Much has been written about the impact of Internet on news journalism (for a good list of sources see here and here), but one aspect that I find completely mind-boggling, and this has nothing to do with how the news is reported… is news curation.
By news curation I mean that we can now create our own news sites, for our own consumption or for sharing with our friends and/or the public. You choose what you want to save and share, and in what format. You become, effectively, a news editor.
Back in the pre-digital day, we were generally faithful to one or two print newspapers. Mine was the New York Times when I was living in the US, The Independent when I was living in the UK, and my beloved Financial Times then and still. But now, with only 55% of the US population getting their news from print sources (and I imagine the percentage is similar in the UK), fidelity is not much of an issue. Sure, you can read your favourite newspaper online, but more and more of us choose news aggregation sites such as feedly or digg. News aggregation sites, as you probably know, present you with articles and news items according to topics that you have selected. You can even usually choose the feeds from which the articles are chosen.
But even the news aggregation sites can get overwhelming. I barely have time to skim mine (and I mean seriously skim) every morning. So, what do I do with the articles I actually want to save and read?
I used to upload them to Evernote, which is fine and convenient, especially from the iPad. But in terms of formatting, it lacks… well, style.
Enter two of my now favourite article-saving sites: Flipboard and Scoop.it. They are both news aggregation services in that they present you with a selection of articles on topics that you have selected. But, and here’s an important difference, they are also news curation sites that let you create your own magazine, or board, or whatever you want to call it. I like calling it a magazine, although I don’t have a lot of control over the format. However, in both cases the format is attractive, especially with Flipboard (I love the page flipping effects).
A brief description of both: Flipboard is a news aggregator with cool page turning effects (you swipe, or scroll down if you’re on the desktop). It is also a virtual magazine that you create. You fill it with news items and articles that you find relevant, either directly from other Flipboard magazines, curated by other people, or via a little browser extension that you click when you’re on the page you want to save. For now it’s a free service, and you can create as many magazines as you wish, on whatever topic you find interesting. My Flipboard magazines revolve around technology themes that I want to know more about: Internet of Things, 3d printing, Internet and Education, Big Data, Internet and New Business, etc. The magazines have an attractive design, which you can play with by moving articles around, choosing a cover photo, etc. And it’s very media-rich, your magazine can include not only articles from just about anywhere, but also videos, photos, even music. I love the idea of a magazine having a soundtrack! Flipboard has more than 100 million users, more than 7 million magazines created over the past year, and at the last round of funding (which brought its total up to $160 million), it was valued at $800 million.
Scoop.it also lets you curate articles that interest you, displaying them on thematic boards that you set up. It is not a free service (well, you can have two free boards, with I think 5 uploads daily, but that’s not really useful), at time of writing it costs approximately $12 a month for the “basic” service which allows you five boards and unlimited uploads. It’s really convenient, easy to curate, and has good social media functions in that it allows you to share (LinkedIn, Twitter, your blog, whatever…) at the same time as you upload, quite convenient. Any time you open one of your boards, Scoop.it publishes on the right-hand side of the page a list of articles you might be interested in adding – it even includes tweets. It also makes it very easy (although a little bit slow on my computer) to “scoop” articles from your other news aggregators via a pin on your bookmark bar. You can get Google Analytics for your Scoop.it pages, and you can (I haven’t tried this, but it sounds impressive if news curation for clients is your thing) export part of your board in newsletter format, even integrating it with Mailchimp if you wish. If you pay for the expensive business version ($80 a month), you can custom design your magazines, playing with formats and headers, and you have more branding opportunities, with links back to your website, lead generation forms, etc. I find Scoop.it much easier to use than Flipboard, although its design is nowhere near as “slick”. It achieved over 1 million users on financing of only $2.6 million.
The two things I most like about these news curation sites: 1) I can easily access articles I’ve saved, and 2) I can browse other peoples’ boards or magazines. For research purposes, this is invaluable, so much more useful than Google searches, because the boards/magazines have been curated by people who share my interest. And, while I have not had time yet to fully explore the social functions, realizing that you share interests with others is a lot of fun, and can be very productive.
There are other news curation platforms that many people swear by: Twitter and Pinterest come to mind. But I don’t use them much for that, the format is nowhere near as easy to browse and there is just so much to sift through. Pinterest comes close, but I consider it more an idea aggregator.
News aggregators are useful, I’d go so far as to say essential for news junkies like me. But creating your own news feed… Now that’s satisfying! If you’re into technology and its impact on how we live and work, and if you, too, use either Flipboard or Scoop.it, let me know! See you there!