The New York Times will launch a real time news alert feature tomorrow. But it doesn’t work the way you’d expect it to because it doesn’t distinguish between the two different types of news.
As an aside, Twitter continues to grow in traffic, surpassing the New York Times.
There are two types of news: they differ in the length of time the information is valuable for. Breaking news is valuable for a few minutes. CNBC gives me a report on what Bernanke or Geithner said about TARP in the past 15 minutes. Two hours from now, that snippet has lost a significant amount of value. After that time has elapsed, the analysis of the news, or the investigative journalism, is much more valuable.
Whenever a piece of journalism is published, its timeliness relative to the event is almost irrelevant. An analysis of an exhibit of art, or the current status of the economy relative to other countries is still timely a week from now. But a report must be instant and accurate. Like the tweets about the Bombay attack, timeliness is valued over thought, coherence or anything else. Just give me data!
We are willing to accept noise in the news, provided there are constant updates, corrections and insights. It’s exciting and brings us into the scene. We are involved in some small way.
Microblogging and lifecasting services are enabling the masses to contribute to reporting. They are replacing that part of newspapers because they do it better. Information is more accurate, more up to date and just as good for the average user.
But as Clay Shirky put it, so eloquently
Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.
What form that journalism takes is still unclear. I suspect it may be some combination of blogging + following + friend content sharing filters, some permutation of social RSS reader that takes influence into account by using data from the social graph. In my personalized newspaper, articles from Paul Krugman, Clay Shirky among other economists will mingle with analysis from individual authors of tech blogs like MG Siegler and Matt Marshall. It may very well be that the affiliation of authors to a guild, like the New Yorker or TechCrunch, starts to lose value as well.
The value in the curation of a collection of stories, much like the value of an album of songs, will disappear.
There will continue to value/money in journalism: a small subset of the total audience who is willing to pay for insightful, intelligent analysis from well-recognized subject matter experts. However, for the rest – the local news, the standard reporting fare – I doubt there will be much of a market.