Atomisation: Good vs gimmick?

I love Quartz.

I love news “atomisation” app Circa.

I am fascinated by the future of news.

So unsurprisingly yesterday’s launch of Quartz’s new Glass site – focused on the future of news via an experimental bite-sized format – got me rather excited.

But a day in, I can’t see the point of the atomisation format for this kind of site.

The perils of high expectations

What we get are Tweet-length (or thereabouts) snippets of media news, usually with a link – similar to the linklogs popular around the late 90s / early 2000s (think Memepool, Fark, LinkMachineGo) – or some kind of opinion, often with a little arrow indicating that you can click for more.

A linklog aggregating media news is fine – a useful addition to my Twitter list of handy sources of industry info, with some useful selections.

But why this atomised opinion approach? It’s like a choose your own adventure book, only with argument/opinion – subsequent points hidden until you click – for reasons that largely escape me.

Form vs function

Take this piece on the (excellent) Fargo TV series. That link takes you to the full post – with all the subsections expanded. It reads fine – just like a regular blog post.

But come to it from the front page? You get the first paragraph only.

Click down, you are presented with the tier two paragraphs (numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10).

To get the full post, you have to click an additional four times to get paragraphs 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. That’s five clicks to get one story.

What matters more – metrics or readers?

Now yes, this will give Quartz lots of useful data that they can analyse to check reader engagement – just as Circa does with their atomised news stories.

But where Circa’s use of “atoms” for presenting their stories makes sense and is backed up by a clear philosophy*, for the opinion piece parts of Glass I simply can’t see the rationale.

If I’m interested in your opinions about Fargo, I’m interested – so give them to me when I click. Don’t make me work harder to get your nuggets of wisdom – you risk annoying and disappointing me when the additional clicks prove pointless.

So from being excited, I’ve become annoyed – the content may be good, but the presentation is annoying. It’s bullet point lists with hidden child bullets, nothing more.

Or am I missing something?

* Short version of my understanding of Circa’s news philosophy (as an aside):
1) news is fast-paced, so keep coverage short and to the point
2) news is made up of facts, and facts change, but themes and stories persist/evolve
3) some facts can be recycled into new stories on the same theme
4) therefore breaking stories into their component (factual) parts makes sense both in the long and short term, as they
4a) make the news easier/quicker to understand (when properly presented),
4b) can be recycled into other stories on the same theme down the line, and
4c) can have tracking attached to each element to see how/if audiences are engaging with that content, giving far more detail about user behavior than is possible from a standard article