Journalists Confront News Aggregation

A recent conference brought journalists face to face with the man behind Google News – the aggregation service that has sent chills through the media industry. There are two perspectives on this matter. The first:

“For some publishers — watching covetously as Google earns billions from contextual advertising — the search engine’s success rests on little more than copyright kleptomania. Using snippets of journalists’ expensive labour, Google is creating search-result pages that earn it a fortune.”

Over on the other end of the spectrum:

“To others, though, such talk is madness. Complaining that your stories are indexed on Google News is akin to resenting WHSmith for daring to display your title prominently, some say. For that camp, the only question is how best to monetise the traffic that Google drives to their sites.”

One interesting point in the article is the differentiation between “credible news sources” which make the Google News homepage, and then other sites, such as satire sites, which would be included in the news archives. The distinction is that the satire sites are part of “the conversation,” and therefore valuable in support of the whole.

But the real gem in the article is this:

“Google is also hoping to improve its search results to reward original journalism.”

Aggregation is an amazing concept, and the web is being loaded up with mashups on this concept. Some are brilliant, and incredibly flexible and profitable. However, when you look down the road, you have to ask: who will stick around to create original journalism, which includes the support of a wholly owned reporting structure.

Some, like Jeff Jarvis feel that citizen journalism will evolve quickly, allowing the masses to become journalists, in the same regard that MySpace has created a “community.”

But, therein lies the problem. Sites like MySpace are many things, but their value as a longstanding community that can come together to create something as one, is still a theory at best.

A recent panel discussion titled “Journalism Dialogues on The Changing Media Landscape,” confronted several issues around online media, and touched upon the community issue, with this statement:

“Newspapers have drifted away from catering to local audiences, but this is what readers really want… [they] need to embrace online citizen journalism which gives stories a local touch, while maintaining the storytelling and investigative reporting that “builds a brand” for the paper.”

(links via I Want Media)