By paulgillin | April 17, 2008 - 7:48 am - Posted in Fake News, Google

“How many newspapers do you read?” a reporter recently asked me. I told him I read dozens of newspapers, more than I’ve ever read in my life. That should be good news to the newspaper industry, but it’s actually a problem and here’s why.

I dropped my Boston Globe subscription four years ago after more than 25 years as a subscriber. Google Reader is now my daily newspaper. Into it stream dozens of feeds from trusted sources. Each morning I sort through a couple of hundred headlines and pick and choose the ones I want to read, bookmark or share with others.  These feeds include an assortment of blog posts, newspaper articles and even search results.  Google Reader makes no distinction by source.  The content is what dictates my reading habits.

This is the new reality of the wired consumer.  Although my reading habits are no doubt atypical, they’re an example of where news consumption is going. People increasingly use aggregators to deliver the news that interests them, regardless of its source.  Newspaper editors have a big problem with this.  They argue that filters shield readers from the most important stories of the day, the stories that the editors think they should read.

There is merit to this argument, although I seem to have no problem keeping up with the top stories of the day.  It’s true, however, that some people may choose to use aggregators to screen out the information that doesn’t interest them, even if it’s important.  That is their right, and in this new world, their choice.  We are in the very early stages of a new pattern of news consumption and no one knows how it will play out.  If newspapers are to survive, they must learn to adapt to it, as distasteful as it may seem.

Alan Mutter digs into this issue. He looks at recently published numbers on traffic to newspaper websites and sees a troubling trend: visitors are increasingly drive-by viewers. They stop to read one story and then move on. Mutter wonders whether advertisers will pay to reach these visitors, who have little brand loyalty. Quoting: “The decline in the average duration of sessions at newspaper web pages suggests that visitors are not utilizing the industry’s sites as primary destinations, but, rather, as places to episodically view individual articles highlighted by Google News, Drudge, Digg, blogs or any of the thousands of other places they might be.”

News molecules, content atomsJeff Jarvis elucidates this new model in a series of simple charts that demonstrate how news coverage is being driven by the needs of the reader rather than the publisher. He calls it the “Me-sphere.” It’s a place where the reader defines what he or she is interested in and then chooses what to consume from an assortment of information sources of his or her own choosing. in traditional media, the publication of a news story is an endpoint.  In the new media model, it is just the beginning.  See Wikipedia for an example of how news evolves over time.

Advertising Age, which ironically hides its stories behind a paid wall after a few days of public viewing, has an insightful piece by Matthew Creamer about this same trend. Creamer sees the future of news as aggregation and the business of news as selling ads against other people’s content. No one can own the content any more, so the new publishers will combine some form of dedicated reporting with clever integration of other stuff. Today’s newspapers could potentially lead this trend, but there a lot of cultural and political factors argue against it.  I agree with sources quoted in this story that the successful aggregators will emerge as new entrepreneurial entities because they don’t have the baggage of history. Nevertheless, there is still a chance for some newspapers to jump on this trend and reinvent themselves. Whether they do so is another matter.





This entry was posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 7:48 am and is filed under Fake News, Google. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on The Concent-centric Reader


  1. April 17, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

    […] The Content-centric reader (Newspaper Death Watch) […]

  2. April 22, 2008 @ 9:38 am

    I would tend to agree with you, especially as it relates to the early adopters. The only thing that people will really miss will be that story that you weren’t expecting or looking to read or searching for that grabs your interest and which make take you to new places that you hadn’t thought of. Of course, that may just take you to the places that you’re most likely to find such stories, but then again, they don’t always show up in the same place.

    In the end, that’s a problem for editors at newspapers and not for the reader.

    Ultimately, it’s a business that is very resistant to change and it’s fighting change as its market continues to slip away.

    Posted by Lynn Kettleson
  3. April 22, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

    I think new mechanisms will emerge to enable that kind of discovery. StumbleUpon is one example. There will be others.

    Posted by paulgillin
  4. April 23, 2008 @ 6:17 am

    […] Gillin of Newspaper Death Watch recently wrote about what he called the ‘Content-driven Reader‘ and how it is changing the landscape of journalism and online journalism. A good read, and […]