The Meaning of News has Changed

by phil on Monday Mar 9, 2009 10:54 AM
medium is message stuff

I think the meaning of news has changed, at least on blogs and sites like Digg.

When going through the submission process on Digg, they remind you often that you're submitting News, but ostensibly things on Digg don't fit the television version of news.

On TV, anything that came out in the past week or so can be considered news. Or if the network does original reporting on something that happened a while ago, that's also news. They're "breaking" a story.

But on blogs and Digg, it seems like you can post about something that is up to two years old as long as it hasn't been reported in that space before. I see things on MetaFilter or Digg pop-up that I saw on Reddit a year ago, but they're treated as being fresh.

And then, there's this deadzone of between 2 and 5 years ago that consistently seems old. For example, if I "discover" something that came out 3 years ago, and post it here, it's not going to count as "news." Too many people on the Internet have seen it, in my head, and so forget about it.

But, there becomes a separate kind of news, that is anything before 5 years ago. Maybe it shouldn't be considered "news" and it's not exactly a TV "remember when" segment. It's more like an "oh, BTW" kind of effect.

I often post links on here from wikipedia about things that happened in history 10, 25, 50, years ago. And in some ways, I'm posting it as if it were "news." Like, "oh, have you heard?" It feels like original reporting because I doubt anybody has heard of these things and yet I find them relevant and fresh. For example, I posted that "We had a Native American Vice President." When Barack Obama was running, I felt this was "news" because it was a piece of reality that would be original but relevant.

It's like a "Did you know?" segment where you're breaking history as news. Bringing up the "Cluetrain Manifesto" from 1999 in the previous post I feel is something that should count as a "news" because most of you haven't heard of it, or if you have, don't remember.

And this is good. The television definition of news is too now-oriented. It seems on the Internet, the definition of news matches what our brain considers novel. I could post an old video from Noam Chomsky, and that would be a totally new experience for you. Maybe not for the rest of the world, and so it wouldn't appear on TV, but on the Internet, because people are directing their own learning through surfing, you don't have to worry about appeasing everybody's definition of news.

People wander around the Internet and bump into novelty and that becomes news to them.

I think this explains why Push Media, like PointCast, failed. Remember PointCast, the screensaver in the late 90s that would provide up-to-date news? In 1997, News Corp. offered them $450 Million, but PointCast turned it down because everybody thought Push was going to take over the Internet. "At last, this will make the Internet like television, print and radio! Like broadcast!" Finally in 1999, they could only sell it for $7 Million.

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