Does the world really need another news site or app? Sometimes it’s hard to see how any value can be added to the already well evolved and more than convoluted internet news reporting and distribution value chain. These days you have to look at Internet news nuggets with special x-ray vision to see the internal structure. Besides the original legacy news content, there’s rewrapped Huffington Post-like stories, tweets and other social media posts that point back to the aforementioned news, and aggregation of all this content, which then becomes news in its own right–Slashdot, etc.
A Dublin-based company called NewsWhip, which has gotten some of its own good press over the last year, has an aggregation service that tracks over 5000 news sources and rates the buzziest. With these types of services, the buzziest is is usually based on some secret-sauce weighting of general social media power–Facebook and Twitter–and up- or down-votes from the user community who subscribe to these services.
For NewsWhip and really for the rest of us as well, the former has won out: you’re hot based on likes and tweets. NewsWhip adds a slight twist to this by ranking stories by how fast they’re moving upward in a given time interval–think of it as the first derivative of a tweet, or something like that.
To get an example of how crowdsourcing the editorial process plays out versus using real editors, one has only to look at their “Page 1”. As I write this post, the top five NewsWhip stories within the last two hours are as follows: House passes bill to defund Obamacare (11,511 Likes), boy has meltdown over IOS 7 (3014 Likes), school bus driver suspended over texting (1289 Likes), Al Sharpton gets constitutional lesson (4034 Likes), and 18 Harry Potter jokes for fans (2248 Likes).
This is not exactly what The New York Times would consider newsworthy but maybe Gail and Jill should get a clue. Of course, The Times is competing with more market savvy media operations like The Huffington Post, and has responded by providing some real-time feedback of what’s popular on their site. Call me hopelessly in love with the past, but I still think there has to be some humanoid life forms writing and selecting this stuff using judgement and other hard-to-botify aspects of human wisdom.
It probably won’t surprise you that NewsWhip has some underlying platform, and there be APIs available. NewsWhip’s newest news is that they’ve introduced something called Spike, a professionalized version of their software–probably capable of knocking back a few highballs while hammering out stories–meant for journalists and writers. The idea is that you learn from Spike about what’s trending in specific categories and then piggy back your own articles off this, thus adding more news-like information to the mix. For now the Spike service is free.
Based on the press release I got from them, they seem to know what they’re doing. They’ve raised another $1.1 million and are opening an office in Manhattan’s Union Square area.