What’s More Important: Social or News?

I was just reading Scott Karp’s post about the demise of Findory, a personalized news service created by Greg Linden (which strangely enough I quoted in the Praized blog yesterday)

Scott cites Om Malik : “Despite being drop dead simple, Findory never realized its true potential as an information discovery engine. It has all the makings of being a personal memetracker, something a lot of folks have been clamoring for. In contrast the general purpose memetrackers that follow conversations, like Techmeme and Tailrank keep growing. ”

Scott then ponders: “I wonder whether the great success of TechMeme (and Memeorandum, Gabe Rivera’s other site on politics) and Digg , vs. the failure of Findory to catch on, is evidence that news is a fundamentally shared, social experience. Despite all the hype about the “user in control,” purely personalized news may be too much control, a slippery slope that leads to solipsism. The proverbial “water cooler” is symbolic of our fundamental need to share the news, to validate our experiences by sharing them with others. How can there be “conversation” if we’re all talking about something different?”He continues: “There’s also the advantage of constantly pushing the boundaries of your personal interests. Users depend on TechMeme and Digg to show them interesting content that they never would have thought would be interesting to them — it’s the power of serendipity and discovery that comes when you ride along with a larger community of interest. ”

He concludes by asking: “is news a fundamentally shared, social experience?

What it means: after realizing that social might be more important than local in the context of social local search a week ago, it looks like social might be more important than news in the context of social news sites. Has the Web 2.0 world unleashed a social genie? I strongly believe that the “discovery” element of new social media is a key success factor for any new venture in that field. Unleashing the value of the network becomes as important as unleashing the value of the content and it creates a killer combo. Aristotle was right: “man is a social animal; he requires the companionship of other men and cannot find happiness if he leads the life of a recluse. “


Why Newspapers Don’t Own the Local Search Space

Interesting discussion spanning many blogs in the last few days. Subject: why newspapers don’t own the local search space even though they have very rich content.

  1. Rich Skrenta (from Topix.net) discusses the fact that newspapers have very poor search engine optimization for their sites: “Newspapers have a lot of great content, really high quality stuff that cost them a lot of money to develop. Users would love to come across this content, when appropriate. Google would even like to help users find that content, since the users will be happier. But often technical best practices aren’t being followed with the CMS (content management software) and the valuable content fields lie fallow.”
  2. Greg Linden (founder of Findory.com) commenting on Rich’s post says: “Newspapers have remarkable content on businesses and events in their communities. They should be the authoritative source for local. They should be the experts on their communities and reap the traffic from searchers seeking that expertise.”
  3. Don Dodge (from Microsoft) commenting on Greg’s post: “Newspapers have the best local content for local restaurants, movie reviews, local business, school sports, and should be the first search result for any local search. They are not. I think they don’t (own local) because they don’t think globally. They don’t think about how to make their valuable content friendly to search engines.”
  4. Rob Hyndman says: “Newspapers shouldn’t own local search. The problem for newspapers, obviously, is that what used to be an information issue (”what’s going on / where is this thing for sale / what’s a good Italian restaurant / where is the nearest hardware store?”) is becoming a technology issue, and they’re not technologists..
  5. Matthew Ingram (from the Globe & Mail) thinks that: “(Newspapers) can certainly do a heck of a lot better than they are now.”

Update: Ben Saren from CitySquares.com discusses this post in the context of his venture.

What it means: Don added a great comment at the end of his post: “Local search is a huge opportunity. The local newspapers are in a great position to own it…but they don’t. The Yellow Pages could own it online, but they don’t. The big search engines could own it too…but they don’t. It is one of the last great online markets up for grabs.” I agree. I’m a firm believer that every stakeholder in this space owns an important piece of the puzzle but no one has been able to crack the code so far. Win-win partnerships and/or acquisitions are the way to go (full disclosure: I piloted the agreement between Google and Yellow Pages Group when Google Maps Canada was launched). In addition, I think the addition of SEO experts in large media companies is a must (one of my 2007 predictions). Finally, the market is still very much fragmented and a large portion of the local conversation has yet to be captured online. I think we’re still seeing the tip of the iceberg and the next 3 to 5 years will be very exciting!