In case you missed it: Power to the people. NOT. Last night’s Fox/Google debate had all kinds of cool techie dimensions, most of which were helpful. The not-helpful part was the crowdsourced questions, which were for the most part softballs lobbed by ideologically simpatico Americans. Candidates, accordingly, responded with their well-practiced lines, yielding predictability. One vote here for letting the experts blast away. Also: Do we really need a poll of 1,501 respondents to tell us that people trust the outlets they trust more than the ones they don’t?
*Wired goes long and deep on The Washington Post’s new “Social Reader” app. Here’s some of the skinny:
Your feed is based on much more than the latest articles to hit the wire. Social Reader is powered by Trove, a news-aggregation web site launched by The Washington Post Company in April. In order to tailor your newsfeed specifically to your reading interests over time, Trove uses algorithms that account for what you’ve already read, what your friends are reading and what it has learned from your Facebook profile information.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Other companies — inside and outside Silicon Valley — are launching similar initiatives. The Wall Street Journal launched its “WSJ Social” app on Tuesday, which allows users to access WSJ content within Facebook without requiring users to visit the Journal’s site. Last month, AOL debuted its iPad-only “Editions” app, which delivers a daily magazine-like package of aggregated news content from multiple outlets, with the selections changing over time as the user denotes his or her preferences.
The verdict of this review? WaPo’s “Social Reader” has a “fighting chance” at relevancy. Which is a pretty lame bit of tech criticism. That’d be like a movie reviewer saying, “This film has a fighting chance of entertaining you.” That way, the reviewer covers his butt for any outcome. Take a stand, Wired.
*Romo has the goods on Emily Peck leaving the Wall Street Journal for the Huffington Post. HuffPo’s Peter S. Goodman pens the welcome memo for Peck and shows why he is the site’s EXECUTIVE business editor, and not just the business editor:
Emily’s hiring represents our commitment to continue elevating and expanding these three vital, high-traffic sites that collectively help our readers unravel the real life issues of home, job and money.
*Want to read a balanced and smart take on over-aggregation? Try Ryan McCarthy’s thing on the Business Insider. Paragraph by paragraph, Reuters’ McCarthy takes apart how BI extracts the most valuable bits and pieces of other folks’ work and throws them up on its site. Along the way, McCarthy does acknowledge that he once worked at Huffington Post, which, of course, gets hammered for much the same practice. Sample the granularity of this analysis:
Business Insider wrote 112 words on a 182-word TMZ story on a former NFL running back who is now living with his parents. There are two quotes in the original piece, which TMZ says were obtained from court documents. Business Insider reprints both quotes wholesale, then lifts almost every other fact from the original article, including details on the player’s contract and information about his child support obligations.
I’ll stop the aggregation right there, if only to avoid the evil of which McCarthy accuses Business Insider.
Instead of aggregation, I’ll switch to bombast: Though the McCarthy piece is only a dozen or so paragraphs long, it marks a watershed. A former HuffPoer and believer in aggregation now slashing away at BI will embolden similar attacks on sites that take too much. Just watch.
Oh, look here — it already has. Using McCarthy’s piece as a springboard, blogger and Instapaper creator Marco Arment blasts away at how little traffic he gets from BI, even though the site links to his site quite often. Arment connects with me by citing BI’s maddening inclination to create “top-list ‘slideshows’ that make readers click for every item and defraud advertisers into thinking that their pageviews are legitimate.” BI did that just a little while back, in a post about Ron Suskind’s new book, “Confidence Men.” It decided that the book packed 10 explosive revelations, and it asked readers to click to a new slide for each one of those revelations. I refused and navigated away. Not going to fall for pageview stunts.
*HuffPo’s Michael Calderone questions whether Gary Johnson may have pilfered his laugh line about dogs and shovel-ready projects. He even gets an assist from fellow HuffPoer Sara Kenigsberg, who reports that Johnson had some funny guy from Albuquerque send him some jokes for use in the debate. Bet that funny guy had a smile on his face last night after Johnson made use of his work.
*Good on Tommy Christopher of Mediaite for staying on top of the press’s work on Michele Bachmann’s dodgy approach to public accountability. After pushing her downright loony theories about the HPV vaccine to the public, Bachmann last night tried to back away from them, saying that she was just passing along what some woman told her. Watching the videos on NBC and elsewhere, Bachmann gave the inescapable conclusion that she knew exactly what she was talking about. She spoke as if she had been a doctor or a scientist, though she claimed later, in bachtracking, that she wasn’t.
Also on Mediaite: Andrew Breitbart’s allegedly explosive e-mail on Joe McGinniss and his Palin book turns out to be more allegedly than explosive.