In my personal experience, that’s exactly how it goes. Although I subscribe to several blogs, I find myself not checking them very often, instead relying on Google, Digg or Del.icio.us to point me in the right direction. Of course there are still some industry blogs I check on a daily basis (GigaOM, TechCrunch, Mashable), but the rest of my reading (such as Allsopp’s article) is simply per-post.
Bloggers have many and varied interests and more than likely, not all of their posts will be of interest to me. Though you may read my blog because you’re interested in Digital Media strategies, that is no guarantee that you share my interest in Privacy, Security and Usability.
Which brings us to a new problem (or more accurately, a new version of an old problem): in a world of endless content, how do we quickly find the good bits?
While television has had programming experts choosing what and when to show (in addition to hundreds of specialty channels with even more specialized programmers) and newspapers have editors, in the online world we’ve had to rely on automatic digital aggregators (usually based on tags or keywords) or other users (most of whom we know nothing about) to choose the most relevant content.
Other services, such as Findory, look at your reading patterns in order to show you relevant information (as long as you read it through their interface). And though I’ve used Findory before, I haven’t yet been able to integrate it into my daily workflow (and I always get the feeling I’m missing out on some relevant item – I’m not quite sure why that is).
The problem with digital aggregators is that not everyone tags their content, there’s no tagging standard, and not all tagged content is good or even relevant. I’ve subscribed to Google Alerts and Technorati tags, but must compromise between general tags -and lots of false positives or irrelevant content- or very specific search terms -and thus missing out on some possibly relevant articles.
On services like Digg it’s very easy for a group of users to control the system and get their content on the front page. Get a bunch of your friends to digg each other’s articles and you’ve instantly got a leg up on everyone else.
And though I mostly use Del.icio.us to search for my own bookmarked information, I’ve noticed its search results are usually quite relevant. I believe this has to do with users tagging content for their own future use -as opposed to tagging for the community- and do a better job with it.
What we need is the online equivalent of editors. A trusted and accountable system to separate the good from the ugly. But, do we want them? Have we moved away from traditional media (from newspapers towards blogs) only to come back to a traditional model? Or is this a new, evolved model, where power remains in the reader’s hands?
The answer probably lies in a mixed system, borrowing the best of both worlds, much like TiVo has done. TiVos (or Digital Video Recorders) allow you to record your favorite shows and watch them at a later time. You’re no longer tied to a particular station’s offerings or timeslots. In a sense, you’re a programmer: you decide what is on and at what time. But, and this is important, you only get to choose from a pre-established pool of content. Yes, it may be great to watch Lost, Heroes and 24 back to back, even though they may be on competing timeslots or different days on broadcast TV, but you’re still picking your shows from what the network programmers think are the best of the best.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Apple‘s iTV comes out, or when Google finally decides to offer a Universal Video Recorder and you can choose your content from broadcast (chosen by programmers) and the Internet (chosen by you or some search / tagging / voting / aggregator service).
What do you think? Will we be letting editors choose our content? Or will we keep searching on our own for the best content? Where’s the middle ground? Leave a comment and let the world know what you think.