The Demand for "Explainers" and The Giant Pool of Money

Jay Rosen has written article that I could quote 1000 times.  It's called National Explainer: A Job for Journalists on the Demand Side of News.  It focuses on the huge success of an episode of "This American Life" called The Giant Pool of Money, which serves to explain the US mortgage crisis.

This episode has been downloaded 50,000 times more than any other episide.  Why?  Because the producers (Ira Glass and Alex Blumberg) focused on explanation instead of information.

When we talk about our videos, we often say things like "Our goal is to make people care about something.  That's the hard part.  If they care, they'll go learn the specifics.  It's not about how it works, its about developing an interest."  It was exciting to this same sentiment about The Giant Pool of Money. 

Rosen writes:

I noticed something in the weeks after I first listened to “The Giant Pool of Money.??? I became a customer for ongoing news about the mortgage mess and the credit crisis that developed from it... ‘Twas a successful act of explanation that put me in the market for information.

He continues with an example that I think frames exactly what's happening with Web 2.0:

For there are some stories—and the mortgage crisis is a great example—where until I grasp the whole  I am unable to make sense of any part. Not only am I not a customer for news reports prior to that moment, but the very frequency of the updates alienates me from the providers of those updates because the news stream is adding daily to my feeling of being ill-informed, overwhelmed, out of the loop.

Sound familiar? People are feeling left behind everywhere and it's because we are assuming too much and not thinking about the masses that need what Rosen calls the "scaffold of understanding" - the big picture that gives people the context they need to be interested. This is our goal and one that I hope others adopt.

Thanks to Jay Fienberg for the pointer!