Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Newspapers, blogs and Technorati

There's a good discussion going on at Morph under the topic heading "Why newspapers still matter". Guaranteed to pique my interest.

It ties in nicely with an earlier Morph discussion on Open source media. The writer, JD Lasica, wrote:
"Good story, except the company that is in charge of the watermarking process isn't returning my phone calls (perhaps understandably). I don't have days to spend on the phone tracking this down to nail it - and if I blog what I've got so far nobody will care."
Maybe, maybe not. Funnily enough it provoked this response from one reader: "I shudder at the idea of blogging a 'draft' post based on a single source to find out if the story is true or not."

To which Lasica replied:

"It already happens dozens of times a day. (It may not rise to the level of a traditional news story all the time, but it still happens all the time.) When it does, readers who may have inside knowledge of the veracity of the report can contribute to the report or disavow the shaky part -- mostly out in the open.

Bloggers who do so should take pains to point out that the information hasn't been confirmed -- but I see no harm in doing so. (The alternative is to sit on the information.) And readers by now should be savvy enough to recognize an unverified report for what it is. (Not all do, but that's an ongoing educational process.)"

So bloggers get into discussions with readers about the finer details of a story. Or readers add their own details. Either way, this is clearly a departure from the traditional definitions of journalism. Jay Rosen has been making this point for a while, and it goes to the reason for holding a conference like the one that took place last weekend (even if the voices were somewhat limited) on Blogging, Journalism and Credibility.

Related to this is the issue of aggregator sites and the role they will play in the distribution of news. It's definitely a whole area for discussion itself, but it's worth noting that some major news sites are recording dropping visitor numbers to their front pages as readers follow deep links from blogs or aggregator sites directly to articles.

Some of the most popular sites are Blogdex and Technorati. These sites harvest millions of blogs and display the most popular ones - calculated by incoming links - or the most recently updated. And they can be sorted by topic into real-time feeds. Readers might continue to check their favorite writers, but these aggregators give every blogger a chance to be read if they write something worth reading. And it means that the brand value of particular mastheads will continue to be broken down unless major media organisations react smartly.

As an illustration of the power of aggregators, a search on Technorati this morning for "Academy Award screeners" has Lasica's post on Morph at number two. So while Lasica wrote that no one would care about the story, such as he had it, it's already out. You can imagine that post prompting enough online discussion to get closer to the truth before the LA Times gets the story published.

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