Fake Twitterers, News Twisters, and How Apple Could Save The Day

13 newspaper boxes

Photo by Tom Magliery, via Flickr

Local newspapers once got most of their money from want ads in the back section. Craigslist proceeded to destroy that revenue stream. I like Craigslist better in many ways but it’s introduction kicked off the destruction of print news as we knew it for a century or more.

Papers of record, more dependent upon large advertisers, tried turning their content into websites, offering free access for a limited time to entice  subscribers.  Local newspapers followed suit, but new revenues failed to materialize.

Quite simply, a portion of advertising dollars that might have gone to newspapers are diverted to Google.

Independent blogs usurped the print media’s traditional ‘news filtering’ role. Blogs may not have been a major long term threat, but  established print publishers didn’t wait to find out, countering with their own topical blogs.

Some independent blogs tried taking on the pictorial attributes of a 1950s’ National Geographic Magazine; while others went without photos, relying instead on conspiratorial and  political crackpot-ism to gain readership.  I’m not sure what works best  but there seems no middle ground.

Journalistic payola.
Payola has been resurrected from the dustbins of music broadcasting history, to a front page blog position.  Having content sponsored paid for by corporate and PAC based marketers – a trend referred to as ‘sponsorship blogging‘ or ‘native news‘  – offers an stable cash flow, but at a Faustian bargain. Done without third party journalistic oversight, the bias of ‘native news’ soon becomes obvious. I doubt thoughtful readers will put up with it for long.

Twisting example.
What I once thought of as one the worlds most sophisticated and convenient news filters, NewsNow,  will charge a sponsor to get a news source featured.

Fake Twitter accounts.
Wall Street Journal reported this morning that up to 9% (and growing) of all worldwide Twitter accounts are computer generated fakes: used by publicists to promote this politician or that entertainer or such and such an amazing product. “Follow us” indeed.

Potential solutions?
I need to study today’s  music industry a bit more but my gut tells me that Apple, Inc. is working on a solution. Here’s one potential way it might go (hypothetical).

Apple hires stable of content experts to cover traditional beats, but adds the more novel and overlooked topics such as business ethicssynthetic DNA/life forms,  climate change mitigation, and so on.

Desk bound contract content experts watch news feeds, while others work with primary intelligence,  living themselves within the world of peer reviewed science or government. Senior level journalists,  retired or fired from downsized papers of record, are hired to watch and counsel the untutored as to standards.

Subscribers pay 0.99 cents for a given day’s  expertly annotated news summaries, also providing links to insightful blog postings on the days  news (analogous to a professionally monitored blog roll), pointing to traditional commercial news coverage of each subject, etc.  Five bucks a week, or $15 a month.

Bloggers and other writers must agree in advance to proper use of citations, credit, respect for copyright, etc.  If included, they get a small fee based on click-throughs or related metrics.

I guess Google could do it as well.


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