OFF THE GRID

Newser by Users: Let 'er Rip

Mar 16, 10 | 1:52 PM   byMichael Wolff
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News rises.

It’s literally pushed up and spread around by the great cloud of readers.

This is an entirely new model of how to value and distribute news. The media is losing its official role. It’s more about who finds what news item, then shares it with whoever else, which, by some zeitgeist and algebraic force, launches it.

For everybody in the news business, the question is about how we adapt to this—or resist it.

Pay walls, and Rupert Murdoch’s half-cocked determination to block Google, and notions about exclusive provider relationships, are all efforts, not only to make additional dough, but to stop this new, disorienting, anarchic redistribution—this disintermediation, this de-professionalization of news.

The opposite idea is to go with it, encourage it, and, even, hitch your wagon to it—wherever it leads.

Today, on Newser’s homepage, below our curated grid—the place where our editors and algorithms select news that is read (and then redistributed) by almost 2.5 million people every month—we add a new grid. This new grid—Newser by Users—is a pure instance of user redistribution. We merely provide the tools to help find, and publish—or redistribute, if you will—the news, with whatever commentary and picture a user (but is a user still a user who becomes a provider?) might want to add. Beyond that, there’s no involvement on our part. Anybody can post whatever he or she wants. At anytime. Oversight will consist of only an eye for prosecutable libel and obscenity.

In part, the point is to do this because it is doable. Why shouldn’t we open our publishing system to users? What do we have to fear? And the point is to do it because it is happening anyway—a news organization can try to inhibit sharing or facilitate it. And, too, the point is that it’s another form of aggregation: It’s users finding, culling, selecting, posting what they’ve found. It’s a different filter. Why not offer it?

Will it be useful or will it be a hopeless hodgepodge? I have no idea. But I suspect both. We already receive lots of user suggestions—often items we might not have seen, or surfaced, ourselves. This new grid is meant to encourage that—bring it on. There is, too, a kind of perverseness factor that will be telling (and perhaps compelling): The user grid will no doubt reflect the most intense and passionate users—bring that on, too. And it will read in the contrast with our own grid: On the one hand, readers will have news as it has been selected by the criteria we have carefully developed; on the other hand, readers will have an entirely unmediated view of the news, news that is selected without calculation or professional bias, news that is rising without necessary benefit of media intercession.

Anyway, God help us. And here’s mud in your eye, Rupert Murdoch.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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