Category Archives: Huffington Post

If You Have News, It Will Be Aggregated and/or Curated

The Pew Research Center has come out with a massive new report on the state of media as part of its Project for Excellence in Journalism, and it comes to a number of conclusions about where the industry stands—including the fact that Twitter and Facebook are still driving a fairly small amount of traffic to media outlets (although this segment is growing quickly) and that such tech giants as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft control almost 70 percent of online advertising. But one other thing that becomes clear from the Pew report is just how big a role aggregators of all kinds—both human and machine-powered—are playing in news consumption.

Despite the growing evidence to the contrary, many newspaper companies and other traditional media outlets still seem to think the vast majority of their audience comes to them directly and prefers to read their content above all other sources. More than anything else, this is the core philosophy behind the rise of paywalls—which more and more papers are implementing—and also the millions of dollars media companies have poured into developing iPad apps and other walled-garden-style approaches to news delivery. The assumption is that readers will want only the content that comes from that specific outlet.

For many consumers, however, aggregators of various kinds are the way they consume their news now, whether through Web-based portals like Yahoo News or Google News, or through a variety of newer aggregation-based apps and services, such as Flipboard, Pulse, or Zite for the iPad, as well as News.me, Summify (which was recently acquired by Twitter), and Percolate. According to the Pew report, almost 30 percent of consumers get their news from a “news organizing website or app,” compared with the 36 percent who go directly to a media company’s website or app.

In effect, many users seem to be looking to generate their own digital-newspaper-style overview of the world rather than accepting one from a single media outlet, and if the content they are looking for comes from an aggregator like the Huffington Post because the original is behind a paywall, then so be it. The problem for media companies is that this kind of behavior is in direct conflict with most of  the business models they’re relying on for revenue, whether it’s advertising or app- and paywall-based subscription services—which is why such media moguls as News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch continually accuse Google of “piracy.”

And the problem is actually even bigger than that, since the Huffington Post and Google News are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aggregation and/or curation. Although Facebook and Twitter may not be huge factors in terms of news consumption at the moment—as my colleague Staci has pointed out at paidContent—with only 9 percent of users saying they get their news from those networks, that figure has grown almost 60 percent in the past year alone and is likely continuing to increase.

To some extent the curation phenomenon is helping mainstream news organizations, because people are sharing links that get clicked on and drive traffic back to news outlets. This is especially the case with Twitter, since the Pew report notes that a larger proportion of users follow official media sources there, while a majority of Facebook users get their news from friends and family members. But just as with aggregation apps and services, the content that any single media company produces just becomes part of the sea of content that is distributed through these networks.

On top of that, Facebook itself is becoming much more of an aggregator of news, through the “social reading” apps it offers from such outlets as the Washington Post and the Guardian. Although both newspapers have bragged about the number of people who have registered for their apps and shared content through them, the reality is that much of the benefit from that activity ultimately goes to Facebook—in terms of the time users spend on the site, the advertising they are exposed to, etc.—rather than the news outlet.

Emily Bell, the former Guardian digital editor who now runs the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, noted in a response to the Pew report on Twitter that social platforms like Facebook are becoming “frenemies” with media companies, since they generate traffic but also suck up much of the benefit in terms of advertising.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-19/if-you-have-news-it-will-be-aggregated-and-or-curated

Huffington Post outstrips NYT web traffic in May

Call it a sign of the changing times: The Huffington Post had more unique visitors to its website than the venerable New York Times in May, outstripping the Grey Lady’s web traffic for the first time, according to data from market research firm comScore Inc. The newspaper, owned by New York Times Co., has been experimenting with a new online revenue model for two months now — a paywall that charges readers for access to more than a certain number of articles. In April, the first full month of the paywall, nytimes.com had 32.9 million unique visitors, still ahead of huffingtonpost.com’s 29.9 million. But HuffPo took the lead in May with 35.6 million unique visitors compared to 33.6 for the NYT. For the period from May 2010 to May 2011, the New York Times’ website hit a high of 38.1 unique visitors in March 2011, just before the introduction of the paywall. HuffPo — the popular online news site that offers a combination of aggregation and original reporting and recently launched a Canadian version — has yet to see those kind of numbers. In terms of newspaper websites, the Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal followed with 19.9 million, 18.4 million, and 13.9 million unique visitors respectively in May 2011, according to comScore

http://business.financialpost.com/2011/06/09/huffington-post-outstrips-nyt-web-traffic-in-may/

Huffington Post Buys Adaptive Semantics To Keep Up With 100,000 Comments A Day

The Huffington Post has acquired its first company in a small cash deal, and it is not another blog or media site, but a pure technology startup called Adaptive Semantics. The two-person startup provides a semantic analysis engine (aka JuLiA) already used by the Huffington Post to help moderate the 100,000 comments published on the blog every day. Prior to the acquisition, the Huffington Post was already Adaptive Semantic’s largest and only outside investor, buying a 20 percent stake in April, 2009. JuLiA uses “supervised machine learning,” according to co-founder Jeff Revesz, to flag inappropriate comments, spam, and abusive language. Humans manually tag a few hundred comments, which then get fed into the semantic analysis engine and applied across every comment. This is an ongoing process so that the system continually gets better and better. Not only can it detect abusive language or hate speech, but it can also help find commenters who may be topic experts. Beyond comment moderation and making sure readers behave themselves on the site, the underlying semantic analysis technology can help bubble up the best contributions from readers. JuLiA could help to feature the best comments or to award specific badges. It also could be applied to article recommendations

http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/17/huffington-post-buys-adapative-semantics/