Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Future of News (is “pretty clear”)

Posted on | October 27, 2009 | 1 Comment

Summary: The future of news needs not only to leverage all of us but it needs to be visual.

Say what you will, but the kid’s timing is impeccable.

On a day that saw news break that newspaper circulation continues its freefall (nowhere faster than my hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle -25%) and a survey emerged that showed (surprise!) print media executives are slow to move online, here comes Cody Brown.

Not the football player; Cody Brown the NYU film student and journalist. Brown published a lengthy and insightful blog post about the future of news, news gathering, readers and the Internet.  OK, so he’s written exactly three posts on his blog and been caught up in a journalism micro-furor at NYU, but his thoughts are worth pondering.

A News Platform?

His post announces the creation of, which is lacking detail but which sounds interesting. If I understand it correctly, it will be a platform for those of us who publish “news” online (that is to say everyone) to leverage the platform to make this mass of information useful to information consumers.

“In some sense saying ‘a public can talk to itself’ is unnecessary. Like it or not it’s happening and will only continue to boom; Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, and countless others have all helped facilitate. When I say ‘a public can talk to itself’ I mean that a public can be counted on to share and disseminate its own news. Online, what a public needs, far more than reporters or endowed professional newsrooms, is a way for everyone to do this more effectively.”

The devil is of course in the details. There are many other platforms (Digg and Newsvine come to mind) that serve as news commons, but to date (save for whatever Google Wave evolves into) there isn’t a platform that adequately manages the massive amount of information the social Web and the commercial Web produces each second of every day. The key will be to make it semantic and visual, and perhaps that’s what Brown is thinking.

Forest and Trees

The Web today, for all its power, is still largely a manual experience. The semantic Web has yet to mature (that’s clearly where we’re headed) so our job as consumers of information is crude hunting and gathering. Unlike the old days, the food is abundant, and that’s the problem (finding the healthiest food), not the scarcity.

So, if I were a smart programmer, I’d figure out a platform that took that mass of information and media types, ran it through its semantic paces on a real-time basis, and then visualized it. You’d watch a dashboard that pulsated with graphically intelligent information based on region, producer, and content validity/trust levels. You could manipulate that information any way you chose. It would  mash up the best of all the powerful point technologies that exist today: Google Maps, meets blogs/Twitter/Facebook meets YouTube, iTunes and the mainstream media.

Envisioning the News

I thought about this last week while looking at a Twitpic from someone I follow, who’d just snapped a shot of a fire or a car accident in the East Bay. Why, I wondered, shouldn’t that be part of the real-time public record of that event, alongside CHP or fire department reports, mapping technology, and local (professional) reporting?Social Collider

Why not indeed.  In fact, the homepage of Twitpic is a poster child for this vision: It streams the most recent picture uploads on top of a Google map to show you shots taken from all over. A Google Chrome experiment called Social Collider offers another piece of the mosaic. It renders social conversations on Twitter graphically to give you a sense of the breadth of engagement of a given topic, Twitterer or phrase.

Wherever “news” is headed, it needs to be inclusive, multimedia, real-time, or near-real time, and it has to be better automated; today’s Web is simply too manual for us to realize the power of the all the information that hides in plain sight.

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One Response to “The Future of News (is “pretty clear”)”

  1. Old content meet Calais and the semantic web |
    November 17th, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    […] few weeks back I wrote (in “The Future of News (is Pretty Clear)”) about Cody Brown of NYU and his compelling essay about the future of news and his and […]

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