Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feedback, push back and a final word

The feedback and push back I'm getting for suggesting that news companies compete by building a better news site has become too varied and detailed to handle in the comments section.

First, thanks to Scott, Dave, John and Chris for giving the idea respect enough to argue with it. (I haven't heard back yet from Jeff, whom I think misread my argument, but I hope to. I actually expected us to be on the same side on this one: compete, innovate, collaborate, link, fight back).

There are some straw men and some plain old mistakes in these criticisms. I'm sure there are valid points and gotchas, too, but I'm not highlighting them :)

Biggest straw man: Google News. Nobody is talking about Google News, which is a strange beast by any measure – and not a very useful aggregation page, in my view. We're talking about all the ways across all Google platforms in which people hunt for news or get back news results when they hunt for something from any source.

A news search can and does include ads, fellows. Click here, for instance. And when you search for topics generically, news results some up at the top of pages with ads. Try this one.

But this isn't my main point. This is:

I'm not suggesting we beat Google at search or "take away" their business. I am saying we can beat Google at a customer service they don't do well: filtering and displaying news content of relevance and utility for busy, overwhelmed consumers, pitting judgment vs algorithms.

"Leapfrogging," if you will, to a new game.

In my view, this has to be done at scale. Small new initiatives are essential and some will doubtless prove viable, but we're not talking about one problem and can't rely on one solution.

Finally, I have to tell Chris that his argument isn't at all persuasive to me. Topix is and pretty much always was the opposite of what I'm talking about. It may well have a place, and I hope they find it, but it isn't about judgment.

I understand lot of this is religion and not subject to ordinary debate, so I'll end my part of the back-and-forth here. I devoutly hope I get a chance to be proved right – or wrong. (It's all about mistakes, eh Jeff?)

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