Archive for September, 2008

What if the news looked like this?

news graph

See here (PDF). HT here.

PS. I wonder what enthusiastic answer David Weinberger might have to this question.

LATER: I’ve talked about a “news graph” before, mentioning “edges and nodes,” but I wasn’t yet thinking this fantastically. Still, I think it’s interesting stuff: “This kind of news graph would, at long last, make the bits of content contigent on the people and the issues they discuss. It’s the elegant organization for news.”

The information architecture must fit

I believe that the news business’s central financial struggle right now lies in its search for a new information architecture on top of which it can monetize its alchemy of products, like raw data, and services, like human and trust. This question of economics will determine, if only roughly, all of the answers to the questions about how we’re going to get our news from the news business, which I construe broadly.

Pinning that information architecture down is hard—for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason: it’s like a fish asking, “Morning boys, how’s the water?” (We’ll miss you, DFW.) The second-biggest reason: moving parts abound.

Let’s go through some of those moving parts—some tried-and-true and some previously latent and maybe unfamiliar—at as low a level as possible. Let’s not pretend to be exhaustive.

(1) Everything Is Miscellaneous. The Long Tail. Infinite variety. Radical unbundling. Micromedia. It’s called personalization, filtering, aggregating, and so forth.

(2) Feeds. Rivers of news. Because browsing and search are less efficient. News is what’s happening, not what happened.

(3) People care about other people. They trust businesses and algorithms, but they trust humans more. We love our friends, our celebrities. We gossip about people with people.

(4) Distribution is cheap. Content is therefore abundant and largely commodified. Attention costs dominate production costs. Fame beats fortune.

These four guide posts, however, can get us far down the right path, but that’s for later.

That’s one small step for Google, one giant leap for text-audio convergence

So you’ve seen the cult classic youtube video “The Machine Is Us/ing Us.”

It’s mostly about the wonders of hypertext—that it is digital and therefore dymanic. You can remix it, link to it, etc.

But form and content can be separated, and XML was designed to improve on HTML for that reason. That way, the data can be exported, free of constraints.

Google’s now embarked on a mission to free the speech data locked up in youtube videos.

There’s no indication that it’ll publish transcripts, which super too bad, but it’s indexing them and making them searchable. Soon enough every word spoken on youtube will be orders of magntitude more easily located, integrated, and re-integrated, pushed and pulled, aggregated and unbundled.

Consider a few simple innovations borne of such information.

Tag clouds, for instance, of what the english-speaking world is saying every day. If you take such a snapshot every day for a year and animate them, then you get a twisting, turning, winding stream of our hopes and fears, charms and gripes.

Clusters, for another, of videos with similar topics or sentiments. Memetracking could move conversations away from the email-like reply system in youtube to being something more organic and less narrowly linear.

Advertisements, for a last, of a contextual nature, tailored to fit the video without having to rely on human-added metadata.

Wait, announcements, for a very last, of an automated kind. If you create a persistent search of ‘obama pig,’ grab the rss feed, and push it into twitter, then you’re informing the world when your fave presidential candidate says something funny.

Google News Is Worth $100MM? How?!

According the CNN Big Tech blog, that’s the nine-digit figure Marissa Mayer, who heads search products and user experience at google, “threw out during a Tuesday lunch session at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif.”

The World Association of Newspapers quoted the figure in a press release, in which it wrote, “The Google-Yahoo deal would spell the end of” Google’s competitors’ ability to place constraints on its power, “thereby further weakening the viability and economic independence of the world’s newspapers. We must speak out now and urge regulators to block this anti-competitive deal.” Pretty harsh stuff, although the American Association of Newspapers took no position.

More from CNN: “How does she put a value on a product that doesn’t directly make money? The online giant figures that Google News funnels readers over to the main Google search engine, where they do searches that do produce ads. And that’s a nice business. Think of Google News as a $100 million search referral machine.

I wonder how they measure such indirect revenue. Let’s assume away the possibility that Mayer is talking about the kind of extremely attenuated referral in which “omnigoogle,” to use Nick carr’s nice term, simply ends up inevitably taking “a cut of many of the dollars that flow through the Net economy.” Why? Because, although it’s probably correct that google does make some amount of money as a result of google news according to this logic of complementarity and network effects, it would see highly strange to pin such a concrete number on it.

What’s left? Well, as far as I can tell, there’s no clicking through to a search page on which there are ads. Users go straight from google news to the destination site.

There may well be google ads on those destination pages. But users may have landed at those destination pages and clicked those ads anyhow, without the google news middle man. Seems ripe for double-counting.

The only way there’s no double-counting, in fact, is if we assume that users would not have ended up at the destination sites without google news in the middle. In order for Mayer to avoid double-counting and make any sense, in other words, she must be describing a scenario in which google news makes it more likely that users see destination sites with google ads than those with none.

But, um, pay-for-play news would obvi be a BIG PROBLEM.

So what is this mysterious “$100 million searh referral machine”? Any ideas?

PS. It’s not actually clear that Mayer intended to mean that google news is worth $100mm. If she meant that it produces yearly revenues of that amount, for instance, it could be worth a lot more.

Google’s Chrome

This new browser has its upsides, but it fails on Flash videos for realz.

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