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We were the guppies, now they’re coming for the whales

I’ve been saying this for awhile but Mat really articulates it well here. Today, reports that Facebook will display full content from New York Times and others natively inside Facebook, compounds the fact that publishers aren’t willing to do what Facebook will do for them: build an optimal reading experience for mobile (particularly smartphone) consumption.

Facebook’s Chris Cox quoted in Re/Code.

We build Circa entirely based on the problem facing these news organizations, which is to build a natively optimized platform for consuming information on smartphones.

As Leah Finnegan at Gawker said, Facebook purchases its rivals. It consumes its subjects.

There’s some irony that I’m also posting this to Medium, which is as parasitic as Facebook and whose endgame is the same (while its aesthetics may be more alluring.)

I’ve written about digital feudalism before, it’s just becoming more ubiquitous and consuming even larger hosts. We were guppies, now they’re coming after the whales.

Our Transforming News Habits

Newsrooms are transforming to a great degree because the way we consume and create news is changing. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my Twitter. I know I can rely on my Twitter Lists, which I’ve carefully curated to be finely focused by reliable sources, both traditional and non-traditional, from the ground and from newsrooms.

In a highly un-scientific poll, with answers coming from Twitter, which again will skew the answers biased toward the medium of Twitter, I asked folks where they go first thing in the morning to check what happened overnight:

I asked the same question on Tumblr, which again skewed the answers a bit based on the demographic and the tendency of the folks there already to use Tumblr as a news source. Out of 97 responses, the top three were Tumblr (28%), Twitter (18%), and the New York Times (7%), with NPR Radio (5%) and Al-Jazeera (5%) not far behind. Other interesting answers were new email curation tools like Percolate, which look at your social networks, source out the links that are getting the most attention, and email you a digest of them the next morning.

The trend seems to be toward audiences looking for someone to tell them what to read. Overwhelmed with the sheer deluge of news and information, people are looking to curators that span news sources to bring them what they need to know. For some it’s good enough to let friends do it, but more and more people are looking to specialized curators who focus on certain topics, like politics, entertainment, auto, tech, etc. I’m more likely to go to @acarvin than anyone else if I need to know what is happening in the Middle East right this moment, because Andy is monitoring everything from multiple sources on traditional and non-traditional media and bringing it to me in real-time.

As the New York Times moves to a subscription model, which will allow free access to links in-bound from social networks, the role of a curator not only becomes a trusted organizer of news but a pathway to getting that news without having to dole out the access fee. It might be wise for the Times to work with these curators who may eventually become the major pathway that leads people to their content.