Prep Notes, Rebooting the News #35

In Pre-show Notes on November 30, 2009 by Jay Rosen

A few notes on topics and links in preparation for Rebooting the News, #35.

Jay’s notes

One thing I’d like to talk about is this company Demand Media and its way of producing “content,” which I have called demonic. Long ago Doc Searls warned about using this term “content” and I am now beginning to see what he meant.

Here’s the Wired article that introduced me to them, and one at about implications for news. Meanwhile, AOL, has announced that it will trying something similar, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

From Wired:

…What Demand has realized is that the Internet gets only half of the simplest economic formula right: It has the supply part down but ignores demand…

Pieces are not dreamed up by trained editors nor commissioned based on submitted questions. Instead they are assigned by an algorithm, which mines nearly a terabyte of search data, Internet traffic patterns, and keyword rates to determine what users want to know and how much advertisers will pay to appear next to the answers.

The process is automatic, random, and endless, a Stirling engine fueled by the world’s unceasing desire to know how to grow avocado trees from pits or how to throw an Atlanta Braves-themed birthday party….

…Instead of trying to raise the market value of online content to match the cost of producing it — perhaps an impossible proposition — the secret is to cut costs until they match the market value.”

From the WSJ on AOL:

…Analysts say what may set AOL apart is the new technology powering its system, which can tap massive amounts of data on consumers’ Web-viewing behavior to learn what’s on their minds. It also has access to online ad-sales data from its own sites and thousands of others on which it brokers ads.

Moreover, AOL says its technology also streamlines the process of assigning, editing and publishing stories, and can record data about every story, such as a synopsis, key words and a location, so the stories can be refreshed quickly.

In December, when it becomes a stand-alone company, AOL will begin to tap a new digital-newsroom system that uses a series of algorithms to predict the types of stories, videos and photos that will be most popular with consumers and marketers.

The predictions, it says, are based on a wide swath of data AOL collects, from the Web searches people make on its site to the sites visited by subscribers to its Internet services.

The system is designed to track breaking news and trends and identify the best times to write about seasonal events, such as Halloween or Monday Night Football.

Other possible topic points:

I decided how I am using the New Re-tweet button on Twitter: as my “raised eyebrow but no comment” option. In fact, I used it when a Demand Media exec wrote to me on Twitter.

I’m getting good traction on my “Sources of subsidy in the production of news” list at Tumblr. Worth a few minutes on RBTN.

A very important journalist died this week, Mark Pittman of Bloomberg. One thing struck me in the obit for him, “”The more complex the issue, the more he wanted to dig into it.” I’d like to talk about that, maybe.

2 Responses to “Prep Notes, Rebooting the News #35”

  1. What’s on my mind this morning:

    1. Major BitTorrent outage, not temporary.

    2. What role could “content” companies play in its revitalization and why they almost certainly won’t do it.

    3. Frontline piece on credit and debit cards.

    4. Shea Stadium Rules and applying it to the Internet.

    5. Stewart Alsop says the Droid is a loser, and I agree, except so is everything else. 😦 (There will be a piece on this later today or tomorrow.)

    6. Programmable Twitter client (this should really be #1)

  2. I started objecting to “content” a long ways back. Here’s one sample:

    Looking forward to the show.


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