Blog Post

Is ‘Social News’ the New Trend?

TREND SPOTTING: As a child I remember sitting around with the grown-ups at the neighborhood tea stall – grizzly old blokes, friends of my grandfather and listening to them discuss political developments of the day, reading from the newspapers, and putting their spin on it. It was my first experience with social news. Of course the world has changed a lot since then, and so has the news business.

Despite its obvious problems, the news business is getting back to its roots and is getting social again. Mashable points to a story from Terry Heaton’s PoMo blog that talks about MySpace launching a social news site, based (I am guessing) on Newroo, a company they acquired in April 2006. The preview of Newroo had features that are showing up in the MySpace News offering that is scheduled to go live sometime in the second quarter of 2007.

Given the heavy emphasis on the “hook-ups” on MySpace, I am not sure how much of this new service is going to find traction (okay sports and gossip news might work, but then who the hell knows what works on MySpace), but it does add up to an interesting trend. Last week we saw USA Today launch a very social news experience, though the initial reaction of their users skewed negative. Perhaps they overshot, and instead should have focused on a few things first: letting the readership patterns auto-generate a front page and fostering conversations – just like those grizzly old men, discussing politics.

13 Responses to “Is ‘Social News’ the New Trend?”

  1. I really don’t think I would call it a “new” trend. It’s been around for quite some time (Reddit and Digg are 2004-05 I believe) and it’s definitely here to stay, in some form or another.

    How will a MySpace social news site work? Meh, I doubt it will make any real impact at all. The best part of social news sites are the interaction and comments. I just can’t picture MySpace as having really engaging conversations. Have you seen the YouTube comment section? That’s what I picture.

  2. These buzz words are becoming ridiculous. Social news is nothing more than the technological equivalent of the grapevine. The primary reason why legitimate news sources, outlets, networks, etc. exist is trust. Without trust, there is no credibility, and without credibility there is no journalistic integrity, and without that, there is only story telling and opinion. If the underlying goal of Social News is to distribute interesting commentary about some Hollywood Star’s latest rehab episode then I say more power to it. If the of Social News is to replace hardcore journalism, then it is going to have a very hard time getting traction.

    Give it a rest already… next time I hear some juicy gossip, I’ll be sure to refer to it as “Social News” and I’m sure that will add some legitimacy to it.

  3. What do you mean, is it? Silly question. It most DEFINITELY IS. Social News continues to grow at a rapid rate and it’s making the hair fall out of the greying execs at the traditional media outlets.

  4. It will be interesting to see how they maintain their credibility if any user can post the news. What’s next? Should wikipedia offer a news service? By the way, aliens landed today, that news is courtesy of my private news source…

  5. I think one thing that needs to be considered is the responsibility of journalists. Journalists need to be able to give a voice to the voiceless while at the same time report on issues that are important to the people they serve.

    New technologies fused with traditional media allow journalists just that. By encouraging social discourse through new media platforms, we can get a feel of what people think, what they care about, and what needs/deserves to be on the front page (or at least given more attention).

    Social news should be a tool, not the paradigm on which things revolve around. With proper editorial controls in place there can be a proper balance between the two, and an important playing off the strengths of both.

  6. The net is helping news get social and help to do it well. I think social networks are a good fit for social news b/c you already have a community of people who interact and more likely than not, would like to share and receive other people’s opinions on current events/etc…

    I think it would work better though if the social network was already built on a niche.

    As for social news sites themselves, there is a struggle to find a good fit between user generated voting and good ‘ol fashioned editing.


  7. Om,

    As always, your insights are both astute and very human. I have been spending time thinking about this very issue: whether the web is actually taking communications of all types back to their origins. You cite social news; customer communications is like that too: you have to speak directly to a customer about what they actually want, rather than mass selling; etc. There are vast implications of this (not the least of which is that people need to know what they are going to say before saying it).


  8. I agree with that statement. News is transient and you’re looking to suck in what is most appealing to you. Not that you don’t discuss it, you clearly do. But what is the level of discussion on Digg? It’s more just a bunch of meaningless babble painted with little jabs from people with too much time on their hands. I discuss relevant news with my real friends.

    I also don’t like the strategy of being all things to all people. What’s next? MS Finance? Can you say LL Bean?

  9. Social news will only be hot if computer scientists did not came up with solutions that can capture the semantics of text (news articles).
    Until then examples like Digg, Myspace will provide a service but not the ultimate everyone is waiting for: news on interest (~news on demand)!
    Are there any such examples you know?

  10. Will traditional news entities continue to employ writers that have made a transition over from print media, or will they begin to build their writing teams through social media and it’s inherent news sharing communities?

    It’s unlikely the adoption of social media features will slow any time soon (NYTimes and USA Today were just the start), so recruitment through on-line communities has great potential (although ‘recruitment’ and the subsequent ’employment’ will take a much different form to how we currently percieve them; think metrics, Digg, and automation).

  11. Social news is definitely a trend for quite some time, but as a standalone concept it’s running into problems once the user base gets over a certain tipping point. It works best when combined with other ways of aggregating news and human editors.