Wednesday, January 25, 2006

2.0 News or not 2.0 News

As I suspected, the feature matrix for News 2.0 post got a lot of responses, not least from the proprietors of the named sites looking to pad out their listings (which I was happy to do, and am not finished doing). Pete Cashmore kicked off the linkgasm, followed by Steve Rubel and Om Malik, although Om never linked to me, just to Pete. Carl Howe put his two cents in as well. The pretty colours and the non-language-specific nature of the matrix seemed to attract non-English bloggers, as I was linked in Korean, German, French and Japanese.

So what can be learned from a reading of the matrix? Om didn't like the term News 2.0, and I could certainly see why that would be given the widespread disaffection with Web 2.0 as a general catch-all phrase. Looking back over the list of sites, I can see three distinct approaches which might be useful as a technique for sub-classification.

News aggregators
Hallmark features: Algorithm, taxonomy, widget, recommending.

Social news
Hallmark features: Voting, bookmarking, personalisation, tagging, ratings.

Citizen journalism
Hallmark features: User-generated content, reputation, revenue sharing, localisation.

Of course I'm not telling anyone anything new by defining those categories, but I think what the News 2.0 matrix shows is that there is significant crossover with many new sites aiming at a broad cross-section of features, as Pete identified. One of the questions for players in this general space: should a company try to "tick all the boxes" to hit two or three subcategories all at once or, as Gabe Rivera of Memeorandum has been hinting at in the comments of more than one of the stories around this meme lately, should you stick to a small feature set?

Personally, I'm with Gabe on this one, with a caveat. Tinfinger's main strength will be as a social news site. While the first thing many of our users will see will be our news aggregation pages, our strategy is to try to commoditise that as a lead-in to the more important part of our business, which is the people profile pages. I think this sort of thing will become more common as time goes on: even those sites which are trying to cover all the bases will find that parts of their business are more lucrative than others, and will concentrate on them while keeping the other bits as traffic generators. My guess is that the news aggregation part of the puzzle is the most likely to get commoditised, especially because of the presence of several GEMAYA players but also because Topix is doing a reasonable job of killing that particular category without doing much as yet to move into the other two.

The real nub of both the social news and citizen journalism sites is building communities. It is easy to see that as being true for the social news sites, because they don't have anything else by the way of content except their community. For operators of CJ sites such as the luckless Dan Gillmor of Bayosphere, the lesson has been much more painful. In short: it's not about the journalism, it's about the citizens. I read somewhere the other day (forget where... I should be bookmarking this stuff!) about how many of these CJ sites feel like old Wild West ghost towns which consist of a bunch of pegs in the ground with string tied around them, delineating zones for housing for people who never came. I played a lot of the City Building series back in the day so I know how frustrating it is for those settler families to be barely trickling through. If only Web traffic generation was as simple as tweaking a few variables in your tax settings.

As Keith & The Girl would say, "what's my point?" My point is that all three subcategories have the same audience, which is "people interested in the news", which is as good a reason as any to lump them all together under one single industry tag. News aggregators may be the ones getting the majority of the traffic now, but social news sites led by Digg are fast gaining ground, while operators of CJ sites are yet to hit on a successful plan which gives enough of a nod to the community aspect. Is there going to be a MySpace-type latecomer who will solve all the various problems and blow everyone else away? I don't think so, but you can never rule it out.

3 Comments:

Anonymous lunamoth said...

I'm Korean ;)

2:09 am, January 26, 2006  
Anonymous Phil Sim said...

> Is there going to be a MySpace-type latecomer who will solve all the various problems and blow everyone else away?

Yes ;-)

12:45 pm, January 28, 2006  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Mmm-hmm, and I suppose you're going to launch it Phil?

12:54 pm, January 28, 2006  

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