As “news fatigue” sweeps the nation’s youth and increases the difficulty of presenting in-depth news, MSNBC has a new suite of tools to present news in an interesting way.
Called NewsWare, the new collection of offerings lets visitors play with their news and take it places like Facebook when in widget form.
The games look like what you would typically find on any time-wasting Flash games hub, but instead of just numbing your mind, the colors in the game correspond to different categories of news.
As you eliminate bricks in NewsBreaker (similar to Brick Out) or match colored balls in NewsBlaster, headlines drop down to prominently display near the bottom of your game. You can find out more about any given story by clicking the headline before it goes away.
While the games are a cool way to burn a few minutes, they lack a hook. In getting my news, I usually want it fast — RSS reader or a skim of a homepage. I click only on the articles that interest me. While playing a game would obviously be more entertaining, it also would take about three times longer than I would take to check out the headlines.
On the other hand, if I wanted to play a game, I don’t think I would really care that the news is involved. I would just glaze over the words.
So what’s the point? Is this just a novelty addition to satisfy the widget, online application and gaming craze? A news trap that those concerned with current events can place on their Facebook pages to pull in unsuspecting friends?
I’m sad to say that I haven’t found the hook just yet, and the games just seem like a novelty attraction.
TECHNICOLOR DREAM READER
A more traditional product from MSNBC’s new collection, the Spectra Visual Newsreader, allows you to select different news sections to swirl into a colorful mass of stories. As the headlines fly into view, the presentation becomes more interesting than your typical news site — no scrolling necessary either.
The reader comes across as more of an innovation for me. The news-savvy folks who just don’t like the bland site layouts and want to blow through some headlines in a quick color cloud can appreciate it. For one, the colors help divide the various sections more visually and almost as well as a physical, old-timey newspaper split into sections. The tool also doesn’t consume a lot of unnecessary time.
BUT THEY COULD BE SO MUCH MORE
If MSNBC allowed more customization with the feed reader or had more to the games than just spitting out headlines, I could see these tools as useful. I realize these are “lab” products, and I hope they continue to develop them into a greater experience.
In the games, what if you aimed for objects that represented comments from readers? Colors could represent two sides or views of a debate, and the player could navigate through the discussion and generate karma points for commenters by continuing to shoot the same color.
For now, MSNBC’s NewsWare is simply something cool for a link and a smile.
While so many young people are finding it hard to stay involved with the news, MSNBC seems to be on the right track. Perhaps they can kick it up a notch with version 2.0 — bigger, stronger, faster and more social and/or interactive.