USA Today redesign continues reader involvement trend

USAToday debuts a new site design incorporating user comments on news stories, a recommendation engine, blogs from external sources and links to news on other sites. The most distinctive feature appears to be the inclusion of reader comments directly on news story pages. While this isn’t a new idea, USAToday is the largest mainstream media outlet that I’m aware of to take this approach.

The innovation I’m waiting for is when a major news site starts inviting readers to actually contribute to the reporting process. That doesn’t mean deputizing citizens as adjunct reporters, but could involve them contributing background and first-person sidebars. I still think mainstream media could learn something from and its much weaker companion Wikinews, in particular, is a fascinating idea, but the site doesn’t have enough traffic or contributors to really work. Could a site with USAToday’s throw weight make a companion news wiki successful? Somebody’s to figure it out one of these days.

How ubiquitous media will change our lives

Andrew Gumbel eloquently analyzes the implications of ubiquitous media in this essay in The Independent. Already, citizen media is roiling the law enforcement world as crimes – and police responses to them – are captured on camera phones. From George Allen’s “macaca” comments to Michael Richards’ racist heckler-baiting, indiscretions are no longer secrets and they can change lives. This is still a nascent trend but it will become much bigger as the technology spreads. There’ll be a billion camera phones worldwide in a few years.

Be sure to scroll to the end of Gumbel’s essay for a nice list of viral phenomena from 2006.