Two headlines from yesterday got a lot of tweets and RTs among my Twitter universe. Something about the two versions of this story made me glad the world still has independent-thinking journalists who want to dig into a story and not just pile on to the version of a story that pops up and matches their own point of view.
Today marks an important day in my transition to Philly. My subscription to The Philadelphia Inquirer began. Yes, a printed newspaper arriving every morning at my doorstep is now part of my media mix.
For the past few months (even as I was still in talks to come to Philly as CEO of PPIIN), I undertook an experiment to test different ways of keeping up with Philly news. At first I wanted to try primarily digital methods.
Discovery. That’s the word I keep coming back to when I think about the challenges facing online news consumers. In a world awash in news content, how do you discover the news that is relevant to you, the news that you’ll find interesting and compelling to read or watch, the news that is important to know, the news that will just make you smile or groan.
Traditionally, it was the role of an editor to decide which articles got featured on the front page, which articles went inside the paper, which articles got only a paragraph or two, and which were “spiked.” The reader only “discovered” what the editor chose to present; the only choice a reader had was in picking which publication to read or news channel to watch.
What if you really like soccer, but the editors decide that baseball is what most readers want? You were out of luck because the newspaper only carried baseball news.
Online, it seems, everyone can be an editor and can decide what’s of interest. But does every reader want to slog through all the news articles out there to find what’s interesting. DailyMe began with a focus on one approach to solving that problem – personalization, where you get to pick the news topics of interest to you. But one approach isn’t sufficient, so we’ve expanded to offer an editorialized view and a socialized view.
The social approach to news discovey is getting a lot of attention lately, with the rollout of TimesPeople, WSJ Community and Business Week Exchange on some big-name sites and small sites like Social Median. At DailyMe we’ve been doing a lot of planning to expand our social news offerings but also thinking about what will get people to participate in a meaningful way.
I’ve noticed, for instance, that even some of the top people at the New York Times are not very active in recommending stories (come on, Martin). I do cut Bill Keller a little slack, because how can the paper’s top editor play favorites and recommend only a few stories (but thanks for pointing out the blog on the crazy new restaurant from Tom Colicchio; I’d have never discovered that story).
Google Reader took an interesting approach and recruited “power readers” – 10 journalists who are recommending political news via Reader’s “share” option – but few of them are very active. I’ve been using Reader to create the reading list in the headline box on the right rail of this site, it’s easy to do, but only when I choose to visit Reader.
Let me know which sites you think are doing social media well. We’re working on building some new capabilities to let our users create their own pages of recommended reading and I’m always looking for interesting ways to help users discover the nuggets among the tons of great news on DailyMe.
We just launched a new feature on DailyMe.com that I think has a lot of interesting possibilities. We call it Meme-It. To understand, first let’s look at how Wikipedia defines meme:
“A meme is any thought or behavior that can be passed from one person to another by means of imitation. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, gestures, practices, fashions, habits, songs and dances. Memes propagate themselves and can move through the cultural sociosphere in a manner similar to the contagious behavior of a virus.”
A number of news sites use “meme” in their name to describe the way they identify different news topics that move through different media outlets and the blogosphere. We’re using it a bit differently. We’re using it to describe how a feeling or emotion derived from news stories can move through our readership.
This approach grew out of a long-standing feeling that the way most news sites allow users to “rate” news stories is inappropriate to news content. Most sites offer either a thumbs up/down rating or a 1-to-5 scale rating. While such ratings might make sense for movies or restaurants, news is different. Your reaction to news isn’t about the quality of the food or the service. While you might react like a moviegoer to good writing or a well-told story, you probably find it confusing to consider how to “rate” a story about a horrible natural disaster than kills thousands of people. Thumbs up? Do you give a story a 5 rating if it’s important, meaningful, useful? If so, what rating do you give a story that is well-written but merely amusing? Such debates have swirled around in news site design meetings for years, but no one has offered an alternative yet.
The great thing about a small startup like DailyMe is that we can try different approaches and see what works. We think Meme-It is one that will work, whether in its current iteration or one that we adopt as we learn from our users and refine Meme-It. What you’ll find on every news story on DailyMe is a small Meme-It face icon. Click the icon to see a small window listing six descriptors that might fit a news story. If one fits, click it. Not every news story will fit.
Then, if you want to see which stories other DailyMe readers considered “insightful” or “weird” or “tragic” or “uplifting,” go to the DailyWe section of the site and see the stories with the most votes for any of the six emotions.
Meme-It is just another way that we at DailyMe are building the ultimate news experience through a combination of editorial and technical skill and engagement of our community. Look for more new features soon.
Update (April 2, 2009): We’ve renamed this application Face-It and changed the emotions. We’re just about to start syndicating the rating tool and display module for use on third-party sites. Below is a sample of what you can add to your site soon:
|Add Face-It to your website|