As the news industry keeps evolving at what seems like an accelerating pace, there is a clear market for a source that collects and categorises developments at news organisations. Nieman Journalism Lab launched Encyclo on March 18th to fill that need, noting that "there's great value in a resource that steps back a bit from the daily updates and focuses on background and context."
Nieman Lab presented the site as an "attempt to figure out who the most important players and innovators are in the evolution of journalism." It launched with 184 entries, covering everything from newspapers to broadcast networks, both big and small. Encyclo also has entries on technology companies that are having a major impact on news, such as Google and Craigslist.
So what does Encyclo have to offer? Each entry features a narrative account of the developments at the news organisation. These carefully linked narratives are possibly the site's greatest asset: they do not only mention significant events but link them together, succeeding in describing developments by creating coherent narratives.
If a summary of the news organisation's history is not enough, each entry also has a hand-curated collection of key links. The possibility to see all Niemen Lab posts on the news organisation is also helpful, as are other links on the web, provided by Mediagazer.
Encyclo features basic tools for sharing, but what is possibly more interesting is the possibility to create an embeddable widget that links to the site. This allows journalists and bloggers writing about news organisations to include a link to the organisation's entry on Encyclo.
On the site's launch, Nieman Lab said that it planned to keep developing the site and hoped that it would continue to grow. To remain a credible source, Encyclo would need to stay abreast of the latest developments. It seems that currently the database was last updated on May 20th.
The site is helpful already in its current form (provided that it will stay up to date ), but there is something missing that might boost its usability: for its mission to provide background and context, it would be useful if it also offered broader analysis into developments in the news industry in general. Currently, all the entries concentrate on individual news organisations and developments within them. The site already does a good job at creating narratives on the level of news organisations - similar analysis on changes in the news industry in general would be of interest for many.
As Journalism.co.uk noted, Encyclo takes after Columbia Journalism Review's News Frontier Database, which aims to list innovative journalism startups around the US. Compared to that project, in terms of functionality, the News Frontier Database has more search options. Encyclo, however, features a full list of its entries on its front page, which is a handy design trait.