I had a mail from Gabe Rivera today on the issue of how blogs and posts are selected on memeorandum and techmeme. Gabe’s response highlights a problem that is not being addressed in any apparent way so let’s address it. Here is the snip from Memeorandum:
(Memeorandum of course is one of the most successful buzz trackers on the web and highlights the posts that are getting noticed).
“If you’re a publisher and want to be included, the best thing you can do is engage other writers in your topic area. Write things in response to what they write, or things that just interest them. And having done this, ask your peers for links.”
Q: Who’s included? - blog.memeorandum.com
Why do I think this is a problem? One of the issues we face writing for papers in the old media is that editors are typically conservative. When I worked in television, you’d see editors scour the front pages of all the newspapers before going into an editorial meeting (journalists too). When I’ve worked in print I’ve noticed the TV rolling news is always on. And all those editors (print, new, current affairs) listen also to radio news and “agenda setting” radio shows.
What they’re doing is shaping their content around what other people are saying. They do this because they fear alienating any part of the audience, so keep things tight. By and large it is a business decision that has some journalists tearing their hair out. Many editors are wedded to consensus politics.
You can quickly surmise that the technology that logs the web buzz encourages pretty much the same kind of formula. Write around topics other people are discussing is what editors already do on TV, in print and on radio. It’s a disappointment to see it being integral to the way web 2.0 works but it seems it is inevitable.
I discussed these issues a couple of times lately, by mail and phone, with Ted Shelton over at Personalbee. Personalbee will be launching a suite of make-you-own online magazine tools next week. Personalbee is in effect a kind of blog aggregator tool. Now, I think Ted has a great product and I intend using it but once again it automatically highlights blog aggregators that are most popular and has no way to automatically turn the spotlight on dissenting voices or marginalized voices.