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Whither news aggregators

by njh Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 05:02:50 AM EST

There has been some (not undeserved) glee about the decline and fall of the mass media industry.  However, what happens when newspapers do go under?

I realised recently that other than newspapers, most of my reading matter is either directed by or sourced from newspapers or related press (we don't have a TV).  I read blogs on topics I find interesting, but the ones I visit regularly are either personal lives of people who write interesting stuff, or more commonly, news aggregators.

ET is an example of such a collection, would enough people read it if it didn't have commentary on current affairs, as mostly presented by the existing media empires?

Diary rescue by Migeru


At this stage the optimists will point out that we can use the power of the Internet to collate and disseminate events and link intelligent commentary to them directly.  To these people I present WikiNews headlines from today:


Accident at Russian hydroelectric plant kills ten

Hurricane Bill gains strength over Atlantic, moves toward Bermuda

Four injured after three earthquakes strike Sumatra, Indonesia

English Wikipedia publishes 3 millionth article

Of these 4 stories, which were provided by eyewitnesses, and which were simply taken from the news media?  (I'm guessing only the last was contributed by a primary source)

What mechanisms exist to bring up news of note?  We have things 'going viral', but they seem to mostly be amusing news, the sort of thing that gets shown at the end of the TV news.  Dancing at weddings, rickrolling large events, ugly scottish women being played to by media.

Have there been any news stories that got attention despite the newsmedia?  Perhaps the Iran election violence?  Why Iran and not Zimbabwe or Burma?

Display:
Wire services (or News Agencies: Agence France-Presse, Press Association, Reuters, API and government press units), have long been the backbone of print and online media. They provide all the news, large and small, as a service to paying subscribers. They are the classic WWWWH (Who, What, Where, When and How) suppliers of journalism. Most of them don't do commentary or opinion - though there are plenty of other suppliers of syndicated content. Just the facts ma'am.

It's the media organizations to whom they sell the news that supply the colouring.

Wire services use a lot of 'stringers' - freelance journalists who feed into the Wires with local knowledge and connections. The Wires adapted fast to online technologies - just as they adapted from the telegraph and the telex.

But yes, without paying subscribers the Wires would be in trouble.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Aug 18th, 2009 at 04:36:27 AM EST
Excellent info, thanks.

The total income available from blogs is likely much less than the total income available from newspapers, but OTOH, if newspaper web sites start dying with the newspapers, a subscription to a wire would be a valuable thing for getting the repeat hits that advertiser based web sites rely on heavily.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 15th, 2009 at 08:54:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here and here (attached to this story).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 18th, 2009 at 04:43:08 AM EST
BTW: Reader's Digest in US to file for bankruptcy

The staunch old magazine is preparing to file a pre-arranged bankruptcy in the United States, where it has prospered for years under slogans such as "America in your pocket".

Until recently its prosperity appeared to know no bounds; it published 50 global editions in 21 languages, but its move to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which does not affect international editions including the British one, is a pre-emptive device aimed at freeing the company of debts to allow it to trade back to happier balance books.

Bold mine

Of course, 'America in your pocket' has somewhat negative connotations these financially challenging days ;-)

BTW Finland has one of the oldest working bold mines in the world.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Aug 18th, 2009 at 04:52:20 AM EST
Reader's Digest filing...
Couldn't happen to a nicer wretched right wing rag, though the story seems like a tale of financial manipulation.

Sven Triloqvist:

BTW Finland has one of the oldest working bold mines in the world.
You gotta dig deep for those bold mines. Perhaps that's the hidden story onboard the Arctic Sea - people are saying it was a bold operation.

Finland should send some bold to Obama and the democrats. It seems they have experienced peak bold back in the Watergate Days.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 03:38:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My inspiration came from Benny Hill. He had a great sketch of colonial soldiers arriving by boat to a beach and rushing up toward the sand dunes of the territory to be conquered. A lone aboriginal chief standing there against the invaders with his hand up and in broken English declaiming "Land mine!".

Pushing the chief aside, the soldiers disappear into the dunes. There followed a number of explosions, then silence. Chief turns to camera and shrugs - "Landmine".

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 04:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There could be a problem brewing here.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 01:55:00 AM EST
I do think that the 'new media', e.g. mostly the Blogosphere, is more good for making connections and changing the framing than at creating original news.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 04:56:07 AM EST
It has a different job. Old media are either entertainment and distraction or official 'serious' propaganda. Some of the mainstream pundits in the US, and one or two in the UK, are clearly certifiable loons. They still get major airplay because the one-to-many appeal of old media is immensely valuable in a propaganda role.

Blogs don't do one-to-many. The content and commentary is sharper, more intelligent and better informed (at best) but it's harder to form opinions when there are only a few thousand - or a few hundred - people reading.

Even so - I think it's only a matter of a decade at most before a slimmed down and rather desperate AP realises it can make money by supplying content directly to blogs instead of the newsies.

Or possibly WikiNews will eat AP alive - which might not be a bad result.

When that happens old media will officially be dead. One-to-many propaganda will be replaced by astroturfing (q.v. dKos, which is rife with it) and low-information quick-hit blipverts of the kind you can find on LiveLeak.

I think we're ignoring LiveLeak at our peril. I've been saying this for a few years, but there's a network of special interest sites which are proving very good at opinion-forming through self-selected and sometimes self-generated video noise.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 05:19:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, I think that's my point (not entirely sure, it was a bit of a spur of the moment idea, not entirely considered).

How well does the blogosphere minus the existing news system bring important stories to the top?

It might be an interesting experiment for ET to see how much news it can source without following newspapers etc.  What density of people is required to sustain such a system?

Is it more a matter of expectation of coverage than actual coverage that is important?  The Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins was essentially news free, but people liked to buy it.

by njh on Wed Aug 19th, 2009 at 11:32:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are things like http://www.indymedia.org valid news sources for that experiment?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 02:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The fact that I was not aware of it alone somewhat supports my point :)
by njh on Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 12:41:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you or I are aware of could rather be a function of dominance of the traditional news. If the question is

However, what happens when newspapers do go under?

then the relevant factor is not how good the blogosphere competes with the current newspapers, but wheter it could replace their function if it went away. Indymedia is an indication that it could, interest would be greater without a traditional news behemot to compete with.

I know a couple of news stories in Sweden that has started in the blogosphere, but to name one of greater fame I would choose the Gannon/Guckert story.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 02:28:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is not he point that traditional newsmedia ARE aggregators of paid content - for the most part - and they are coming under pressure because people are becoming less inclined to pay for such aggregation especially if it is tainted by excessive advertising or highly tendentious framing.

The problem then becomes whether news becomes dominated by official press releases from information ministries  and paid PR agencies rather than genuinely independently produced content.  It is also a problem for professional journalists - how to make a living - unless in the pay of said Information ministries/PR agencies.

However bloggers can access press releases almost as easily as newsies can, and are better placed to reframe "offial" and "commercial" content.  That is why the tradmed is under such pressure.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 08:33:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read that as 'offal' - but it still made sense ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 08:45:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too much sense.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 08:46:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too much scent?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 09:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trad media are a key drivers of identity politics. That's how they make their money - by staking out a political and cultural space and persuading people that they live in it, and are a part of it.

They then sell access to that space to advertisers.

Occasionally, with the Murdochs and Burlesconis of the world, the media are there to promote the owners brand of identity politics. Which is a related but slightly different model.

The model only works when the different brands of identity politics are recognisable and collectivised. You need a decent mass of people in an audience to make that kind of media model worthwhile.

What's interesting is that the more successful bloggers - dKos, HuffPo, and their equivalents on the right - use almost exactly the same model. The delivery medium is the web rather than newsprint, but otherwise the model is the same.

For the most part governments and corporates haven't quite worked this out yet. Governments have typically had close relationships with the press, whether wholly funded (Blair) or adversarial (pick your example.)

Blogs will remain unserious until governments realise how influential they can be. Once that happens we'll see consolidation, and a return to a similar model - although it may try to persuade using new kinds of content (user generated media, video blogs) rather than conventional written op-eds.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 09:12:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Blogs will remain unserious until governments realise how influential they can be. Once that happens we'll see consolidation, and a return to a similar model"

Once that happens we'll see the clampdown of censorship, you mean. One thing about newspapers is that you can publish one in your basement and distribute it at coffee shops. You can't do that on the Internet if the government doesn't want you to.

I think a bigger problem than the loss of the traditional print media is the move of EVERY form of communication to a medium--the Internet--that is so easily controlled: One phone call to the head of you local ISP and you're shut off.

With printed media and radio, there is at least a possibility of non-sanctioned communication, but we've mostly lost both...

by asdf on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 09:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't do it in coffee shops if the government doesn't want you to, either.

The Soviets famously used to licence typewriters and mimeograph machines. What brought down the Soviet Union wasn't internal dissidence and samizdat, it was external propaganda and cultural missionary engineering.

Even if an ISP shuts you off you can always use FIDOnet, or some equivalent. If censorship were ever likely it wouldn't take long before Internet gateways and servers started appearing in foreign countries that couldn't be censored directly.

The Chinese have been having an interesting time trying to manage censorship. It sort of works, but it's a long way from being airtight.

A more significant problem on blogs is astro-turfing. If it's done skillfully enough it's far more dangerous and far more influential than sledge-hammer censorship.

The CIA are notorious for the tradmed equivalent of astro-turfing. It would be naive to expect that they're not ready to do the same on blogs.

dKos is already rife with it. As soon as people start getting too critical of Obama, up pops a testimonial to his ineffable awesomeness on the rec list.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 11:55:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
If censorship were ever likely it wouldn't take long before Internet gateways and servers started appearing in foreign countries that couldn't be censored directly.

The Pirate Bay has been taken down, blocked etc and proxies and gateways has popped up. So yes that is what happens.

ThatBritGuy:

The Chinese have been having an interesting time trying to manage censorship. It sort of works, but it's a long way from being airtight.

According to some persons in China - who shall remain anonymous - the real censorship is not in the technical blockade but in the knowledge that using proxies and such might put you on the radar of the security police. So you ask yourself if it is worth it.

I think that the main thrust of internet censorship in Europe is done threw IP-legislation. An early draft of IPRED 2 included a proposal to criminalise patent incursions and give it a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison. So is using a proxy worth it if the proxy technology might be patented?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 05:20:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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