16 April 2012
Every morning, one of the first things I do is read the news, from a variety of different sources on my IPad before i go to work, usually over a cup of tea. I like to think I peruse a variety of news sources which cover the same issue from a number of angles. I was very interested recently to have discovered a great video; a TED talk by Eli Pariser entitled ‘Beware online "filter bubbles” which spoke of how the increasing tendency of online players to personalise everything to each customer so we only get stories or news which are considered relevant to you based on your previous behaviour, creates these ‘bubbles’ which are pre-packaged and delivered to you. Is the future of increasing personalisation driving us into a world where we are only seeing what we want to see and not what we should see? I think one of the beauties of opening a newspaper or news website is that I will see the same piece of news as the guy sat next to me on the train whether it is good or bad because to a greater or lesser extent it is deemed important (I do see the contradiction somewhat in this statement due to the limitation of the printed media, but we have to work with what we have got). I don’t particularly enjoy reading that another young soldier has been killed or a country has fallen into recession but it’s important that I do for both our social conscience and our role in an active democracy. So are walled gardens inadvertently being erected due to the evolution of personal services? I appreciate personalisation but is it good for us?
There are a variety of views on both the pros and cons of the internet’s effect on the traditional news media, some argue it has delivered a great level of media pluralism and injected some much needed fresh thinking into the whole world of news content whilst many see it as devaluing journalism. I personally think that is still a strong need for good quality, professional journalism. As great as platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are they are sometimes not the most profound source of objective information and to be fair that is not what they are designed for. But in the internet world, how does traditional news media make the numbers add up? Is it with pay walls? Is it with advertising? (We then get back to the ‘filter bubbles’ argument, you can sell more expensive advertising if it is better targeted). At the moment you see a number of approaches from The Daily, a newspaper that is specifically designed to run on tablet devices to newspapers such as The New York Times, The Times and other globally who have chosen to erect pay walls. It seems that going down the route of actual apps may be proving successful. Only time will tell which was is the most productive but once again it shows that when times change companies must do the same.