Over the last few months, I have been actively giving feedback to my buddies at the news.me team (see NYTimes: Betaworks and The Times Plan a Social News Service and Techcrunch: Exclusive: An Early Look At News.me, The New York Times’ Answer To The Daily.
News is one of those things I worked on since the beginning of the internet when Yahoo released its first linked page of news back in 1995. I watched it grow, basically taking offline news and putting it online, into a huge powerhouse of traffic. Likewise, traditional outlets put all their news online launching both opportunity and destruction as users flocked to reading news online and heralding the slow death of physical newspaper business models.
But in the last few years, I've been thinking a lot about news, how I read it, consume it, and want to do things with news that I still can't do. If you look out there on the web, news is still basically just pages of content. Only just in the last year have people started looking beyond just RSS readers and using the social/real time web to help with recommendations. But I still want more; Twitter is a big source of news for me, but it still doesn't do everything.
I wrote this and sent this to the news.me team, but I want the world to come up with something exponentially better, not just incrementally better. Here are my current issues with news and what I would love to see:
1. News front pages haven't innovated in ages. They mostly look like their offline analogues. Seems like it's time for an improvement.
2. Trust is a problem. Too many sources and no way to verify, or verification takes way too much time. You can always find someone who supports your viewpoint on the internet so it can be very difficult to tell who is lying and who is not. At one time we trusted journalists because they had ethical standards to uphold. That's been destroyed. Everyone has biases and it's starting to show more and more.
3. Every news source reports on the same news, with few exceptions (ie. local or vertical). If everyone is just re-reporting what comes off the wires, then what is the differentiator for news outlets? Brand? Voice? Opinion? Bias?
4. How to balance what I am interested in and what I want to read serendipitiously?
5. I want to pick sources I want to follow all the time but want to be introduced to new sources on occasion. There are too many sources to deal with.
6. I often drop into a topic later in time. I want to be able to easily navigate back in time to a topic's start. I also want to see how the topic developed so i want to read all stories up to the present. I also want to navigate across sources for any given topic to see other opinions.
7. When I am interested in a topic, I want to somehow designate it to be tracked. I want to be able to undesignate it also, when I do not want to follow it any more.
8. News rolls with time. but there are often stories I don't have time to read now. This is the problem with using Twitter as a newsfeed. It does great from a social recommendation standpoint, but the news rolls past so fast that I have to favorite or else it is gone forever.
This also applies to news front pages. The saving grace is the NYTimes email which snapshots the news for me and it is saved in my email.
9. Breaking news often comes from many places, and maybe from Twitter before anywhere else. How do we insert that into our news reading? Do I have to stare at my Twitter stream all day long just to catch the rare, elusive news event before anyone else does?
10. I want something to remember everything I read because I often want to find something that i read in the past. I want to be able to search everything I read and only that.
11. Ideally I want to pull up old stories I've read, or tagged, or saved. Hopefully I can easily tag/save into categories and pull them up by those groupings.
12. News must be both curated and algorithmically recommended. Either can't do it all.
I really hope someone innovates news more than just putting a "news" layer on top of Twitter, or a prettier face on top of RSS feeds. Everyone seems to be working on a singular part of news but not the whole experience. I would love to see a startup take on the whole project of news rather than just little pieces of it. Might even be worth investing in...