Tagged news

Thoughts about the near future of news distribution based on some trends

Thoughts about how and what will change in news distribution in the next 10 years, by extrapolating some movements that are happening right now.

Let me know how you think about this, and please correct me if you think my assumptions are wrong.

1. Display advertising revenues will keep fading.
Banner supported is not a sustainable business model for news websites. Pageview prices are declining, inventory goes up and banner blindness is very real. News “engagement” is shifting to social networks.

At the same time brands are looking for brand experiences involving customers. They are building their own or public platforms to connect with customers. Display advertising is not adding enough value, even when it’s cheap.

NGO’s are practicing, funding or hosting journalism. They not only hire journalists they are hosting and distributing the stories themselves.

2. Television will take revenge.
With internet enabled television sets, the tv becomes a more interesting medium. There is always something to watch. Social layers will make live events more interesting. Especially news and sports events. Television interfaces need to change. We need new interface thinking for televisions. We need what the iPhone interface did to the mobile interface design thinking of all mobile phones.

3. Mobile becomes the #1 internet device.
Phone users outnumber computer users. Technology fits in phones and the lifecycle of a phone is shorter compared to a computer. The phone is a personal device, most computers aren’t. It’s the #1 communication device and this makes it the best device to share news. Todays modern mobile phone can do most things a computer could do in 2007.

4. Serendipity redefined.
Serendipity was something that belonged to newspapers and magazines. Serendipity was about the stories you found by accident in newspapers and magazines, small surprises. The web brought a new kind of serendipity, you found stuff by browsing. Social networks enhanced this experience. You find stuff because of your network. The “new” serendipity isn’t captured in media, it’s in the people. This is serendipity on a completely new level, it’s personal.

5. Databases become public
I don’t want to go into a discussion of when or if we ever will get a semantic web. What you can see is that more information becomes public and it is more structured. When databases go public more people can combine information to make new information, more people can practice database journalism.

6. Information availability and accessibility explodes
The web is still growing and it will probably never stop. As interfaces, global coverage and search evolve more people get easy access to all of this information. More information is a good thing, all you need is good filters. Those filters can be computers or human.

7. The real time web, we are all continuously connected.
Continuously connected, sharing more and more personal information. Maybe for safety, for fun or for voyeurism. Sharing creates online existence. Everything you do is information, combine this with point 5 and 6.

8. News agencies will no longer lead the discussion
They will keep losing the signaling function, because everyone is a (re)broadcaster in his or her own network. And they will find it difficult to control, lead or own the discussion. Discussions become fluid, you can start them, but you can’t own or host them.

Conclusive thoughts:
News is and will be a more social experience.

Your (social) network will be important to help you make order out of information chaos.

News outlets will act like hubs for people sharing the same ideas.

The media- or informationlandscape polarizes, like magazines. More media will engage on the same level, making them working great together or strong competitors.

Information will be free. All you have to do is connect the dots instead of creating them.

News will be about guiding and analyzing, almost like a curator. If you’re a good curator, you add value.

Curators are often people.

The news eco system will be much more decentralized, making it stronger.

The system how news distribution works right now is just not made for the media of tomorrow. The traditional ecosystem for news will be disrupted.

The new eco system will inform us better.

What a news organization looks like in a social media driven web

Social media is becoming a very influential referrer. Website like Facebook and Twitter generate growing amounts of traffic websites. They work best for the live web (news) and for memes. And they are in the race to become serious competition for Google in getting the right people on the right page.

Social media (Twitter/Facebook) is the new Google (making the web more useful with its service). It doesn’t care about page rank. It cares about what people think and how trustworthy and influential people are.

Google and Twitter are very different in a number of ways.


  1. Longer URL, the longer the better
  2. Getting bigger websites to link to your website
  3. Know and find
  4. Authenticity
  5. Ranking content
  6. Optimization
  7. The best of time


  1. Short URL, an URL is waste of space
  2. Getting influential online people to talk about your website
  3. Follow and discover
  4. Creativity
  5. Ranking people
  6. Lobbying
  7. The best of now

What does this mean for news reporting?
The major news websites and publication systems weren’t really designed for SEO. They are still catching up, far behind the current technological state blogs are in.

While media and journalist are still blaming Google the second disrupting innovation for their Industry is already taking place. And this time they won’t be able to blaim a company.

What about the editors? Google was about systems, about technology. The current wave of social media is about people. Are the news editors – the current and a new generation – ready?

The link
A news organization in a social media environment doesn’t have to create content, it creates context around links. It directs you. That’s the function of a news organization. Guide you as a customer to the best information you can find. Sometimes this mean (re)writing a summary or story, other times it means linking to other good stuff.

It’s also about value. If you – as a content creator – are not adding much to what’s already out there you can’t expect to have a sustainable business model. If you don’t add much, you won’t get much.

The link is the most important asset of the web. It is for Google and it is for Twitter. In a social media driven web it’s not about the content the link directs to. It’s about who presents the link. Linking builds trust. You have to earn this trust by linking to things that add value for your audience.

Jay Rosen, professor at NYU on the ethic of the link

Four fallacies about monetizing news online

The off- and online news markets around the world are under pressure. Newsmedia and press agencies feel the urge to find money, fast. As a result news companies are looking at alternatives to make more online revenues.

Although the money is needed the solutions aren’t always solutions. Ideas I’ve heard so far.
1. Find a model to pay for referral (for example charge Google)
2. Fight copyright infringement more actively (or pay for linking/embedding)
3. Charge your customers
4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.

These are all fallacies and in my opinion, and easy to deconstruct.

1. Pay for referral (for example charge Google)
Google directs a big portion of the online traffic. Probably not forever, but they are controlling it right now. Their business is to help people from point a to b without noise. This is key to Google. If they add noise or become less relevant a competitor will eventually take over their position.

There is no reason to pay. I think Google is good for almost 30/50% of the traffic to newspaper websites. And even more to some sections. News websites benefit from Google traffic.

If Google wants to be #1 the news provider, they can buy or create a press agency. Google is probably one of the few companies that can generate enough traffic to support the total costs of a press agency with online advertising.

A while ago I argued that online news is a freelance job in a network instead of a job in a company. You might like to read it, it relates to this subject.

Unlike paper hierarchy is less important online. Personal relevancy is much more important. For example. I read a few articles on the website of the New York Times almost every day. I almost never use the navigation or start at the homepage. I’m referred to the articles from blogs, search engines and social networks like Times People and Facebook. I love the NY Times. I don’t really care about the homepage or navigation structure.

Newsmedia should find hierarchy in design on the front-end for a large group of users. In the background they should put online as much information (enriched with metadata) as possible. New relevancy is not in owning the information. It is in what you can do with it. The web has no destinations, only stops.

2. Fight copyright infringement
Sure, people should respect fair use. And companies that aggregate and resell your complete data set should be stopped. This isn’t the biggest problem. Those companies that are mass copying your content are easier to find. The smaller infringements are readers with blogs, the long tail. Those readers are your fans. Just let them friendly know that what they do is not fair use, and suggest what they should do. They often don’t even realize what they are doing and if you just tell them you’re making friends (readers) for life.

3. Charge your customers
You have to make sure your content is worth it. What makes the thing you make more valuable compared to what your competitors do for free? People trust the brand and are willing to pay for derivations on the web. They might not want to pay for the things you offer on a daily base. Your brand or community creates value and this is value you can monetize. The brand of a newspaper is trust and openness. Find things that are close to your brand and with this you can make money. For example Nike is about the running experience. And they sell a lot of stuff around this experience, including shoes. If your newspaper is good in certain subjects, for example healthcare. Why not start a health insurance, the web makes it easy to do so. Or start a bank. The banking business could use some trust. Make sure the things you do live up to your brand standards.

Is this still transparent journalism? I think it can be, I don’t know. As long as you give access to all the numbers and all of your information, if you make yourself controllable. If you create a community and if you keep close to your brand it can be very transparent. In the long run your brand is about the truth and transparency. You can only benefit if you will always respect this.

4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.
You can’t. The web is for sharing. The only thing to keep something exclusive is to charge people for it. That’s why there is no real online business model for mass information, like news. The news will get out anyway, because people will tell it and someone will amplify the story or make a summary.

There is something the web is very good in and that’s in creating communities. Newsmedia should realize that you shouldn’t do research on your own attic. Share the information. Create a process instead of creating a moment. In a live storytelling environment the process is much more relevant and interesting. It also generates authority and creates an expert role. In a process the product (or publication moment) is less important. It’s about what’s going on. Share data with your readers and setup communities to discuss and analyze.

The Value of Portable Social networks

CNN / Facebook
CNN videostream with Facebook integration (zoom)

The Obama inauguration was broadcasted everywhere. Every upcoming video sharing-, hosting- or distributionservice did something around the big Obama event.

I think the most exiting and successful combination was what CNN did together with Facebook. CNN had a high quality live videostream with Facebook updates from your friends talking about the video stream.

The power of distribution
Current TV
Current TV on the web (zoom)

Current TV was also broadcasting the event on television and used Twitter. Which is great for television, because television is a one-to-many medium and you can easily interact with the television by using a Twitter client on your phone or laptop.

Facebook was the best option for the web. Watching video on the web is more a personal and more interactive experience. This is what Facebooks adds. You’re watching the stream, not with the world (like Twitter+TV) but with your friends/contacts.

The computer is much more personal compared to a television and thus the interaction should be more personal as well. My social network is not your social network. It’s a distributed conversation.

Portable Social Networks
These kind of combinations or applications can only be created if social networks are (partly) open and allow services like CNN to use the network. For this event CNN didn’t create conversation tools, networks or any other infrastructure. They just connected the dots of Facebook to the dots of what they do best. Making live television.

This is what happens when services open up. You get the best of both worlds. Portable social networks are the future.

NY Times
NY Times
The New York Times homepage (zoom)

Ustream (zoom)

Joost (zoom)

Where we are with EN.nl

Moby Roelandp Vijzelgracht
This is an update about the EN website. In my holiday developer Ayco released a new version with a frontpage and some other special features.

EN.nl now has a frontpage. In the right column we are personalizing news based on your reading behavior. EN takes the tags from the articles you have read and uses these to scan incoming articles.

The order of the frontpage is created by how the site is used by its readers and the impact of the news given by the press agency. It’s a dynamic presentation created out of a mix of variables from discussion, to pageviews, to urgency, to incoming links and a few more.

The frontpage also shows you two lists and a picture that are personal to you. In the right column it shows you a short list containing articles that might interest you. You see a second list with articles that are read in your network and you see a third picture that is a photograph from the news that might interest you.

The other thing we created are related articles based on the distance between tags, using a tag-relation table. This distance can create clusters of information that might be interesting in the future to create groups, but it also generates related articles in a much more refined way. Two articles don’t need tags in common to be related to each other.

Where is this heading
For the last weeks we have been using the partly personalized frontpage and we are noticing that is works pretty good. You don’t miss the big news, but you do get a more personalized presentation and you see what your friends are reading. It works this well that it might deserve a more prominent presentation on the frontpage.

For example I don’t read much about soccer and instead of a soccer picture at the bottom of the page (which a colleague had) I did see a picture of a Dutch politician at that moment more relevant to me.

Personalization is good, but of equal importance is the social aspect. News is always about sharing and talking about it with your friends and colleagues. At this moment we have created so much different parameters that it gives us more options to sort information than we could have ever expected.

How to build a community?
So how should we build a community or create interaction with your friends or like minded?

Facebook is switching its homepage to a notification page. It shows you what your friends are doing (screenshot). The most exciting pages of social web services are the pages that show you what is going on in your network. This makes the service less a service you go to, but more a circle around you. Flickr does this with recent uploads from your friends, LinkedIn with your contacts switching jobs all the time, and Twitter is all about it.

Survival of the fittest
Why shouldn’t a news website be user centered? I was kind of sceptic about this idea at first. Since we claim news isn’t something that is personal. But it is. A newspaper is becoming more and more something that is personal. With less time to read we scan the headlines and only pick the articles we like. First you read the things that interested you. If you have time left you start to read articles that are second choice. This isn’t something new, only with less time to spend on the medium we stopped reading our second choices.

Make it small
The most interesting social websites that create a social experience are user centered. Can this be done with news as well? And more important does it add extra value to the news? Why would someone use a certain news website, when news is omnipresent? What can you add to something that has ‘no value’ based on content and originality? Besides usability, the only thing you can add is choice. What is the focus of a news website? Will it report left news more prominent? Is it more about gossip? Will it present news as it evolves and before the facts are all clear or will it wait until the guessing is over?

Here are just some thoughts about how a more social and personal experience could be designed. These are small steps towards a user-centered news website.

1. To create the feeling you are in a network you need a feed with updates of your network. What are the people you know doing on this website. This could be updates from your friends (design screenshot) about what articles they favorite, read, commented on or edited.

2. There could be a shoutbox that enables you to talk about the news (design screenshot). Just share thoughts. You could say that you don’t think the stock market will recover soon. Just thoughts so other people in the network can get to know you and see what topics are hot. Or those thoughts can also be relevant to a cluster of news instead of a single article. Like the talks you have in a bar of café.

3. Create the website only around you and your friends. For example it could be possible to look at the website and only see the comments your friends made on articles. You could choose to discuss the news only with your friends (making it more personal) or to switch your friends off and discuss it with the world.

4. Use your reading behavior to help you find other interesting things. EN could use your profile to aggregate all different kind of sites and recommend articles. For example if you are reading a lot about the stock market. EN could go to a service like Technorati get the blogs that write about topics you like and use the Technorati relevancy to sort and recommend you blogs or further readings.

5. Use article meta information to connect to other websites and automatically enrich articles on EN with this information. For example find pictures about a news event made by people witnessing it.

6. These are all options easy to create in EN from a technical point of view. Help me out. What is it you think that is interesting and makes online news reading a more social experience?

Automatically generated profiles?

Tracking tags EN.nl
This image shows the most popular tags connected to the articles I have read today

The coming weeks we will be further updating the EN.nl news website. The last weeks we have added interesting things on the database level and back-end of the system. Now it is time to bring some of those ideas to the front-end.

One of the things we have done is making tags more important. After using and testing with it we noticed the combined tagging methods we use give a very interesting and relevant database with tags. The tags have more value and semantic relations than I thought they would have. EN.nl has over 35.000 articles in its database with over a 100.000 tags, 10.000 of those tags are unique.

What we have added is a system that tracks the tags of the articles you read. With this information a metadata profile is created. New articles that enter the site will be matched to your ‘profile’ and if there is a match this will be a recommended article. There is also a tag relation mechanism to create a more semantic relation.

We will do the same for your friends, since news is part of a social experience. We are adding groups as well. If you have online friends using the website, you and your group of friends creates a semantic profile as well. New articles will be recommended that fit to your group of friends.

Your profile
What about this tag based profile based on what your read? The profile could be private or hidden. It could also be open or even exportable. For example EN.nl could connect to web services and get the highest rated and most recent blog posts about subjects you like and recommend these to you. Or you could connect the information to other profiles to create a more rich or enhanced experience on other platforms as well.

Would you like to take this profile? And can you think of a service that could serve you better when it has a collection of news themes and subjects you like?

Concept design personalized frontapage EN.nl
The concept design for the EN.nl frontpage. The page automatically orders the information based on what is most relevant in general and for you.

Making the web more live

CNN Breaking News
The web is becoming a more live medium, the medium itself isn’t changing it is how we publish to it. I think the ‘live web’ is the most exiting development since the rise of social networks. You write a Twitter notification on your mobile phone, post a picture to the web or stream a live video with Qik or Seesmic. Often recording is publishing.

When you write a blog or create a podcast your entry has context in itself. It has a start and it ends. Most postings on micro blogs don’t have context in the messages. The context is in the stream or in time. For example Twitter messages often make sense in your personal timeline or in the conversation within your personal network.

Twitter and Qik are just the first services. Realtime platform independent micro services, that distribute contextless fragments of information are here to stay.

This sense of a ‘live medium’ is something that is changing the web as it is and how we use it. It will change search, or at least sorting search results and it will change reporting news.

A service like Twitter makes news travel fast. This makes it the #1 breaking news source for a lot of people. Why? Because it is reporting as it is happening. It isn’t always right, but it is reporting, open for conversation and correcting itself. It is live coverage and it is a storytelling experience.

News on the web is presented like news on paper. This is good since text on the web is – apart from certain screen specific style rules – the same as on paper. An article is written, checked and published.

Spreading the news
These services like Twitter are making reporting news a more public process. For example if something happens the first people who notice are there when it happens. Uploading messages, pictures and video, to a personal community or group of friends.

With Twitter people start repeating (or retweeting) messages distributing the news among followers and informing a very large audience within minutes. This is the signaling part. It’s not about being a citizen journalist. It is about telling your friends what you are doing, or what you are seeing.

The signal reaches the audience at the same time it reaches the journalist. A journalist has to check the story, is it true? Should I publish about this or wait until it is checked? The reader is expecting that his favorite news website knows more about it and visits the website after hearing about the news. Often resulting in a bad user experience, since there is nothing on the news website about the subject.

What is the role of journalists and media in this? Should they directly report serious rumors? Should they check for more sources. I don’t know. It has to be somewhere in the middle I think. A situation where journalists are producing with updated versions.

I think CNN is giving this a very prominent place on the CNN website. Maybe because they are from television and reporting breaking news is what they are good at. They are using storytelling mechanisms on the website. Reporting what is happening right now, and directly updating it when the story turns out to be something different.

These are the breaking news messages CNN showed last week. I heard the news about Hillary ending her campaign through Twitter and CNN was one of the few news websites with the news on it.
CNN before
CNN message before

CNN after
CNN message after

Your thoughts
What are your thoughts about this? When should news be published on a web site and should we adapt the design of news sites to make space for a more storytelling ‘as-it-is-happening’ approach? Or does this make news websites vulnerable for misinforming the audience?

This blog post was published on the Online Journalism Blog