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Is personalized news a mirage?

Having been personally associated with an attempt to create a 'personalized' news reader, it was amusing to read views of Eric Schmidt on the subject. Bang on target – Eric steered clear of what a personalized news reader should be, and just highlighted that the increase in the personalized (also mobile) devices which we use to consume info will automatically lead to need for personalizing the content itself.

However, looking at personalized news from someone else's eyes, I for the first time am realizing that for all the good efforts of the geek world – humans may not need personalized news after all!

By personalized news I mean, the news which I as an individual am interested in. For example some ways to determine the classifications for such news are:
  • All News from sources chosen by me
  • Any News related to the topics which I am interested in (Sports / tech etc)
  • News being read by people in my network (colleagues, friends, family)
  • News which relates to any entity in my life (my school / qualification, my city, my company etc)
But consider this – when you open the newspaper everyday, do you expect to see what's happening round the world or what's just happening in the limited span of your 'personalized world'? You may be a tech enthusiast or sports buff, yet you would want to know about what's the biggest news of the day, only then would you turn to your areas of interest.

Second, not everyone is a die hard sports buff or geek! There are people who read the newspaper just to read about interesting stuff. They possibly can't define their interests if you ask them, but would end up reading the Sunday Times back to back which talks about everything from politics, spirituality etc to cooking and travel.

This makes me feel that the more information (news) is available in the world, the more the need for good human editors. Machines can probably create filters or 'personalized' news but only for those who are:
  1. professionals looking for updates on their field of interest (like Web programmers looking for tech news)
  2. Editors themselves, looking for what could be a part of the next edition of their journal, magazine or website's homepage.
But definitely, personalized news cannot replace the traditional magazine / newspaper (print or online - any news source supported by a news editing organization as in reporters, editors etc).

So I guess all the 'personalized news engine' makers out there (Reddit, AideRSS, Me-Zine, even newsrivers like TwitMeme and TechMeme), need to rethink their goals, target audiences and appeal. Probably a combination of an automated news-filtering engine with a human editorial team is indeed the ideal choice.

That's my take! What do you think?

*Personalized news reader was one of our aims for Bloozle though we wanted to limit our sources to blogging world than include generic news sites also


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