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The News, Have it your way

December 15, 2005

I read the other day from Steve O’Grady , why he stopped watching the news. It’s been bouncing around in my head for a couple of days and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

We want the information/news/updates/whatever the way we want it, not the way the current regime of news/papers/print magazines decide for us what they want to interpret as news. I’m pretty sure this has always been the case, but we as information consumers haven’t had the opportunity to customize it until recently (a matter of years for some, more recently for others).

I commented on his blog about how right he was, and that I already had stopped watching it also (but you got me Steve, I didn’t even realize this). I always have a better understanding of the issues before it hits the traditional news. I find the subject that interests me, then I can go to sources, blogs or the web that may have been at the place of the event, and almost always there is someone who understands the issue better than a newscaster. It occurs to me that the whoever the media source is, they are really a journalist, not a field or subject matter expert. The blogosphere has now become the more informed reporter.

When the sources for news was limited, these generalist journalists were the only choice. As with any job, there is always a range of talent and quality. But as any economist will tell you, a monopoly causes quality to go down and price to go up. The news has been monopolistic with respect to news feeds, and media conglomerates. Go to any channel and you get virtually the same story, the one that was in the morning newspaper a lot of the time.

Which brings me to how I want to get the news. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know I love IBM Research. If you ever get the chance, talk to research or read about them. They are not just blue suits, rather some unbelievable minds. Back in 1999, I saw a demo of a flexible newspaper that was really a screen that you customized your own news. When we showed it off, it wowed everyone as the technology was cool, but it opened up freedom of content.

All you need is a news bot to get your sources and it downloaded and formatted. Now that sounds a whole like feed aggregators (google, bloglines, other). It likely won’t come to fruition in that format, but the concept is coming true.

So it’s getting to the time that we can select what we want and get it. This is bad and good for the traditional news. As anyone with a search engine can find, circulation numbers are down for the traditional news, most cable news (ok, one exception was up) and print news.

Why is it good? Back to the economists. Capitalism invites competition, the result of which is lower prices and better quality. So they will either have to improve, or go the way of the horse and buggy (Steve’s example again here). Otherwise, we get what we want because we have choices.

And like Steve, I chose getting the real story from my research, not the negative or slanted (both directions) that someone thinks I should get. Either way, I’m going to get a better product, at a cheaper price.

Update: Here’s a story from Tekrati that shows a trend towards consumer preference. We may win after all.

And another showing lower prices…

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2 Comments
  1. re: fixing the problem via capitalism, i really hope you’re right. i’m not convinced that capitalism isn’t skewing them in the wrong direction – catering to the lowest common denominator – but i’ll reserve judgement.

  2. My goal is to have the choices for news that I want, when and how I want it, which will be different than what others want. We need competition for the customer’s attention to offer that possibility.

    I’m not sure of any other economic model that offers that, but I’d welcome any that reach the same end result.

    The current model of news delivery, while it comes from different channels, is mostly the same story, different channel..no competition there…and we get the negative news you described.

    A better issue is that we can get more from the blogs than the traditional news these days, which is another form of competition to the status quo. And judging from the recent attacks on the blogs from the mainstream media, it must be making inroads.

    As with everything, time will tell.

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