Scott Karp’s response to Clay Shirky on future of news syndication
A very interesting riposte from Scott Karp to Clay Shirky‘s Nieman Journalism article What will 2011 bring for journalism? Clay Shirky predicts widespread disruptions for syndication. Karp’s response is contained in the following post also the Nieman blog: Scott Karp: Clay Shirky’s right that syndication’s getting disrupted — but not in the ways he thinks it is.
Below is my synopsis of Karp’s key messages.
News Consumption is moving away from the traditional “aggregated links” model to rich forms of interaction and packaging
In 2011, we’ll see open acknowledgement of what has long been understood about the traditional desktop web as a platform for consuming news content — it sucks.
News consumption has begun a major shift from the traditional desktop web to apps for touch tablets for a simple reason — the user experience and user interface are so much better, as the recent RJI survey of iPad users reflects. Consumers are choosing tablet apps over the traditional desktop web based on the quality of the user experience and the overall content “package.”
The shift to rich, immersive news readers changes the role of syndication
With the immersive, hands-on experience of a tablet news app, the value of syndication changes entirely. Apps that deliver nothing but one news organization’s content will not compare favorably with the content richness of the web, no matter how good the UI is. And apps that bounce users around from site to site with an in-app browser, mimicking the traditional desktop web model, will fail for precisely the reason why users chose the app in the first place.
But news apps that can deliver full content, curated from a wide range of sources, within a cohesive, optimized — even breakthrough — UI for news consumption, will win because users will have the best of both worlds. Syndication in news apps will not be about republishing news that everyone else has. It will be about combining curated news with original content in order to create consumer packages that are deeply engaging and in many cases worth paying for. With this shift, news organizations will stop ceding to aggregators the huge value creation of curating and packaging news. Instead, news organizations will start defining their editorial brands as curators as much as they define them as original content creators.
Syndication through social networks and affiliated content brands
First, the basics. Quoting Karp:
Traditional syndication is based on a hub-and-spoke model, where a newswire middleman takes in content from many sources, combines it with original content, and redistributes it. This is an inefficient, obsolete model and will be replaced by a model that has proven wildly successful in the consumer world — the social network.
This syndication strategy involves leveraging social graphs, typically associated with large social networking sites like Facebook. However, Karp also addresses syndication through affiliated brands across a content network – thereby leveraging the network effects of the network.
News organizations will create a network of trusted sources, the equivalent of “friends,” but where the relationships are based on distribution and the affiliation of editorial brands. I call this the “Content Graph,” the analogue to Facebook’s “Social Graph.”
This is a powerful notion, and it dovetails very well into a Community Journalism strategy and ad network strategies. Karp makes the point – which was has been voiced often by Tim O’Reilly, Hal Varian, Jeff Jarvis, and others – that leveraging network effects is an essential strategy for a web-based world. Oh, and he provides a link to a Sean Parker talk from the Web 2.0 Summit 2009 to illustrate the point.
The role of Curation in important to News Media Brands
Karp makes the case that curation of content by the consumer’s social graph is becoming an increasingly important role of news curation, and that is poised to rival Google’s relevance algorithms for determining relevance for a new consumer. He then makes the point that “the value of human curation is actually becoming more important in defining the value of news brands”.
Hmm, that’s not really human curation though. That’s still algorithmic curation, but by a different relevance algorithm, now centered around a user’s social graph. While I agree curation is a valuable activity, I tend to agree with Shirky that news organizations will increasingly have to “add value” to content, or provide a unique perspective, and not just endlessly republish original source content.
Free syndicated content changes the business model of syndication
I’m not going to elaborate on this point. Please see Karp’s article.
The most important point I took away from Karp’s article was around syndication through affiliated brands across a content network to leverage network effects. Definitely want to give this some more thought.