As someone who recently built a news curation website, it seems a bithypocritical for me to be writing a blog entry criticizing the world of news aggregation. The sites that I happen to subscribe to, including Flipboard, Zite, Newser, Newsie, Editions and Pulse, are among the coolest, most visually appealing sites on the web. I marvel at how innovative, graphically appealing and user-friendly they are. It's so impressive how these sites seem to always raise the bar on visual presentation.
I personally have taken a very different approach with my site, The News Funnel. Since my audience comprises business professionals, my goal has been to build a site that presents customized news in a very efficient, straightforward manner. We’ve chosen to forego the bells and whistles and rather, place the emphasis on accuracy. Business readers want a tool that doesn’t force them to have to dig for news. Rather, they want the news brought to them in a very direct and simple way. They want their news fast and accurate and, most importantly, they want actionable content.
Getting back to the more lifestyle news apps though, I must confess to rarely checking them since I first set them up on my iPad. So I went back to them the other day and explored each one for a while, with most of my preferences still being technology and business related. And then I quickly realized why I didn’t spend much time there. While the format was breathtaking, they all had pretty much the same articles from AllThingsD, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, with a few other sources sprinkled in here and there.
It got me thinking about the true nature of media and how far technology has actually taken us from the original value proposition. The reason I read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal religiously is because their content is vital, insightful and exclusive. I think their success in getting business readers to pay for their content actually reflects a trend that will only increase in time. I, as well as most people in the media, am still bewildered by their strategy to make their content free in the first place.
While mobile devices are increasingly focused on these brilliant news aggregation apps, I worry about their long-term viability. If presentation and discovery are the cornerstones of their model, and not original content, could this just be a fad and, after a while of oversaturation of these FREE apps, will they also suffer the same fate as print did?