News publishers are becoming tech companies, right down to the Google Labs style experimental sites: The New York Times Company Research & Development Lab, The Globe Lab, WapPo Labs...
And now there’s HuffPost Labs, which will unveil its first project today: Highlights, a collection of the most popular sentences from articles and blog posts across the Huffington Post empire.Labs co-founder Conor White Sullivan explains that there are two ways a reader can “vote” for a sentence: either by selecting the text and clicking the new “Highlight” button that will start appearing on Huffing Post today, or by simply copying the selection.
The sentences are also judged by the ratio of highlights to page views, since articles and blog posts that are featured on the front page of Huffington Post or AOL.com get more traffic than posts that are deeper in the site’s navigation. So a sentence that received lots of highlights even though it got a relatively small number of page views will be treated as very interesting on the Highlights page. This should help surface interesting stories that might otherwise be overlooked.
Lead designer Andrew Sass, said the concept came out of the team’s desire to solve the information overload problem. “It’s sort of ironic working on this at HuffPost, but no person can read as much content as we’re publishing,” Sullivan says.
They hit on the idea of highlighting sentences because what people choose to copy, whether that’s into an e-mail or into some storage system like Evernote, is much more personal than choosing to share a URL. Also, Sullivan happened to really like finding news through e-mail lists, where people tend to copy snippets of articles to share with other subscribers.