Does WaPo‘s “Know More” Blog Represent the New Journalism?

knowmoreThis week The Washington Post launched a blog that aims to wise you up and make it easier for you to share your new knowledge, too.

Know More” is a new Web space hosted by WaPo and maintained by the popular Wonkblog’s Ezra Klein and reporter Dylan Matthews with the expectation that a visually-strong display of both impactful and relatively inconsequential news could create a viral effect, especially on the social Web.

You’ve got two choices once you click on the image, graph or tweet that tickles your fancy: “No More” or “Know More.” If you do indeed want to learn more about that particular topic, you’re led to various sources on the Web (some WaPo, many others not) that provide deeper context for the tile that originally interested you.

There’s no rhyme or reason for the way these tiles are arranged. A Grumpy Cat blurb is next to a photo explaining the exorbitant costs of putting people in prisons, and a link leading to a song about Target sits above a fascinating graphic breaking down how a U.S. debt default would affect other countries, pensions, social security, etc. The key for Know More — Klein told Gigaom‘s Laura Hazard Owen — is that they’ve created a place where it’s easier to pluck one image or a single compelling quotation from an overarching story and use it as a lede or headline that wouldn’t work on a traditional news site. This way, the team at Know More can try to determine what it is that makes people want to learn more about a topic and then present that tidbit first.

This, to me, is a brilliant undertaking. The idea that a trusted news source with the look of Pinterest and the tone of Buzzfeed would do incredibly well might seem like sort of a “duh” — but it hasn’t been done in this way yet. Know More is going to prove that yes, despite our short attention spans and tendency to gravitate toward digestible chunks of information, we do indeed want to know more (and that hey, sometimes we need to take a break and read about Grumpy Cat). The thing is, Know More still introduces to us valuable news despite its medium, only the visual draws us further into the story rather than text. The goal should always be, as it is with Know More, to make us smarter citizens and journalists.

Know More’s going to bring WaPo and the sources they pull from a ton of web traffic, and ultimately, I think it’s going to make news organizations take a hard look at how what their aesthetic should be, as they should. It makes me wonder — will the new newspaper online be column after column of visual content designed to make you click on the longer-form, more in-depth story that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise? Or will news sites think to create two versions of their product? One for the visual learner and one for those who just want to read the headlines and move on. Know More might help answer these questions.