Monday, 5 July 2010

Online readers about to set the news agenda

Traditionally, the news agenda has been the domain of editors who decided what was interesting and journalists were sent forth to write, but rumour has it that Yahoo! is soon to turn this process on its head with the announcement of a new blog whose content will be determined by the topics users search for on the web.

While blogging and tweeting have given the public a voice, the improvements in search and the rise in content sharing mean that in addition to an overwhelming amount of information available in general, there is increasing data to indicate what, amongst the billions of column inches, readers actually care about.

Yahoo!’s new blog, Upshot, will track popular search terms and topics across its online network and use these patterns to fuel content, generated by its team of journalists and editors. If it works, the blog should be more closely aligned with its readers’ interests than other mainstream news sites.

Using search queries to guide content also means that the blog will potentially feature more niche and unusual stories in response to its readers’ demands. The editorial team will need to make careful decisions about how closely they will be influenced by the trends and journalists will need to write with a degree of authority to pacify sceptics who see this as a potential quantity over quality play, biasing news simply to reach the top of search engines.

Media is certainly changing at the moment with broad news stories widely available from innumerable outlets. Several UK papers have started to put up paywalls but for this to be an effective move, generalist online news sites will have to think about what exactly they can offer readers to beat off the competition – it’s hard to justify paying for me-too content.

Whether the Yahoo!’s search information will be used to directly influence the news agenda or simply as a tool to understand readers and aid editorial decisions, content that takes into account what the reader is looking for could certainly be a good start in setting itself apart from the masses.


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