Brian Stetler pointed it out three months ago in the New York Times.
The younger generation is reading tons of news. But they’re not relying on the same filter—the editors in a news room—to tell them what’s interesting and worth reading. Instead, they’re relying mainly on their social networks.
This is part of what Clay Shirky calls the “publish then filter” model. In the past, publishing something was expensive, so the act of having it published came with the implicit promise that someone thought it was worth the paper it was printed on. With the internet, that’s not longer true (or one might argue it’s still true, but the “paper it’s printed on” is worth jack s#%!).
Crap gets published all the time. The filtering process now happens after things get published. In the future, you’re not going to walk into a job interview with a bunch of clippings (“how many times has your writing been worth publishing?”), you’re going to walk into a job interview with a list of permalinks and the times those links were dugg, bookmarked on del.icio.us, or stumbled upon (“how many people thought this was worth reading?”).
A number of services have sprung up that I’m not quite sure how to classify other than as top-down filters. findingDulcinea is a place where resources from on and off the internet are gathered and categorized for easy digestion. Similarly Mahalo, which bills itself as search, creates thousands of guide pages (and I’d guess that most of their traffic comes from people landing from Google and other search engines, rather than having people search and leave, like most search sites).
They’re both attempting to solve the same problem though: how do you reconcile the internet’s nearly limitless amounts of information with the need for authoritative sources?
“Due to space and time constraints, most headline stories leave you with unanswered questions, and only offer a single point of view,” said Mark Moran, CEO of findingDulcinea. “Most Internet users want all the answers, as well as contrary viewpoints.”
It’s not search, and it’s not a directory, and it’s not straight journalism. If it’s close to anything, it’s closest to link journalism.
“The crowds approach is a good way to discover an interesting story that you might not otherwise have come across,” said Moran. “But it doesn’t offer the whole picture about anything, nor does it even try to. We charge our writers and editors with scouring the Internet to find the absolute best related links to a story, and then writing a concise narrative that weaves these links together to furnish a cohesive, fulsome view of the story.”
I feel like this is a theme that I’m going to land on a lot here on Eat Sleep Publish, but it bears repeating: the service that newspapers used to offer (distribution of news) is not worth paying for online. Which means that newspapers need to find a service to offer that is valuable and will differentiate their brand.
Some newspapers will be able to charge for their service. Some will support it with advertising. And aggregation is one of those services that could be well worth offering.
Many newspapers are in a great position, given their existing brand, to lend weight and legitimacy to their selections. In the same way that “getting published” by a major publisher has meant being reviewed and approved, “getting aggregated” by a major newspaper could carry a certain prestige.
“The most forward-thinking newspapers are already aggregating content; for instance, the New York Times’ Deal Book is an excellent round-up of business coverage from around the Web, and the Wall Street Journal provides extensive links within the text of a small number of its articles” said Moran.
And of course, findingDulcinea is aggregating, too.