Last week I wrote about Flipboard and Paper.li: Social news curation hits the tipping point. The news today is that Betaworks, which developed or supported the highly successful Tweetdeck, bit.ly, Tumblr and far more, is working on News.Me, a ‘personalized news service’, in collaboration with New York Times.
While neither organization would say much about it, this will clearly be a social news service that will tap, among other resources, the vast data bit.ly has (presumably) collected on what links are shared on Twitter and other social networks. New York Times invested in Betaworks in its March $20 million Series B, and then shifted one of its early stage products into Betaworks, where it is soon to emerge as News.Me.
In his 1995 book Being Digital Nicholas Negroponte wrote about the idea of a ‘Daily Me’ newspaper, that would provide news tailored to the individual. This spawned a multi-year debate about the supposed evils of the Daily Me, which would mean people wouldn’t be exposed to the diversity of the world and would live within their own navels.
I never bought that argument. We will always be exposed to diverse sources, and in case we will be able to incorporate a ‘serendipity factor dial’ so we can select how narrow or broad our exposure to input is at any time.
Given the idea of the Daily Me has had wide exposure for 15 years, it has certainly been a long time coming, with thus far no personalized news offerings that I would consider truly successful. There are two developments that now make this possible.
The first is the degree and breadth to which people actively flag their interest in news, entertainment and information, primarily through Twitter and Facebook, but also a host of other platforms. This provides an immense pool of data, not only on what people are finding interesting, but also who they are, as defined by their social graph. The potential depth of insight into people’s interests dwarfs what has been possible before.
The second is the rise of tablet media, so far primarily expressed in the iPad. While this could be considered to be just a new interface, there is far more to this shift. Now that they have tablets, users access news and information in a different way, including expecting greater consolidation of news sources rather than flitting over many as they have learned in browsing the web.
In addition, the iPad provides a better monetization mechanism for news aggregators than the web. Our analysis of iPad media apps in Australia showed that 4 of the most downloaded 5 paid apps are aggregators. There is significant value-add in providing a single portal to relevant news for an individual.
I noted that there would be many successors to paper.li and Flipboard. It looks like News.Me will be one of the next cabs off the rank, and given the clout of its creators it will probably have a significant impact. However many others will follow, and for the meantime there will be little lock-in, creating a diverse and open space.
Personally, I really look forward to finally having access to a truly excellent Daily Me.