Today’s complex world cannot be explained with yesterday’s news journalism

To state that we are living in geopolitical eventful times would be a massive understatement. One of the big challenges for people is to grasp the complexity of the many ongoing stories and narratives, and to realize how they are all connected – to each other, and to events from the past. Unfortunately, the average human brain is not very good at handling complexity. Instead, it seduces us into simplification and an isolated view on issues that must be seen within the bigger picture. The breaking news-obsessed media is doing its part to encourage the disinforming, one-dimensional approach.

Given this situation, when reading about a new news app called Timeline, I got curious immediately. Timeline, available for free as iOS app or mobile web app, promises to put news into context and to provide historical background to major events happening today. The startup’s claim “The news is the short tail of a very long string of events” nails pretty good what the traditional and online media mostly miss in their effort to get as many eyeballs as quickly as possible.

The timeline view

I tried the app and found it to be delivering what it promises: Users are being offered a selection of current news stories (with a focus on global affairs and the U.S. where Timeline is based). To each story one can access an historical overview of how things got to the point where they are today. Each story is accompanied by a timeline view, offering quick access to the events that shaped and influenced the story.

In my eyes, putting events and incidents of possibly global importance into an historical context is a crucial undertaking in order to understand what really is going on out there. In the long run it might even be THE way to fight populism, extremism and a narrow-minded, simplified world view. That of course would require everyone to actually consume news that way, which right now seems unlikely. But Timeline shows how technology can be leveraged to reshape journalism and news media in a way that actually makes sense. Something way too many other players in today’s digital media landscape have lost out of sight.

More of that, please!

One comment

  1. Timeline positively surprised me, well crafted, both UI and content-wise. Still I don’t get why they didn’t set up a freemium-model instantly and instead focus on just getting traction. If you set it up in 18 months it might be too late (my guess is new media-companies will be the first to get problems with funding once VC money dries up late 2015/early 2016).

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