Things got a little heated at the Hacks/Hackers event on the Future of Personalized News.
After founders Dan Olsen of yourversion and Ethan Gahng of lazyfeed talked about providing relevant stories to readers, some in the crowd pressed them about how to pay the creators who craft all that quality media that audiences want.
But as Dan and Ethan pointed out, they aren’t making any money themselves and are still trying to figure out their business model. Ethan said he didn’t think advertising would pay the bills.
Freddy Midi of Netvibes said he’s now cash flow positive, helped by a move to sell dashboards to companies who want to monitor their brand online.
Dan Cohen, a veteran of Google, Yahoo and Pageflakes with years of experience in Web personalization, pointed out that there’s only one content aggregator making big money at the moment: Google.
What if news organizations themselves offered a more personalized experience and better user interfaces: Could that create news applications that readers would pay for, especially on a device like the iPad?
We’re all trying to figure this out. We need to combine the technologists’ laser focus on user experience with the great writing, photography, video and other media produced by skilled journalists. That’s really what Hacks/Hackers is all about.
One thought that comes to mind from the panel is whether there would be a way to take the personalization technology from yourversion or lazyfeed and incorporate it directly inside a news site. What if news organizations themselves offered a more personalized experience and better user interface: Could that lead to news applications that readers would pay for, especially on a device like the iPad?
Something we didn’t get to at the panel: Serendipity and getting away from the echo chamber.
With all the talk about personalization and giving readers what they want, what about the pleasure of finding something unexpected? We didn’t touch on how to enable the joy of discovery. (As an amusing aside, here’s the background on the origin of the word “serendipity.”)
Audiences are also increasingly going to partisan information sources whose positions they already agree with. That could lead to more polarization and extremism in society, a phenomenon known as “group polarization” that is discussed in this New Yorker article.
What do you think?
I hope we’ll continue the dialogue in the comments below — I’m sure the panel could have gone on for hours last week.