Near instantaneous feedback loops are one of the things we expected to see more of when the World Wide Web was a newbie. The Web offers true data capture on where people focus their attention and gives insight into how people behave online -- unlike other mediums where it's largely guesswork, after the fact.
Online we can know what is really of interest to viewers, and how that popular zeitgeist shifts over time, in near real time. This capture is much less spooky to the privacy-conscious when the data comes in aggregate form -- not probing for individuals' click-through actions, or measuring traffic statistics from individual sites.
Now, finally, Akamai has created a way for measuring where web surfers are focused en masse at any given time among 100 major online news sites. The Akamai Net News Index offers a near real-time zeitgeist meter on what news is attracting the most interest, broken out by major regions of the world.
This is really cool. It amounts to a "most read" attention gauge that is constantly refreshed and can be localized. No more guessing about what people are really interested in, and how they invest their attention.
Hey, you individual investors out there, how would you like to know the news that is of most interest to the most people a few minute ago? With that information maybe you can better predict -- just like those Wall Street analysts with their expensive Reuters and Bloomberg boxes -- how news will affect individual stocks. Or, you news editors out there trying to decide what goes on page one tomorrow, maybe you should know what's most important online the night before. These are only some of the most obvious uses of this new news information capability, which Akamai says it will be expanding.
Discrete marketing data about online users' actions may already be provided by some researchers at a cost, but Akamai is providing this as a free service for the rest of the population. When it comes to information on Web use information, more is almost always better. I'm looking forward on New Years Day next to reading Akamai's list of the top 100 news stories of the year, based on the way real eyeballs rated it at the time -- not some AP editors' guess 10 months later. Very cool.
Now, I sure hope that Akamai makes this Net News Index openly available as a Web service, widget, and RSS feed. Then developers could begin baking this news attention data -- smashing, I believe is the lingo of the day -- into other applications and services.