News is an Application

In case it isn’t obvious enough by now, contemporary newspapers should be thinking of information presentation in the context of applications, not just as documents. Or, to re-use an idea I first wrote about five years ago, sometimes journalism is better presented as a tool than as a story.
I’m reminded of the importance of this concept by the Seattle P-I’s presentation of a tag cloud timeline of Microsoft’s messages through the years. From Altair to Zune, there’s a nice document of thirty years of history, with font size easily showing which ideas are most prominent at any given time.
Now, to be fair, I love the idea here more than its execution. The presentation is a little wonky and far too complex for easy skimming. Worse, you’ve got a lot of the potential of application-based presentation, but none of the power. I can’t make my own views, add my own context, or highlight my own preferred display of the content. But it’s a good start and shows that the team at the Post-Intelligencer isn’t being complacent about the way that their journalism needs to evolve. More background about the tag view is in Todd Bishop’s piece.