You may well have read about the 'death of journalism' recently, the web is a buzz, with, for example this BBC article. Newspapers are complaining that there readers are disappearing to the internet, and there internet content is being 'stolen' by news aggregators. Since one of my companies products is a blog aggregator, i've a special interest in such stories, which as I'll show
are not true. Newspapers are getting quite angry at there loss of revenue. The angry brewing as for example the editor of the wall street journal describes aggregators as 'parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet'
There is a whole host of issues to cover in story of Newspaper and the Internet. Lets first tackle the 'death of journalism'. Being a journalist is a wonderful job, you get paid to write your views, you get to market the truth (as you see it) to the populus. If you a foreign correspondant you get paid to travel, a wonder, marred only be the chance of being shot at or kidnapped. In fact the web has led the growth of Journalism, not its death. Many internet only magazine style sites have spung up covering areas which just wouldn't have been covered pre-internet. Meanwhile, the ordinary person has a chance to post there view to anyone who might read them, via blogs. Suddenly there opinons can be heard. In the pre-internet days, i can remember my dad, posting hundreds of letters and opinons pieces off to newspapers and endless being rejected. There no doubt for the todays reader, the state of journalism has never being better.
So the problem isn't the 'death of journalism' the problem is that 'newspapers are an endangered spieces'. This is only partial true, paper is still a reasonable medium for certain functions, and indeed free sheet that the London Metro started out in 1999, during first dot com
boom. Whats notable is the free sheet part. The Internet has an enormous amount of content and most of it is either self funded or funded by advertising. With so much content no one want to pay to read, micropayments never managed to take off, not enough paper would agree to pay a penny to read a page. Free just seems so much cheeper. So when newspaper publish there content on-line they find they just can't be payed to produce it. That the problem they facing, in they current form, while Journalism will continue, newspapers will have to adapt to find new ways to publish and new ways to get paid for producing content.
Next, Aggretators. Aggretators aren't damaging Journalism, they don't steel content, they pick up on the content that writers decide to free syndicate and draw traffic into the newspapers piece. This actually helps the content providers. What annoys the editor of the 'wall street journal' is not that his piece appears in the aggretator, its that all the smaller papers and bloggers items appear in the aggretator as well. And so why should be reader pay to read a Wall Street Journal piece, when theys plenty of free pages, posting much the same news. Thats whats annoying in the old school of papers. Our 'internet tapeworms' are doing a valuable job of promoting the smaller paper, webazines, and the bloggers. All of which is taking money away from the the old lumbering ink media. Rather than complain or ask for laws to help them, old
media need to adapt and using its advantage of money and scale, to produce content and systems that user want, before there advantages disappears.
Aggretators are boone to knowlegde finding, exspecially if you have obscure pet subjects you want to follow. Thats way I started Feed Distiller, its great to be able follow the new about tiny
subarea of physics, e.g. Neutrinos, and put it all in one place, for when you'll in the mood to research it. In fact aggretators like Feed Distiller are still in a very early stage of technology, and very far from perfect. For example when an personnal obitary piece ended up on our Humour page, is wasn't funny. But that to be expected, until computers can read and understand as well or nearly as well as human, aggretators are going to be less than perfect. In fact, until them, aggretators probably going to Niche compared with Social bookmarking, a tool for subjects that don't have too many people bothering to swap links about.
So Long Live Journalism, Long Live the Human Quest for Knowlegde, and Long Live Aggretators: AI might well start there.