The clever people over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a new way to present information on the web that reflects one of the biggest changes in modern media consumption.
Two researchers – Alexis Hope and Kevin Hu – are working on FOLD – a “context creation platform for journalists and storytellers, allowing them to structure and craft complex stories”.
PR-babble aside, FOLD essentially allows context to be displayed in a branch-like format, without the reader losing their original story stream. That context can include maps, videos, GIFs, and even other stories.
It’s a bit like Vox’s card approach, only with more layers. That’s good for reader experiences, as background information and other complex elements that are often needed to understand stories can be delivered, and the fact it was built in the first place recognises and addresses the fragmented way in which we browse online.
And it displays a fundamental change wrought by the web. Where once a piece of content needed to stuff as much context and background into the limited space in an article, now all that information is just a click away. What FOLD appears to do is remove the need for that click.
FOLD looks like a great idea, but it raises some questions about the advertising model on which a lot of websites run.
Sites that operate on a pageview-based model exist in a strange area where the goal is to deliver as many pages, and therefore ads, as possible.
But technologies like Vox’s card stacks or FOLD effectively revolve around keeping attention on the same page, reducing the ability to serve ads in the traditional model.
Having said that, attention in the form of time is something which some, like the FT, are already selling audiences against, so perhaps advertisers will warm to the potential for delivering a richer experience in one place.
Either way FOLD represents another way in which audience’s consumption habits could change. The product hasn’t been released yet and it’s unlikely it will be adopted en masse straight off the bat, but it’s another example of how radically interaction with content online could change, and how much ad models will need to keep adapting.