Yesterday saw the launch of a brand new form of news presentation by Channel 4 in 4NewsWall – a Tumblr-hosted website dedicated to the day’s top news stories, listed chronologically, with each presented by a GIF. Thought up by 4Creative’s Jack Croft and Stacey Bird and developed by the creative team, it’s flashy, image-led and uncluttered – with each GIF offering a click-through button to a more detailed report – and looks set to be an interesting and exciting progression for news journalism.
4NewsWall is only the most recent development in the ongoing evolution of the way we consume news over recent years; in just one generation we’ve transitioned from radio bulletins presented throughout the day which conclude in a nightly 6 o’clock round up on the TV, to the Twitter and Snapchat generation, which both allow users to be drip-fed reports as events are taking place from a personally-curated collection of sources.
“News in GIFs had never been done before, and we liked the purity of an animated headline that distilled the news down to the heart of the story and could also be engaging, entertaining, and at times irreverent.”
Olivia Browne, 4Creative
The use of GIFs was key to the development of 4NewsWall, 4Creative told us, and ties into the 16-24 demographic that the agency is targeting. “The idea was to keep the GIFs modular so that they can be shared on social,” explained group business director Olivia Browne. “We used Tumblr as a platform as it just felt right, it’s simple and flexible enough for us to do what we wanted to do, and it also allows us to make it look very premium.”
“Creating a GIF for a serious news story has been a very tricky learning curve,” Jack and Stacey added. “The tone of voice is crucial and between the copy and the GIF itself we try to work in unison to create a news GIF that represents the feisty spirit of Channel 4 News that will also appeal to a younger, more distracted audience.”
They continue: “News in GIFs had never been done before, and we liked the purity of an animated headline that distilled the news down to the heart of the story and could also be engaging, entertaining, and at times irreverent.”
While the site was initially created as part of a larger experiment, the plan is that in time it will become a permanent fixture, transitioning from the team at Channel 4 to be taken over by ITN, or Independent Television News.
It’s a promising new platform, but are there limits to the efficacy of GIFs in news journalism? Users of 4NewsWall are obliged to watch each image for several seconds in order to receive the full headline in a technique which demands a diligence not often seen in online users.
Similarly, featured stories are sized according to the relevance and popularity of the article, meaning that a story about the creation of ISIS by one of Saddam Hussein’s spies sits next to a GIF of a toy dinosaur yapping as he trots across the screen. 4NewsWall makes a strong case for eclecticism and shareability, with social media platforms growing to allow the embedding of GIFs – but is it useable enough for the impatient?
What do you think of the site? How do you consume news? Add your thoughts to the discussion below.
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