AOL, part of one of the big five media conglomerates, is going in a big way into user filtered content. It is taking the Netscape brand, which has lost profile but is still very powerful, and under the wing of Jason Calacanis, whose Weblogs Inc. was bought by AOL last year, creating a new kind of news site. Most commentary on AOL’s move, such as that in the New York Times, points to the similarity of the site’s workings to Digg.com. Over the last year Digg has become massively popular, now attracting 8 million visitors a month, putting it in the top league in the media site stakes. Digg very simply allows people to submit pieces and news on the web, and the readers to collectively vote on and select what’s most interesting. The best floats to the surface. Digg has just announced a move to encompass a whole range of topics, rather than just the tech domain it has covered so far.
Where AOL is going beyond Digg is in employing a couple of dozen full-time and part-time “anchors”, who are journalists/ bloggers who will comment on and build on the stories that the audience deems the most worthy of attention. This brings the symbiosis of mainstream and social media that I have often talked about to the fore in a new model for media. Media-employed journalists are guided by and feed back to the readers. As Richard Watson has pointed out, the Wisconsin State Journal selects its headlines every day on the basis of voting by readers the previous afternoon. AOL’s model takes the integration of media and audience yet further. User filtered content is the big, big emerging space. There has been much talk of user generated content, however there has been less talk of user filtered content. The two domains can be combined in a variety of ways. Examples include:
User created, user filtered: YouTube
Media created, user filtered: Digg
User created, media filtered: Current TV
Media created, media filtered: CNN
AOL’s lead move here will undoubtedly be mimicked by other large media groups – this is the way of the future.