(Good) blog aggregators are the best source of news

By Ross Dawson on December 2, 2008 | Permalink

As one of many deeply absorbed in the US Presidential elections, I spent a lot of time scouring the news to gain insights into the latest as the extraordinary story unfolded. I consistently found that blog aggregator Memeorandum provided the best view on what the most relevant and interesting news was. Often stories became prominent on Memeorandum before they hit the mainstream press.
This points to what I first wrote six years ago in Living Networks, and have often restated:

“Blogs are not necessarily important individually, but in aggregate they are massively powerful. The “blogosphere” pulls together what millions of talented people around the world are discovering and thinking. Collectively, blogs enable us to collaborate to filter and uncover the most worthwhile news.”

The Guardian is the latest to say Memeorandum runs rings around Google News.

“Memeorandum is embarrassingly better than Google News. Google reckons that the more coverage a story gets, the more important it is. Unfortunately, broad coverage takes a long time to develop, so Google News can run hours or even a day behind Memeorandum. This is fine for casual consumers, but if you’re a news junkie – or a journalist – it’s hopeless.”

The fact that Memeorandum is so often ahead in showing breaking news is partly an issue of getting the algorithms right, but it’s at least as much the fact that Memeorandum follows blog conversations. Those conversations reflect what many of the most influential people – in aggregate – think are the most relevant and interesting stories, trumping the ability of news editors to scour and select the most prominent news. There was a fair amount of news-breaking by blogs during the election, but more of the advantage was tapping those collective insights.
Memeorandum was heavily tracked by political bloggers during the election, and today a host of prominent politic bloggers (who probably count as the most extreme news junkies in the worlds) have linked to this story with their own compliments. See: The Moderate Voice (“in case you don’t know about it… you need to“), Buck Naked Politics (“It’s certainly the first place we look to stay on top of what’s happening”), Outside the Beltway (“Memeorandum has long been my first stop to see what stories people are buzzing about.”), and The Impolitic (I’ve long considered Memeorandum to be an essential blogger tool for checking the daily buzz… If the media was a true meritocracy, then Gabe would rule their world”)
It’s interesting to me that both Memeorandum and Techmeme, the technology blog aggregator par excellence in a crowded field, still don’t get a lot of traffic. The visitors they do get include the most influential and switched-on people in politics and technology, but for seem reason they’ve never hit the mainstream. It makes me think there’s still an opportunity in this space, despite many failed attempts so far.
Gabe Rivera, the creator of Memeorandum (and sister sites Techmeme, WeSmirch and Ballbug), spoke at our Future of Media Summit 2007, on our Influence Networks panel, offering some great insights.

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