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Filtering by Category: "aggregation"

AOL will update their feed reader soon

Added on by Chris Saad.
Techcrunch reports that AOL will be upgrading their feed reader with new AJAX tricks and better OPML support. Check out the report on Techcrunch.

Also Nick of Feeddemon has released version 2.5 of his great desktop feed reader including item sharing through News Bins and a great popular topics feature.

It's more than redundant to say now, but it's clear that aggregation (in all forms) is here to stay and will be one of the primary ways people recieve and manage their information. From the mainstream AOL offerings to the power-user ready Feeddemon.

The next frontier, of course, is adding in Personal Relevancy.

Dangerous Moves - Google news cutting content deals?

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to Techcrunch and the rest of the Techmeme world:

"Scotland's Sunday Herald is running a story reporting that Google has secretly
reached deals with several large UK news groups to formally license content for Google News."
They go on to write
"The issue is not Google's alone. In theory any site that indexes and provides snippets of content from big media companies could easily face the same problem. Topix and Digg immediately come to mind, let alone the many smaller startups and personal sites that index news from the mainstream media."
Kevin Burton from Tailrank and Spin3r posts in the comments:

"You're wrong that Google News would face problems if they ran ads. These publishers needs Google News more than they need them.

Even if they DO run ads everyone wins. Google News only shows a small fraction of he article mandating a clickthrough . A rising tide lifts all boats.

We run a pretty deep crawl with Spinn3r (and have similar issues with ads running on Tailrank) and we've only had a few people ask to be removed.

Unless these deals are about expanding Google's rights beyond fair use (i.e. the right to use full content rather than just snippets), this is a dangerous move for the syndication and aggregation ecosystems who rely on fair use and opt-out mechanisms

As Duncan says on Techcrunch, this can affect all sorts of services everywhere and if Google makes these deals it could:
  1. Set a precedent that could be destructive for innovation and fair use.

  2. If Google makes moves to make the deals exclusive the implications could be even more significant.

This is an unsettling move that should be followed closely.

Maybe professional journalism is dead?

Added on by Chris Saad.
The Scobleizer is once again (for the 495th time by his count) launched an attack against partial text feeds.

The most interesting part of his post, however, is the comments - in which he tells the guys at ZDNet that their content is good, but he would rather read coverage elsewhere because of their partial feeds.

The ZDNet guys claim they can't make money from full text - they need the traffic back to their page.

This comes back to a more long term question - how does one make money from the long tail.

In my post on the subject I quoted Chris Anderson who wrote:
Producers. Effect: Largely non-economic. I responded to a good Nick Carr post on this last year with the following: "For producers, Long Tail benefits are not primarily about direct revenues. Sure, Google Adsense on the average blog will generate risible returns, and the average band on MySpace probably won't sell enough CDs to pay back their recording costs, much less quit their day jobs. But the ability to unitize such microcelebrity can be significant elsewhere. A blog is a great personal branding vehicle, leading to anything from job offers to consulting gigs. And most band's MySpace pages are intended to bring fans to live shows, which are the market most bands care most about. When you look at the non-monetary economy of reputation, the Long Tail looks a lot more inviting for its inhabitants."

So four questions arise from this statement in the context of ZDNet and partial feeds.

  1. Are ZDNet part of the long tail? After all, they publish mainstream IT news. Perhaps the long tail can be seen as replacing the head?

  2. Is the Publishing/Advertising model dead as long as content, in its full form, is syndicated and repackaged by an aggregator resulting in little need for users to head back to the source and generate page views?

  3. Will we tolerate (and can we monetize) ads in the feed? The ZDNet guys say feed ads do not pay the bills.

  4. Do Aggregators have a social responsibility to somehow give back to producers?

This ties into another debate that has sprung up on Brian Oberkich's blog about his feed being used as part of a collective newspaper. He claims that it was OK with him until it seemed like the newspaper was running ads (which was against his CC) and he was being grouped with commentators he did not want to be associated with.

That page is, in essence, a single topic aggregator. What responsibility does it have to the publisher?

If professional publishing can't be monetized to sustainable levels, are we biting the hand that feeds us (as aggregators)? Or are we 'all the media' now and we don't need professional journalism?

Update: Brian says that the "Edge is not about content".
"You could always publish something to the Web. Now someone can acutally find it in real-time, relay it through their own attention signal systems (blogs (including link and tumblelogs), email, bookmarking services, social news sites, twitta, etc.) and help the collective swarm around things it finds useful."

Freebase - Centralized control of the distributed web?

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a buzz about the launch of Freebase by Metaweb technologies on the web at the moment.

From the New York Times:

"The idea of a centralized database storing all of the world’s digital information is a fundamental shift away from today’s World Wide Web, which is akin to a library of linked digital documents stored separately on millions of computers where search engines serve as the equivalent of a card catalog."
Is it just me or does this seem completely antithetical to the entire point of the Web in general and the Web 2.0 philosophy specifically?

Are we not trying to create a distributed, democratic and user-centric reality where the right of self-expression trumps data silos?

So why would we all be rushing to contain all data in a single database?

Wouldn't it be a more effective solution to build a search engine that could aggregate content across the web by extracting and indexing it in a structured way. Something that can look for Microformats as well as try to extract structured data from unstructured pages using semantic analysis (similar to AdaptiveBlue).

It could even offer its index/database via APIs.

The difference with this scenario, though, is that we don't all have to play nice with a single database/API - they have to play nice with us. This is about shifting power from the few, to the many after all.

It seems to me to attempt otherwise is moving in the wrong direction.

Am I missing something here? Let me know what you think...

Major media outlets are starting to understand the zero sum game of Attention

Added on by Chris Saad.
Scott Karp has written a great piece summarizing what we here at Touchstone has been alluding to for quite some time.

Individuals can now make a good living as content creators, without ever creating or becoming part of a scale content business. What’s more disruptive, however, is that in the market for original content, the attention economy is draining dollars out of the cash economy. There remains a zero sum game for consumer attention, so for every minute a consumer spends with content created by an entity whose compensation is in form of attention, there’s a minute not being spend on content created by a for-profit entity.

In contrast, the content aggregation and distribution side of the divided media industry has all the advantages of scale, with the technology-enabled platform (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, search) serving as the organizing principle for the new scalable media businesses. Content creation is asymptotically approaching commodity status, while platforms that can effectively aggregate content and allocate scarce consumer attention can unlock immense value in the new media marketplace.


This does not mean, however, that commercial content creators will lose out while Aggregators destroy their businesses. It means that content creators need to understand and respect and value the role of aggregators to help them find an audience. Further, they need to understand how Personalized Aggregation (based on Attention) changes the publisher/audience dynamic.

First, as we all know, there is no more audience, only participants. But more importantly for this discussion - the participants have different expectations. They want highly tailored content experiences that meet their tastes exactly. And they have no shortage of places to find that conent - in fact too many sources. We sometimes call this hyper choice or information overload.

This means that publishers need to:
  1. Start thinking niche.
  2. Start finding ways to cut through the noise to reach niche audiences.
This is where Attention comes in. By measuring one's Attention you can learn what they are interested in. By learning what they are interested in you can learn what content they want to see more of. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump to connecting content creators with participants.

It also means that Aggregators will have a growing responsibility to content creators. A responsibility to report statistics, create transparency in their platforms and find some way to help the eco-system of Content Creators become successful.

Read Scott's full post for some more great insights.

Will Widgets and RSS hit the mainstream?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 asks yet another interesting question on his blog.

"Will Widgets hit a Mainstream Wall just like RSS?"

From his post:

"But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online publishers than for average folks. Widgets, like RSS, are great for syndicating information, or in the case of widgets, also application functions. But for average users, they are only useful for aggregating on a start page, and really, how often do most people change their start pages?"

Widgets and Gadgets are names used interchangeably for stuff that you can put on your blog/myspace account and stuff you can put on your desktop.

In regard to the Desktop widgets, here's what I think of widgets.

In regard to RSS, our newly updated website sheds some light.

In the 'Got a Mom?" section, it says:

"[To hit the mainstream] RSS has to become brain dead simple to use." - Fred Wilson

Do your parents know how to find and subscribe to RSS feeds? Should they? Do they know how to read HTML? Of course not; they "browse the web". RSS needs to be that simple.

Touchstone makes RSS dead simple by taking the subscribing out of the equation. Get your mum to quickly and easily type in her interests into a little textbox and Touchstone does the rest.

Like Scott goes on to say in his post:

"Now, none of this means that widgets, like RSS, won’t revolutionize the world of web publishing (although I’m skeptical of Tariq Krim prediction that widgets will kill web pages) — it’s just that it will be transparent to the average web user."

He's exactly right.

Widgets, like RSS, are usually technical and always overwhelming in an information consumption sense. They are great for myspace bling, but to actually get productive information you need something far more intelligent.

Brad Burnham asks "What's Next?"

Added on by Chris Saad.
Brad writes a great post on the Union Square Ventures blog asking "What's next?". In it he explains that innovation moves up the stack and that we are now at the 'data' layer.

"In the early days, the central value proposition in the computer business was hardware. Later, it shifted to systems software, then applications software, and then networks. As more software functionality was delivered to a browser over the Internet, the basis of competition shifted from features to service level metrics like reliability, accessibility and security. I believe that today, at least in the area of consumer web services, we have already moved on to a new focus of competitive differentiation based on data."

I am glad VCs are starting to ask these questions. It shows they are thinking beyond 'me too' services.

He goes on to write:

"One way to look at that question is to argue that we have arrived at the end of history. The progression to date has been up the stack in a classic architecture diagram, data is on top of that stack, and nothing sits on top of the data. I disagree."

I disagree too Brad. Here are a few more layers to think about.

Once data is structured and syndicated, the next job is to:

  1. Aggregate - And I don't mean like a feed reader. I mean like Edgeio and Vast

  2. Personalize - Using Attention Data

  3. Visualize - Using all sorts of techniques. With Touchstone we are using escalating alerts. The more personally relevant the content (from step 2) the bigger the alert.

Morphing Media - Signposts of Media 2.0

Added on by Chris Saad.
Meredith Obendorfer writes a post called 'Investigating the Case of the Morphing Media' over on 'Echo Base' where she predicts the rise of Media 2.0.

She explains a set of recent circumstances that are signposts of a failing Media 1.0 world and the rise of... something else.

At the end of the post she suggests that perhaps it's time to call it Media 2.0.

At a time when VC investment in new media is surging, the question remains, will traditional media be able to keep up? And at what cost will it learn that it needs to morph with the rest of ‘em? Overused dot-oh or not, it’s clearly time for media 2.0.

I have been talking about Media 2.0 for quite some time and as I explained, I think that Attention and Aggregation will play a key part.

Watch this space Meredith!

Greg Cohn wants Touchstone

Added on by Chris Saad.
It always amuses me when someone who has not yet found Touchstone writes a post describing the need it fills perfectly. Reminds me why we started this project/company in the first place.

I will quote Greg word-for-word because he is spot on. Hope he does not mind! Check out the full, more detailed post.

This leads to a three-fold problem: As a user, I want to aggregate the things I consume effectively and across all of my consumption devices and venues. I may want to publish my aggregation in various ways in various media, like a blogroll on my blog, bookmarks on, or an OPML file or attention stream in a conference panel bio. (Thus, “distributed aggregation”.) Also, as I chime in with my comments and ratings and other UGC submissions, this becomes part of the publishing side of the problem as well.

As a publisher, I want to streamline my production across many points of access while providing a good, unified experience to some members of my audience. I may want to be able to control my profile pages at Flickr and other places - both to reflect my self-expression goals and to capture data that lets me know how I’m doing - but I don’t want to be responsible for maintaining 13 websites. I want the principle of “write once / publish many” to apply not only to my blog posts, but also to my preferences as a publisher. Thus, aggregated distribution.

Finally, from the point of view of efficiency and value-creation, there is a lot of interesting attention that could be harnessed (and fat in the system that could be eliminated) for the benefit of advertisers, knowledge-aggregation companies like Yahoo! and Google, and, more generally, anyone who wants to communicate with like audiences either in niches or en masse (i.e., media) efficiently. Again, aggregated distribution.

Making money from the long tail...

Added on by Chris Saad.

There have been a number of posts lately about the profitability of the long tail.

First Guy Kawasaki posts his year in review where he mentions how little he makes from his very successful blog.

Then Chris Anderson posts called "Don't quite your day job" a reaction to Guy's blog revenue talking about the long tail and its profitability.

Then Chris makes a follow up post where he clearly explains who in the long-tail ecosystem can make money, and why those that can't, shouldn't worry anyway because direct revenue is not the main motivating force or reward.

This is how he explains it:

  1. Consumers. Effect: Largely cultural. People have more choice, so individual taste increasingly satisfied even if the effect is an increasingly fragmented culture.
  2. Aggregators. Effect: Largely economic. It's never been easier to assemble vast variety and create tools for organizing it, from search to recommendations. Increased variety plus increased demand for variety equals opportunity. Also note that just as one size doesn't fit all for products, nor does it for aggregators. I think the winner-take-all examples of eBay, Amazon, iTunes and Google are a first-inning phenomena. Specialized niche aggregators (think: vertical search, such as the real estate service Zillow) are on the rise.
  3. Producers. Effect: Largely non-economic. I responded to a good Nick Carr post on this last year with the following: "For producers, Long Tail benefits are not primarily about direct revenues. Sure, Google Adsense on the average blog will generate risible returns, and the average band on MySpace probably won't sell enough CDs to pay back their recording costs, much less quit their day jobs. But the ability to unitize such microcelebrity can be significant elsewhere. A blog is a great personal branding vehicle, leading to anything from job offers to consulting gigs. And most band's MySpace pages are intended to bring fans to live shows, which are the market most bands care most about. When you look at the non-monetary economy of reputation, the Long Tail looks a lot more inviting for its inhabitants."

Nik Cubrilovic still holds onto the hope that producers can indeed make money from blogging and suggests some alternatives to AdSense which should be more profitable.

But of course, each of these commentators have day jobs.

There were some posts from bloggers who do basically make a business out of their blogs. First Yaro Stark who posts "Is Professional Blogging a Sustainable Business Model" and Darren Rowse with a post called "Does AdSense Suck for Bloggers?".

This is an interesting topic to me because I have had a number of conversations with friends, partners, investors etc about 'where the money is' in this emerging marketplace.

My feeling is more closely aligned with Chris Anderson's. Participants who create long-tail content are not doing it for money. We don't write open source code, contribute to wikipedia or blog about our lives for cash. We do it because we want to contribute - both to our egos and to the world. We want to be heard.

Professional producers, however, need to pay the bills. But unfortunately they are finding it hard to monetize their 'participants'. That's why I think aggregators should give something back. But that's a post for another time.

Channel ME

Added on by Chris Saad.
Mark Sigal's recently posted about Channel Me and the Rules of New Media.

He talks about concepts that we have long discussed here such as:

  1. If content was king, then aggregation is now the master of the universe
    He writes: Unlike "old media," where content was the star, in new media, it is about the users and giving them control of what they digest, how they digest it and with whom. This article attempts to provide a framework for thinking about the rules of new media and how to work them to your benefit.
  2. The audience has left the building
    He writes: Once upon a time, content was content, an ad was an ad and the audience was a passive consumer. No more. Increasingly, the lines between consumer and producer are getting blurry.
  3. Personal Relevancy is more important than What's Popular
    He writes: These tools will have built in recognition systems (like deep profiles) to systematically connect like minds together, and filters that provide transparency that highlights what’s new, popular, recently viewed, talked about or related content.

And he finishes with:

The evolution of the Web from text, pictures and links to video-powered social nets is as profound as the evolution of broadcast media from radio to television, and it is destined to be no less exciting.

I wholeheartedly agree Mark.

Thanks for pointing this post out Randal

Media 2.0 Roadmap

Added on by Chris Saad.
I have been thinking a lot about 'Media 2.0' lately. So I quickly wrote up a roadmap from the distant past media landscape to our near future opportunities. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Distant Past (Local Radio Stations)

  • Distribution: Costly, via radio towers and dedicated ‘wireless’ receivers
  • Content: Local news and radio plays
  • Advertising: Local sponsors

Past (National Radio Networks and TV Networks)

  • Distribution: Costly (via radio and TV towers, TVs and Radios)
  • Content: National shows targeted at demographic groups
  • Production: Costly
  • Audience: One way broadcast from the top to the masses
  • Content: ‘What’s popular’ (as decided by editors) is on the air – segmented by broad demographics
  • Advertising: Local and National sponsors

Recent Past (Internet – Web 1.0)

  • Distribution: Cheaper (via modems and PCs – unstructured content in HTML)
  • Production: Costly (in terms of time and skills)
  • Audience: One way broadcast from the top to the masses – now also on the web
  • Content: ‘What’s popular’ (as decided by the editors) is on the air – segmented by more niche demographics
  • Interaction: Interest groups and communities trapped in silos
  • Advertising: Local and National advertisers splitting revenue across web, tv, radio.

Now (Internet – Web 2.0)

  • Distribution: Mostly Cheap (existing TV, Radio towers and across multiple devices using the Internet – structured content via RSS)
  • Production: Cheap (just click publish on your blog)
  • Audience: Two way participation within the audience (‘the bottom’) with democratic editorial control in the grassroots
  • Content: ‘What’s popular’ (as decided by the audience) as measured using services like Technorati, TechMeme and Digg etc. Segmentation in the mainstream continues by more thinly sliced Demographics)
  • Interaction: Interest groups unbound by silos (due to RSS)
  • Advertising: Context sensitive Ads targeted at the page – served by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft

Coming (Media 2.0)

  • Distribution: Cheap (across multiple devices using the internet as the ‘universal pipe’ – structured content via RSS). Aggregation is the main user interface.
  • Production: Cheap (just click publish on your camcorder and mobile phone)
  • Audience: The audience is gone, only participants are left: Two way participation with all stakeholders and democratic editorial control of what’s on the web and what’s on the air
  • Content: ‘What’s popular’ (as decided by the participants and measured by services like Technorati, TechMeme and Digg) is played on air. Segmentation by niche interest groups.
  • Relevancy: With hyperchoice, ‘What’s personally relevant’ becomes far more interesting that 'What's popular' – Audiences of one.
  • Advertising: Ads targeted at the individual – served by aggregators

Web 3.0 - Are you serious?

Added on by Chris Saad.
I am starting to get a little sick of talking about versioning the web - as I'm sure you are. But I've just found something that has forced me to address it again.

Have you seen this? It's a search from the Web 2.0 Workgroup website on Eurekster on their hottest topic at the moment - Web 3.0.

Web 3.0? Are you serious?

Apparently a lot of people are. More than I imagined.

It seems from the search results, though, Web 3.0 is some sort of Web 2.0 - except with more of everything. More mainstream users, more revenue (or finding a way to get revenue in the first place), more programmable etc.

First let me restate my case about Web 2.0 (*sigh*). 'Community' is not Web 2.0. Community is as old as Newsgroups and IRC (pre web) forums (web 1.0) and have merely changed shape with more sites dedicated to 'user generated content' (ugly term I know). So the community aspects of YouTube (for example) are not what make it Web 2.0.

The Web 2.0 part is more complex and profound - yet it all has a common theme - the participant is the most important entity in every transaction. You and I are in control.

It's about how the creative and editorial power is shifted from a central editor to a community of millions.

It's about making the site content portable through embedded players and syndication.

And it's about the CEO bloging about what they're doing so that the community has a transparent way of understanding the motives, intentions and direction of THEIR platform.

YouTube, however, is still not a fully realized Web 2.0 platform. It still tries to trap the user on their site. To drive traffic to their pages and to create a community on their terms.

The ultimate Web 2.0 solution is when I create my own platform and video is only part of my self-expression and community. Where my friends are my friends, irrespective of the tools they use or the content they create.

This platform is already emerging - to date they have been called Blogs, but I think blogs are much more important than people think. Maybe the name needs to change to suggest something grander than a 'Web Log' - but ultimately blogs are the ultimate form of participant power.

They are not a forum, yet there is a discussion going on.

They are not video hosting site, yet there can be video there.

They are not a photo sharing site, yet there are photos there.

They are not mySpace yet I have a list of subscribers (read: friends) and contacts (read: blogrolls).

They are not social news, yet Technorati and TechMeme seem to know what the top news is.

Blogs are the purest example of Web 2.0. They are decentralized, syndicated (and then aggregated), social, self-expressive personal islands that connect via a great ocean called the blogosphere.

So if we have not yet properly recognized, commercialized and leveraged Web 2.0 - why the heck are we talking about Web 3.0. Especially when it seems like the definition seems to be 'Web 2.0 for the masses'. If Web 3.0 is Web 2.0 for the masses, then that sounds to me like Mainstream adoption of Web 2.0.

I am queasy just writing all these version numbers.

Dreaming up the future is one thing, but trying to create a new buzzword so that you can be the first one who thought of it is quite another.

Web 2.0 represents something much more fundamental than a bubble of new software online. Web 2.0 represents the democratization of information and media. It is a change in the way we tell stories and connect to each other.

More importantly than that, however, It is a symptom of a cultural change in the civilized world from top down hierarchy to distributed participation and freedom of expression. Where the storytellers are no longer just manufactured celebrities – but you and me. Where what’s newsworthy today is not what’s popular for my demographic, but rather what is personally relevant to me.

Let's not trivialize this cultural change (it's greatest example being Web 2.0) by trying to jump ahead to some fantasy version number just because some of us want to pretend to be pioneers.