Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 18, 2009 7:41 PM

Recommendation Engines As The Future Of News

Do you like reading the news online, or do you prefer to read the news, copy and paste the link into a recommendation engine and vote other news items up or down?

Is Digg still a little too nerdy for the every day person? Digg is one of the most popular recommendation engines on the Internet (and one of the biggest websites, overall). It's been around forever and Kevin Rose is - without a doubt - one of the true Internet celebrities. Another amazing recommendation engine that I have been giving a ton of attention to lately has been Reddit (special thanks to Julien Smith for the re-introduction). It's also worth noting that Reddit is owned by Conde Nast. It's been an interesting personal experiment into my own online behaviours.

For some reason, finding a news item, logging into a recommendation engine, submitting it and then following its progress seems like a ton of work that does not interest me in the least bit.

This is surprising if you consider how big of a news nerd I consider myself (and how much of a proponent I am for online social bookmarking). On top of that, millions of people will say that it's one of the many things that makes these digital channels that much more interesting. The ability for all of us to crowdsource the news and decide what should make it to the top of the heap is - without doubt - one of the coolest things about the many changes that are happening in the new media (and they are 100% right).

I like to watch.

So, while I'm not that interested in Digging an item or joining in for the online social networking features (in fact, I don't even subscribe to any of the recommendation engines through RSS), they are still a major part of my daily routine and filled to the brim with amazing content that you will probably not see on any of the more generic news sites owned by the more traditional media companies.

It's those two different and divergent perspectives that gives us more power and perspective.

As a Marketer, the occasional glance at Digg and Reddit provides a plethora of new ideas. Beyond that, it's interesting to see how news will spread and become valuable to individuals as both the traditional media continues to populate the online channel with their content, and how it is intermingled with Blogs and the millions of people who take it, submit and rank it. At one point, Netscape tried a Digg-like model on their homepage (it didn't work out). For some people it's a game to post and rate, for others it provides a unique perspective into what gets people excited in the news. For others, it opens up a whole new can of questions surrounding editors and what, exactly, they decide to publish in a world where everyone can be an editor.

What are you feelings about recommendation engines and the news?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Adam Singer
    Mitch Joel

    I've written a lot about the dynamics of Digg and Reddit. Like you Mitch, I find them fascinating to watch (I dive in too) - and they're amazing social experiments. Reddit is truly flirting with the future of social news (as msaleem eloquently points out here: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/reddit_future_of_social_news.php )

    Reply
  • Posted by Robin Browne
    Mitch Joel

    My major concern with all recommendation engines, news or otherwise, is the danger of the community being too narrow and, therefore, recommending a narrow range of info that the community is already interested in. And since I don't know who's on sites like Digg and don't know their biases, I don't know how the recommendations are being filtered. (Forgive me if there is a way to know who's on Digg - I don't use it - but will revisit it now)

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I agree with the commenters above me, while I think these recommendation services are pretty powerful, they represent a larger, and in my eye, difficult barrier to entry.

    There are other sites that are perhaps more appropriate to 'news' based recommendations, like NewsVine, and NewsTrust. Both of those sites however don't really make it any easier on the user to submit and assist the algorithms.

    If we really want recommendations to be the future of news, I think people have to be able to implicitly show their support (ie analytics and engagement based) as opposed to manually submitting content to these sites.

    Reply
  • Agreed - it just seems like a whole lot of work, when all I mostly want is to read the news. I see and value the merits of it, but sometimes I don't want to edit, vote and rank... I just want to consume.

    I guess old media habits die hard?

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Gero
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    In a way, isn't Twitter acting as a recommendation engine of sorts, albeit a real-time one. If you follow people who regularly post and share news stories of interest it's a great way to get to lots of great content. Checking out trending topics on Twitter is also another approach to catch news on breaking/hot topics.

    A bit more dynamic, than social bookmarks, but I think a useful source nonetheless.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chuck Reynolds
    Mitch Joel

    I think that the recommendation systems of today are like serendipity while reading the paper. Rarely do people read the entire paper, but to see or skim headlines across many news sites, blogs, etc is impossible. Reddit fills the gap much like "most popular" fills the game of serendipity if you want to read just one publication.

    The trouble may be, as you point out, that there are few people who actually take the time to suggest articles. Those that do tend to lean more tech savvy. Recommendation systems, I think, will evolve into the sites themselves as media companies promote material across their brands. The less user interaction needed the better.

    Reply
  • Posted by Armando Alves
    Mitch Joel

    MicroPlaza.com has been good surprise on filtering my micro-information overflow. Usually all the important news, discussed amongst the people i follow on Twitter, end up there.

    Even if this kind of services favors an echo chamber, i suppose that we tend to value more what's important to our social circle.

    Reply
  • Posted by Julien
    Mitch Joel

    heyyo! just wanted to point out that Reddit hasn't always been owned by Conde Nast... it was independent and then bought out.

    Reply
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