I was reading an article in the Economist when I first encountered the browser extension Apture. I had highlighted the name "Martin Luther" by accident when a pop-up appeared on my screen to give me background information about that person. I, the ultimate hater of pop-ups, found myself completely engrossed in the stories provided by that little box—all content revolving around the highlighted name. All of a sudden, my information intake was interrupted by a thought: This tool offered the perfect point of convergence between journalism and education.
Apture is an extension you can attach to your browser to optimize your reading experience. The service will give you information about highlighted words, whether that is a location, an author's name or a theoretical term. Apture offers different types of content, including Wikipedia entries, news articles, YouTube videos and Creative Commons photos. That way readers can gain true understanding about the subject at hand. Here are some of my reasons for believing in Apture's promising future:
It Is Intuitive to Use
In-Page Search, in general, and Apture, in specific, do not reinvent the wheel but take advantage of readers' existing habits. How many times have you found yourself Google-ing names, places and unfamiliar terms used in articles? I do it all the time. I know this was also how my college roommate would start reading about U.S. politics and end up discovering the unique characters in the Georgian alphabet... It is a wonderful (and often quite distracting) process of learning.
It Responds to People's Hunger for Learning
Just the thought of learning a lot more while reading articles gives me the chills. One can easily find out more about someone's quote or location. Think about the countless conversations you can engage with using that knowledge! This is an amazing opportunity for expansion of one's education in academia as well as outside school.
It Challenges Journalistic Expertise
Such tool will allow readers to gain more control over their news consumption. Journalists will have to be careful about the metaphors they use and the people they quote. Does it really make sense? Now the common reader is a step closer to verifying the information used in a piece.
It Prolongs the Readers' Stay on a Site
In-page search will certainly increase the time of a site visit. I know I remained on that Economist article for a while, reading it like a map and deciphering its familiar and foreign territories. As mentioned on Apture.com, in-page search successfully increases visitor engagement and tracks traffic data.
It Provides Publishers with Insights
That type of tool gives publishers insightful information about their readers’ interests. As the site explains, "When they use Apture to highlight and search on the page they are telling you what they want to know more about. It’s time to start listening."
I have high hopes for social media-friendly, in-page search. Let's see if others share my enthusiasm.
Photo credit: Jônatas Cunha