Callum Crumlish looks into an experimental news website designed for young people who don’t normally do ‘the news’.
James Harding’s ‘Future of News’ – an influential strategy document written by the BBC’s head of news – points to various news websites which have been developed or redesigned to attract a younger, more internet-savvy audience. So, as a self-proclaimed ‘young person’, I am going to look deeper into one website—i100 (The Independent’s child website)—which is, apparently, being aimed at my crowd. I’m going to do this in order to determine whether it is a worthwhile venture for news websites; whether it draws in the correct group of people, and whether it succeeds in keeping them around for long.
The first thing I noticed is that the i100 imitates Facebook’s addictive endless scrolling feature, wherein users are encouraged to see ‘just one more post’. The i100 sticks all of its articles together in a never-ending feed of news; mixing politics with celebrity gossip and internet trivia seamlessly—ultimately making procrastination extremely easy—especially for students, young people and the like.
The strength of the i100’s style, however, lies in how it presents its content, and where it draws it from.
The younger generation is being pandered to—and it’s working. The i100 produces a range of—for lack of a better word—simpler articles, which are produced quickly, intended to be read quickly, and written to attract the regular social-media-users. These articles come in the form of top-ten lists—‘The 10 Most Highly Valued Sports Stars in the World’—and rehashed information originally discussed on other websites—Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, for example. The information dragged out of these aggregate websites spawn articles such as ‘12 Brilliant Songs to Pump You Up That Aren’t Eye of the Tiger, According to Redditors’, and ‘The Worst Tweet About the Northern Ireland Peace Process You Will See Today’. Although the written articles are merely regurgitated information, they are aggressively pushed on Twitter and Facebook, to ensure that even if you ignore it the first two times it pops-up on your feed, you would have eventually—hopefully—clicked through it by the end of the day.
Some articles are put together by simply copy-and-pasting the URLs of Twitter fights. We all love watching rich people fight, right? Well, luckily, celebrity feuds are meticulously detailed in the i100, aggregating the furious tweets between high-class-hot-heads such as Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan. Again, using as much information from Twitter as possible, the arguments are chronologically listed, making sure that you have not missed out on any of the latest bust-ups.
Sometimes, these arguments, political advancements, or downright ridiculous articles are accentuated with GIFs and memes. For example: when the New York Times magazine asked its readers about killing a baby Hitler, the i100 topped off the piece with a photo of Tom Cruise questioning everything. Similarly, when Daniel Craig spoke out about James Bond’s misogyny, the i100’s writer simply inserted a Daniel Craig-themed ‘thug lyf’ meme at the foot of the article. Sure, these are funny—but when that singular photo is really the only input the author has contributed, it makes me wonder whether I ought to bother with studying for a degree in Journalism, or simply learn to make well-placed GIFs.
Slow news days are no match for the i100’s ability to find gold in any situation. A little boy’s YouTube page full of dinosaur toy videos, or a group of kittens playing rugby with a small, remote-controlled mouse can become the front page on a Sunday evening.
Above are just a few examples of how the i100 uses social media, GIFs, and memes to attract the younger audience, and keep them around by using intelligent website design. Is it the most productive website to spend three hours scrolling through whilst you should be writing your dissertation? Not at all. Is it entertaining? Without a doubt. Did you see those kittens playing rugby?
The i100 is an effective website for young people. It’s easy to get coaxed into scrolling through articles for hours on end—but is it a good source of news? Politics and current affairs are touched upon within the articles, but never truly explores them deeply. Which is fine—it isn’t a newspaper. It holds no obligation to discuss these matters. However when 21% of its demographic is aged 18-24, the information provided could be used in a more productive way.
12 brilliant songs to pump you up that aren’t Eye of the Tiger, According to Redditors —http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/12-brilliant-songs-to-pump-you-up-that-arent-eye-of-the-tiger-according-to-redditors–Zkb6AbRtmOe
10 most highly valued sports stars in the world — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/the-10-most-highly-valued-sports-stars-in-the-world–bk3CVtlBde
The worst tweet about the Northern Ireland peace process you will see today — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/the-worst-tweet-about-the-northern-ireland-peace-process-you-will-see-today–ZytOFgDEdg
Piers Morgan keeps trying to to insult Gary Lineker on Twitter and it keeps on backfiring — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/piers-morgan-keeps-trying-to-insult-gary-lineker-on-twitter-and-it-keeps-on-backfiring–b1lHt4vU4de
The NYT magazine asked its readers whether they’d kill baby Hitler and no one know what to think — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/the-nyt-magazine-asked-its-readers-whether-theyd-kill-baby-hitler-and-no-one-knows-what-to-think–WkxsvWOw7ug
This little boys toy dinosaur adventures are definitely the best thing on the internet — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/this-little-boys-toy-dinosaur-adventures-are-definitely-best-thing-on-the-internet–ZkmPAQY7Oe
If you don’t like the rugby world cup you’ll love this kitten version — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/even-if-you-dont-like-the-rugby-world-cup-youll-love-this-kitten-version–Wylof1_Xdg
Daniel Craig just said what we’ve thought all along about James Bond — http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/daniel-craig-just-said-what-weve-thought-all-along-james-bond-is-a-misogynist–WyM_y5jz_e