Yahoo! full-coverage and Movies.com

Movies.com

For reasons that I do not understand, movies have received royal treatment online. IMDB is the web's #1 site for movie related data, Metacritic is a clearinghouse for movie reviews, and Rotten Tomatoes tracks the emergence of a movie from its scattered pieces. Movies.com attempts to bring together a variety of information sources, helping people to make a decision about a movie, then to act on it (disclaimer: I previously worked with the Walt Disney Internet Group, which owns Movies.com).

Yahoo Full Coverage

Although eclipsed recently by the algorithm-generated heavyweight Google News, Yahoo Full Coverage was one of the first moves by a portal to bring together the collective contents of all news sources. It is built by a group of human editors who hand pick evergreen stories to surround a steady stream of breaking news.

What Movies.com and Yahoo's Full Coverage have in common is the goal to take content from disparate sources and put it within a larger context. They set out to provide the 1000 foot view for a particular topic, event, or movie by piecing together data, multimedia, opinion, and ongoing developments.

When I imagine the offspring of these two services, I picture a human-edited service that takes information from disparate news sources to help people make decisions and form opinions about the most important issues of the day.


The best method to help people make informed decision, is to deliver the 4 dimensions of news and information:

  • 1st dimension - length - Data
  • 2nd dimension - depth - Coverage
  • 3rd dimension - height - Opinion
  • 4th dimension - time - Ongoing Developments

Data

Who, what, where? To take a metaphor too far, these are the individual points that make up any line in geometry. They're distinct, but rarely unique to any particular line or shape. Movies.com takes this into account, by giving each member of the cast and crew their own page, with a linked list of every other movie they've worked on. While Yahoo Full Coverage chooses instead to place these links within individual stories.

Coverage

The topic summary, photos, timelines, chronologies, etc are what traditionally gives us our image of a news event or topic. The key to doing this well is to initially offer the most concise explanation of the topic at hand, and let the rest of the content speak for itself. Movies.com appropriately provides a single paragraph summary of the story and then steps back, simply providing links to other information. Unfortunately, Yahoo skips this step and jumps directly into the latest developments, trusting that the visitor is already somewhat familiar with the issue.

Opinion

This is where the news really begins to take shape, through the thoughts and ideals of each reader as well as the opinions of others. More than anything else, this is where news sites need to learn from a site like Movies.com. A single opinion on any topic or issue provides only one vantage point, bringing together and organizing multiple opinions is the only way to see the whole shape, lumps and all. Movies.com makes it easier to absorb this information through the grouping of negative, positive, and mixed reviews as well as providing quick blurbs from each one.

Ongoing Developments

News is rarely a stationary object, and any site that does a major "all angles" report on a topic then leaves it to rust is doing a disservice to their readers. Yahoo's Full Coverage takes care of these by pumping in a steady stream of breaking news and new developments for a story. A reader's opinions regarding the detainees at Guantanamo are bound to evolve as more information becomes available.

Why?

Overall, media sites have long neglected their duty to help an informed public make decisions on the important issues in their lives. Whether it comes from a overly sensitive view towards objectivity or simply a lack of resources, it a duty that should not be neglected. Taking cues from sites geared towards helping people form opinions about a movie, then acting on those opinions can teach online news sites how to help people form educated opinions about more dire topics.