Notes: News aggregation

Access to multiple sources of news over the internet increases aspirations corresponding to news consumption: readers don’t have to restrict themselves anymore to news that we or they think will be useful to them.

Consequently, news aggregators become more than that: they are now personalized news repositories from which news is consumed. With implementation of tags-based searching and use of metadata in posts, aggregators can be made to fetch information that they can algorithmically evaluate as being useful to us.

Last, aggregators are mostly automated, shrinking delivery time and removing it out of the equation.

Google News

RSS readers are largely meant to “keep up with” news as and when it happens. However, given the volume of information, which RSS readers were designed to handle in the first place, the lifetime of a news story is reduced to a few hours or even just a day. In other words, if articles in the aggregator are not consumed quickly, they will be replaced by more current ones.

Human-powered news aggregation has its most significant advantages with respect to the accumulation of digital property. Where a news aggregator would spit out numerically evaluated news, human curating serves to:

  1. Cut down a lot of the riff-raff that inevitably arises out of mass-aggregation and make news-reading easier, therefore more pleasurable, especially when readers are being exposed to a broad range of writers and other readers
  2. Maintain the value of “social currency” – especially when social media is shaping up to be the single-largest interface through which news is consumed, resulting in a large influx of data – in such an environment, being more accurate makes as much sense as clocking in first

There are some guidelines to keep in mind when working with aggregated news. The most important is that one must ensure citation leads to content, and the source of that content, without ambiguity.

The advent of social media has given rise to a “post-reporter” interface between the producer and the consumer, with “post-reporter” signifying a marked proclivity toward crowd-sourcing by producers. Instead of taking news to the people en masse, a social media interface works as an aggregator with in-built sharing (multi-dimension engagement) and cross-promotional (e.g., incorporate a button to Amazon when books are reviewed online; get a cut of the sale) capacities.

On a macroscopic level, social media renders news as a commodity: it can be engaged with in ways more than simply reading (liking, sharing, recommending, agreeing, dismissing, etc.), and this gives rise to the commoditization of information. Where a story was compressed into letters, the same story can now be conveyed without any such information-degeneracy.

For example, opinion pieces earlier marked a relationship between newspapers and their readers; now, they are springboards for public debate simply because social media platforms have enabled discussion around them. As mentioned, social media not only make crowd-sourcing easier but also more relevant.

Where a producer worked essentially as an employer/manager of reporters who in turn engaged with the news, we now have the option of producers moving ahead of reporters, getting news from the people, and working harder at the dissemination of localized stories. However, this results in a tendency to democratize news (giving people what they want), which could lead to populism.