CNN.Com: What is the Point? Boxes.

05Nov09

To Begin: I’m a news junkie. I think that figures into why I would analyze CNN.com as a user, because I use it all the time.

For someone who is constantly on the go, I understand the success of a website like CNN.com. First of all, CNN has become a household name for around the clock, around the world news that is the latest, most relevant, and most up-to-the-minute.  It is it’s own broadcast news meme.  CNN has always been broadcast news, which I think is important when considering the website. According to good old Wikipedia, Broadcast Journalism is simply “published by electrical methods, instead of the older methods, such as printed newspapers and posters”. Pretty simple. However, CNN has always been in the business of visual Broadcast News. It’s not just about what you hear (radio) or read (newspaper), but it’s about using two senses of seeing and hearing simultaneously that gives you the CNN news experience.

The Objection then becomes: Well, what’s so special about CNN? Local News has been doing that since television came out!

It is my opinion that CNN.com is an extension of the cable channel placed on the internet with more affordance for interaction by the news consumer.

To begin my discussion of CNN.com, I would like to begin with DESIGN:

Let’s first compare the CNN.com homepage to what you get when you turn on the T.V.

The New CNN.com from Ccortez.com

This is the brand new CNN.com. Launched in Mid-October, the brand new CNN.com has become more user friendly with many boxes of stories that immediately meet you when you open the website. This affords the consumer many opportunities for a news story to catch their eyes so they can click and read. One of my postings will be about the changes from the old website to the new website and what that affords consumers of internet news.

Robin from CNN in the morning

This is a shot of Robin in the Morning: Robin Meade from CNN Headline News. (courtesy of city-data.com)

The one specific thing I want to point out about the comparison between CNN.com and CNN are the boxes. Ok, so what about boxes? Well let’s think about it, there are lots of rectangular shapes surrounding all the text that is on both the CNN.com website and CNN broacast. It’s an obvious way to highlight the news, and draw your eye to what the broadcaster or webmaster wants you to read, however, I think that it’s more than that. Think about your weekly trip to the grocery store. How many boxes do you see? Tons, right? What occurs all over those boxes? Print.  Our television is technically a box; our computer screen is a box. It is engrained in us as consumers to consume media and information that is in boxes.

CNN and CNN.com work as sources of broadcast and internet news because they’re boxy. Little compartments of information for each one of use to look at and select or pass if we so choose. Boxes give us affordance. Every since we were young enough to select cereal or our favorite blue box of macaroni and cheese, we have been given choices to consume in boxes.

 

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2 Responses to “CNN.Com: What is the Point? Boxes.”

  1. 1 Scott Reed

    Some oddnesses here —

    The CNN as its own meme thing doesn’t really hit home, particularly sense we’re not looking at the idea of 24-hour news outside of its context. We don’t need to call it a meme — it’s the consistent rhetorical Purpose of CNN. (Maybe a way to think about memes is to say that they involve taking content and re-purposing it for other reasons.)

    In that regard, saying that the site is an extension of CNN’s 24-hour broadcast day isn’t really a stretch. It’s really not even your “opinion.” It’s a fairly apparent statement of fact, given that we really have no reason to suspect otherwise. (Never for a moment did I figure that some other agency was pulling the strings on the website.)

  2. 2 Scott Reed

    That said, I like the fundamental idea behind organization through “boxes.” (I’m not sure the grocery store reference hits home, though.) You’ve also echoed here a point that McLuhan makes in “The Medium is the Message”: that the content of the medium is always another medium. In this case: the content of the boxes on TV includes visual and written media. (And the boxes online, I suspect, contain TV.)


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