May 9th, 2008

Is News Coverage On The Web Becoming Like Consumer Packaged Goods?

by

The more I think about the issue of redundant news coverage on the web, the more I’m both perplexed and fascinated. Read the following on Facebook’s announcement of Facebook Connect — seriously, read it all:

Can Facebook Build a Better Passport
It didn’t take long for Facebook to react to the announcement by MySpace Thursday that it would enable other Web sites to tap into information about its users and their friends.

Facebook’s announcement, in a blog post Friday afternoon, is a bit sketchy on the details and has all the appearance of being rushed to match MySpace. Still, what the company calls Facebook Connect offers many of the same capabilities and a few more, too.

Facebook Answers MySpace Data Availability With Facebook Connect
Yesterday, we brought you news of MySpace’s surprising Data Portability partnerships with Yahoo!, Twitter, and Ebay, which will allow MySpace users to port their public profiles, photos, videos and some friend data from one site to another. Facebook, not looking to be outdone, has announced plans to launch their new Facebook Connect platform, which has similar functionality to MySpace’s Data Availability.

Facebook announces Connect, to use your data on external sites
The Facebook developers blog has announced Facebook Connect, which “allows users to ‘connect’ their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any site”.

Facebook to open the gates with ‘Facebook Connect’
Social network Facebook announced Friday the debut of Facebook Connect, a new technology for members to connect their profile data and authentication credentials to external Web sites. It makes the company the latest major Web site to embrace the concept of data portability.

Facebook: Our Doors Are Just As Open As MySpace’s
Yesterday MySpace (NWS) announced Data Availability – a new service that allows you to share data with third-party sites that will launch in a couple of weeks. Today Facebook announced Facebook Connect – a new service that allows you to share data with third-party sites that will launch in a couple of weeks.

Facebook sees MySpace’s Twitter partnership and raises it Digg
We’re at the point that when either of the two social networking giants, MySpace and Facebook, does something, the other has to respond. Yesterday, MySpace unveiled its “Data Availability” initiative, allowing other sites around the Internet to utilize its users’ data to update profiles, photos, videos and other attributes. Today, according to a TechCrunch scoop, Facebook is following that up with “Facebook Connect”. Which does, wait for it — the exact same thing.

Facebook Counters MySpace; Will Let Users Port Profile Data
On the heels of yesterday’s “Data Availability” announcement from MySpace, Facebook has just announced the launch their own initiative to allow users to port their profile data to other web sites. Here’s what will be included in Facebook’s version according to a post on the company’s developer blog:

Facebook Responds To MySpace With Facebook Connect
Facebook will announce later today Facebook Connect, which has similar functionality to MySpace Data Availability, announced just yesterday. The actual product won’t be released for at least a few weeks, so the timing on this, coming immediately after MySpace, is somewhat suspicious.

Facebook follows MySpace’s lead in letting users share personal …
The popular online social hangout Facebook Inc. says it is setting up a new system that will allow its 70 million users to take their personal profiles with them as they surf other websites.

Users will be able to automatically copy pictures, personal information and other customized applications established on Facebook to other websites without extra effort once the changes that were announced Friday take effect.

Facebook Connect syncs with third-party websites
Facebook is preparing to launch Facebook Connect within the next few weeks, a service designed to compete with MySpace Data Availability. According to TechCrunch, this is Facebook’s first attempt at creating a new version of its API for third party websites, allowing users to link to their Facebook profile, friends, and privacy to a website. The website can also use features from the Facebook Platform to enhance functionality and personalization.

Has there ever in the history of niche media been so many news organizations writing about the same thing at the exact same time?

I keep thinking that the market can’t possibly support this much redundancy.

But then it isn’t entirely redundant. One of these news orgs was first to break the story. And each brings, to greater or lesser degrees, a unique perspective — in some, cases, even some original insights.

But the juxtaposition is still so striking.

It’s kind of like walking down a supermarket aisle. There are many different manufacturers of pasta sauce, potato chips, and toilet paper — which will you choose? Which brand do you prefer? Are you brand loyal? Or do you choose always what’s on sale?

Am I in the mood for marinara sauce or clam sauce or meat sauce — ReadWriteWeb or TechCrunch or GigaOm?

In the tech news category, an aggregator like TechMeme does help news shoppers. I can click the top story, which is the Facebook blog that everyone is citing, i.e. go to the source first. Then I’ll click on the next lead item, which is TechCrunch of course. Then maybe I’ll click on MG Siegler’s headline at VentureBeat because it’s clever.

And then I’m probably done. Because I’m so floored by how many headlines there are about the same thing that I just have to blog about it.

And so I’ll probably add another headline to the pile — but since I don’t have the words Facebook and Connect in the title, I might actually get some attention — kind of like finding a jar of apricot jam among the pasta sauces. Just sticks out.

Oh well — I guess it could be worse.

Still, makes you wonder why some news orgs don’t just link to the story that’s already been published and go write about something else that nobody knows about — you know, news.

The upside is it sure keeps sites like TechMeme and Google News in business.

Just think about all the money spent on CPG advertising to differentiate all the brands of past sauce — in a marketplace with lots of competition, enabling that competition has proven to be a good business.

Some smart news orgs could find a way to profit from sorting through these piles of content that, ironically, they themselves are contributing to.

Pasta’s boiling, gotta run…

Comments (6 Responses so far)

  1. As one of the authors of the “redundant” coverage you link to, I think consumer packaged good is a great analogy. People have their brand preferences between all of these news services, based on things like writing style, whether or not they think they “fit in” with a certain brand, and the relationships/conversations they can have with the authors, both on the site and on other outlets like Twitter and FriendFeed.

    And, while most of “us” live off of our RSS reader and aggregators like TechMeme, our stats show that a lot of people just come direct to the web site, which means we have an obligation to cover everything that’s relevant to our audience, with our brand’s own unique style.

  2. @Adam

    “a lot of people just come direct to the web site, which means we have an obligation to cover everything that’s relevant to our audience, with our brand’s own unique style”

    That is the key driver of content creation across competing news brands — everyone needs to have their own version of the news. It’s probably a safe bet that the market will support a choice of original versions of the same news report — the interesting questions is how many versions it will support, and what those competing content businesses will look like long term.

    Perhaps even more interesting is the question of how many competing brands can maintain their position as a destination in a way that is economically viable long term (since being a destination is driving the “redundancy” of original content).

  3. Scott and Adam, both of you make valid points. Just visit socialmedia.alltop.com and oftentimes you will see very similar headlines/posts covering the same topic. Of course not everyone that reads mashable knows about techcrunch and not everyone that reads techcrunch knows about rrw. So, of course, each individual source needs to find a way to provide quality relevant information to it’s respective readers. Perhaps linking to an existing article and then adding on a bit of personal flare may not be a bad idea.

    As more and more blogs and news resources emerge the amount of redundancy will increase. Alltop recently added in a litle ‘X’ button so that you can remove some of your rss feeds.

    Compare the redundancy of information to the redundancy of advertisement. As more social media verticals emerge advertising will increase and increase. Perhaps eventually, advertising will begin to show less and less roi and companies 9web 2.0) will eventually be forced to change business models. Similarly, once more and more resources begin covering the same things, traffic will eventually drop and they will have to think of new ways to bring in visitors.

    But I digress…

  4. I agree that the more blogs spring up, the more redundancy there will be. But people choose which blog they read by who is writing it and the commentary they bring on a particular topic and whether they can bring some new info. This is what makes one blog or news organization of better quality than those that don’t. I suppose it’s up to the reader to find out which blog consistently does that.

  5. [...] news reporting, Scott Karp puts it like this: Has there ever in the history of niche media been so many news organizations writing about the [...]

  6. [...] Is News Coverage On The Web Becoming Like Consumer Packaged Goods? – Publishing 2.0 How many different versions of the same news do we really need? (tags: article editorial culture technology) [...]

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