News Aggregators Have A Good Day

A couple of developments on the news aggregator front today that will have a chance to play out over the next days.

Item number one: for 12 years, Slate Magazine (owned by the Washington Post) has run one of the oldest “aggregators” of news content through a section called, “Today’s Papers.”  It’s gone, as noted in this morning’s Times, and replaced with something that Slate’s editors hope reflects the changing news cycle. The Slatest will be updated three times a day and also highlights the Twitter streams from columnists.

Check this screenshot and look how Slate is filling out the page to bring in revenue on the thrice-daily updated page:

News Aggregators Have A Good Day

The move is designed to fit better with the new news flow that is not contingent on just morning papers, but on an ever moving cycle that goes far beyond those daily headlines. As Editor David Plotz wrote in an announcement post earlier today:

Overnight, newspapers launch the news. They publish stories clarifying the events of yesterday; they break their own investigative stories; they print zeitgeist-defining feature articles and op-eds. The morning brings Phase 2, when Web media reacts to the news. Bloggers and other sites respond to the news that broke overnight, and newsmakers push back against or try to exploit these stories. Phase 3, the buildup, comes in the afternoon, as the events of the day unfold—congressional action, a presidential gaffe, turmoil in Asia. The media break this news, and analyze how it fits together with yesterday’s top stories. Opinion makers try to shape how the day’s events will play on the night’s cable shows and in tomorrow’s newspapers. The next morning, it all starts over again.

I’m a Slate fan, so I like the move from both a content and awareness of the news cycle standpoint. I think with smart sponsor recruitment, there could be a marginal amount of revenue for the Washington Post Co. if they continue to be non-intrusive with placements while providing good real estate to advertisers. This is a decently captive audience that is just narrow enough that a spotlight on the right group could sink in.

Is the future of the media something closer to Slate than WaPo? Blue sky notion: if you take WaPo’s bureaus and tuck them into the outward looking Slate model, you would have something closer to where the newspaper/journalism world needs to get to online. To me, it seems very much like a battle of the brands and institutions that is keeping the line drawn very clearly in the sand. Dealing with an ad is a small price to pay for me to get a nice overview of content, and this is a lot of rich content from dozens of places.

On the other end of the Internet media sphere, there’s a new little feature buried in Google News. “Interesting Reads,” as first noted by Google Operating System, is beginning to populate the server in a new way: recommend news items from the search giant. It’s certainly a hodge-podge of things from New York politics to Facebook, but there’s an outside chance that this becomes a lot more (Google’s Meme tracker, or even, agenda setter?). From GOS:

It’s not exactly Arts & Letters Daily, but it’s an interesting departure from Google’s goal of aggregating and clustering news stories.

As some commenters noted on that post, though, this is still very much a beta and potentially a big step for the Google beast to try and set the zeitgeist intentionally instead of letting it happen by way of search trends. While some joke that Google is a media company by accident of collecting, this would be a prized possession of links and what is displayed may trump even Twitter trends as Google says what should be discussed, not what is being (or has been) talked about recently.

Just remember, don’t be evil…


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