inverted pyramid, actually personalized for each reader. And beyond that, have editors, actual people, prioritizing news topics and stories about what to display on the ‘front page’.

But now is not a good time for that. For people uninterested in news, they just will not visit your app or website. No matter how incredible your site. If people don’t care, they don’t care. In this case, we’re not in the business of changing behavior. However, integrating news into people’s lives where it’s useful and welcome is a smart thought.

Let’s look at the travel industry

It’s still quite difficult to get around the world. Flight costs, hotel prices, cost of food, etc. It’s getting easier, and in a few years transportation technology will change how we geographically move around the world. We’ve already seen this happen in lodging and flight bookings. Services like Airbnb, Tripit, Hipmunk all have a vested interest in making

  1. Planning a trip easier
  2. Going to a place easier
  3. Having a wonderful time while you’re there

Because of this, I see an opportunity for travel services to have a vested interest in integrating global news stories with truly personalized smart content into their products.

Perhaps my upcoming trip to Costa Rica has potential to be seriously influenced by the recent news about Hugo Chavez. Or if I’m choosing which dates to go to Buenos Aires, it’s great if they can tell me the wine season has been wonderful. There are so many tasks that come with planning a trip, reading the news rarely is a priority and it’s nearly impossible to even know about what to start reading. Knowing what’s happening in the world can help me decide where, when and how to go there.

A service to do this doesn’t exist yet and I’m not interested in becoming a founder right now, so please by all means, take this idea and run with it. And as always, if this idea is hogwash, I want to hear your thoughts.

Let’s get out of the business of shaming people for not being informed, but of making relevant information available when they need to know it.

Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago and has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about Nina at ninamehta.com.

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