Saturday, January 01, 2005

Reading news should be easy

Simon Waldman (Director, UK Guardian) sees everyone reading news from a feed aggregator in the future:
    Over time, you develop a rich cocktail of sources and you develop a new habit for browsing information. Some things you look at hourly, some daily, and some you deliberately save till Friday pm for a catch up. This is light years away from sitting down at the table in the morning looking at your paper, or even your paper’s website.

    In this new environment, no single organisation gives shape to the world in this way - there is no single front page, or lead story.
It's an interesting vision, but it sounds too time consuming for all but dedicated news junkies.

Most people don't want to spend hours hunting down good sources, setting up RSS readers, and skimming tens or even hundreds of web feeds every day. Most people just want to read news.

Simon needs to look beyond the current generation of aggregators. They're designed for early adopters, not the mainstream. There's no prioritization, no filtering, no sorting. Almost all of the work of hunting down quality sources and good information is put on the reader.

We at Findory have a different vision. We think news shouldn't require any effort to read. We think your newspaper should adapt to you and help you find the news you need. We think a newspaper should help readers discover important articles and sources buried deep in the long tail of news.

People need information. People need to know the news that impacts their lives. We should help them.


Sadagopan said...

I totally agree with Greg - Aggregation, Personalisation, Adaptability and Deep Degrees of contextualisation along with pervasive availability shall characterise content distribution of tommorow - news shall be an instance of this - Sadagopan(

Unknown said...

I agree with you. I also wonder if these tools will help us find news we *need* or news we *want*. Will many of us pay attention to information we agree with, thus reinforcing our opinions and ideologies...regardless of their factual content? We already see this trend today with more specialized news networks that cater to a particular bias, or web sites that do the same.

The big question for me is whether this new - inevitable - generation of customizable information streams will make us better informed or merely more biased and divided?

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Eric. It's a good point. Some are worried that personalized news could pigeonhole readers in a way that feeds them only what they want, not what they need.

You're right to say that this is already a problem. For example, look at the front page of CNN. The unpersonalized front page of CNN provides only a shallow view targeting some mishmash of the general interests of millions of readers. By trying to satisfy everyone, it satisfies no one, a bland blend of interests that results in mediocrity.

Personalized news provides an opportunity to broaden reader's interests, exposing them to news sources and viewpoints they otherwise would never have seen. Findory searches thousands of sources and works hard to surface a wide variety of news and perceptives.

The vast majority of the feedback we get at Findory is positive, but the rare negative feedback we get is interesting. Almost always, it's someone who expects Findory to pigeonhole them and is surprised when it doesn't. They're upset that their news about the war in Iraq covers opinions both supporting and against the war. They're upset that international coverage is included when they're used to seeing just their hometown newspaper's coverage.

We see this as a victory. Findory is doing what it is supposed to do, aiding discovery, helping readers manage a vast sea of information. It makes it easier to get the information readers need to be well-informed about the events that impact their life.