Harnessing the content flow

Summary:The New York Times redesigns its online site (the first major one in five years) to make the reader experience "simpler and more useful," including links to the most blogged articles, topic pages, personal pages with guidance from NYT editors and more emphasis on multimedia content.  All very nice, but still basically the print publication augmented online.

The New York Times redesigns its online site (the first major one in five years) to make the reader experience "simpler and more useful," including links to the most blogged articles, topic pages, personal pages with guidance from NYT editors and more emphasis on multimedia content.  All very nice, but still basically the print publication augmented online.

"All the news that's fit to print" (or display online) is mostly limited to what the NYT has to say, but for the leading edge, encompassing the edges of the network, media consumption is shifting to RSS and sites and services that aggregate, filter and personalize content. 

Eric Norlin make this point in his Syndicator blog:

"Value lies at the aggregation point." - I forget who said it, but it rings in my head daily. Newspapers' value lies in aggregating readers for advertisers (not in some high-horsed journalistic elite). Google's value lies in aggregating viewers. Conferences aggregate audiences. MySpace aggregates teens. Facebook aggregates college students. O'Reilly aggregates developers. Aggregation is where the value lies. As Seth Godin said recently -- its not that the power of "mass" has lost its value, its that its much harder to find mass.

Filtering: Pure "news" (items being pulled off the AP wire) are along the same lines as stock prices, they're commodities. But filtering, perspective, a trusted voice -- that brings tremendous value. And people flock to the filters that appeal to them. Podshow filters. Newsvine provides community filtering. Digg filters. Memerandum filters. Hell, Rush Limbaugh filters. And the *filtering* layers value onto the aggregation.

The world of new media keeps focusing on "who's producing the content" -- journalists or bloggers, users or professionals, etc -- but its not about "content," its about filtering and aggregation. Therein lies the current keys to value (not that that won't change).

Today we are at the wild frontier, with dozens of sites popping up like spring flowers (only a few will become perennials), looking to create an attention management experience that will atttract millions of users. The latest to make the rounds is Wikio (in private beta, of course), covered in Jeff Clavier's blog:

Like so many consumer Internet plays, the idea of Wikio came about because existing tools: Google News, Technorati, etc. did not provide homogeneous search across blogs and traditional news, offering correlation between stories and the ability for users to comment and contribute.What is Wikio ? Topix.net meets Digg meets Memeorandum with a zest of Wink – sort of. And all in French – for now.


Ouriel Ohayon of TechCrunch describes Wikio as "a smart combination of Digg+Technorati+Google news."

The three pillars of this latest Web 2.0 innovation and now copycat funnel is a combination of the best features of content aggregation (news, blogs, conversations, etc.), filtering (user participation, algorithmic) and personalization. Steve Rubel calls the current wave of startups focused on aggregation, filtering and community content as Web 2.0 commoditization, and points to the lengthy list of digg-style applications at 3spots.

It's too early to think about the overflow of aggregation and filtering sites as commodities. Some are hoping to cash in on the need to solve the content overload and attention deficit problems. Most of them will not be around by the end of year or have little traction, but it's all part of a grand experiment to harness the content flows for every kind of user and on every kind of device. Who will be winners? Digg, Technorati, Sphere, Memorandum, Rojo, TailRank, Newsvine, NowPublic, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, MSN to name a few of the more well known or well funded players. Who knows? Take them for a test drive...

Topics: Browser

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