Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Friday, August 15, 2008

What Is Newsmastering And What Are Newsradars? RSS News Aggregation And Re-Publishing For Beginners

"If you have mastered the blogging paradigm, have made your blog an authority and a reliable source of information, commentary or news in your selected field(/s) of interest, it is about time to "scale yourself up" - Work Less and Look More At The Bigger Picture (= See the Future). "
(Source: MasterNewMedia, 2006)

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Photo credit: Solarseven

I have first thought about newsmastering and newsradars over four years ago, in 2004, when RSS feeds were taking off like wildfire in the early adopter community. As I had been using them for many months already, I had strong feelings against what Robert Scoble was promoting at the time, trumpeting his ability to subscribe and follow to over a thousand different RSS feeds.

Scaling yourself up means transforming your role from one of contributor, writer to one that is more focused on being a filter/collector/aggregator of news from other sources.

Newsmastering is a new and emerging skill that involves gathering, filtering and selecting from the chaos of information that saturates the internet, and delivering the resulting news feed to niche-targeted audiences.

The internet is so vast, that finding what you are looking for is becoming increasingly difficult. Google searches, however well refined, can produce hundreds of thousands of results.

With the amount of news and information arriving to us daily, this is a space that someone will need to fill in any case. The value provided to others by having someone filter and select ahead of them relevant news fitting a specific topic/ theme will increase its value by orders of magnitude in the near future.

And while it takes really no special cognitive skill the process of subscribing to so many feeds, you can easily imagine the result of such an approach. You need more time to scan / browse all feeds, you have less time for inspecting each one item, and as a consequence the quality of information gathering and analysis you can perform goes down with each new feed you add (unless you have unlimited time in your normal days).

If you missed my past writings on the topic of newsmastering, I am just going to provide you with a short refresher intro to what RSS newsmastering and newsradars are all about.

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What Is NewsMastering

Newsmastering is the process by which a human being identifies, aggregates, hand-picks, edits and republishes a highly-focused, thematic news via RSS. Newsmastering allows dedicated news editors (newsmasters) to remix and contextualize the existing tsunami of breaking news for very specific audiences in one thousand and more ways.

Can you be more specific?

Sure.

What do print newspapers do? They gather stories from newswire feeds to which they subscribe to and pick up selected stories that fit their readership and rewrite them in their newspaper style and format. Additionally newspaper editors pick up news stories to cover from other newspapers (very much) as well as from their own direct sources, which pass to them specific news tips and pointers.

What I have named "Newsmastering" is a process by which you do something very similar to the above although in a fully virtual newsroom (your computer) and with the speed and efficiency that new media tools can afford you.

So a newsmaster wanting to provide coverage on a specific topic / industry / issue would basically do the following:



1. Research


Search and identify a good number of reliable news and content sources on the very topic of interest - gathering of RSS feed or creation of custom RSS feed for them when not available (Dapper is a good tool to do that but there are other ones too)




2. RSS Feed Creation


Create of a number of RSS feeds based on custom "persistent searches" on the different content areas of the Internet (blogosphere, web, news, directories, forums, social media, etc.) to scan wider and the deeper the Internet for relevant stories on your topic.

 

3. Aggregation


Aggregate of all the above-created RSS feeds into one "master" raw news feed, in which all content coming from all the RSS feeds you have identified and created is mixed into one chronological stream.




4. Filtering


Filter out duplicate content, spam, news in other languages and other non-relevant or must-be-excluded news content.




5. News Selection and Editing


Select like a DJ the best and most relevant news stories for your readership. Save them a huge amount of browsing time while trying to provide them always with relevant stories from new alternative sources. The editing part may consist only in the fixing of badly formatted stories, titles, or in the minor editing of news descriptions.




6. Syndication - Publishing of Newsradar


Publish, and re-distribute your final product as a content newsradar on a specific topic. Integrate it on your site home page or internal side columns and offer the opportunity for other sites in related fields to also re-use it and include it in their pages.



In summary: Newsmastering is the ability to identify, select, aggregate, filter and distribute/ publish news and information on very specific themes / topics.




What's The Big Deal? Role / Value of Newsmastering

The key value of newsmastering is in understanding its role not as an opportunity to for easy and indiscriminate syndication of other people's content but as a missing vital role for the social network to scale its need to make sense of the huge amount of information it creates.

In other words: you and I are under a tsunami of information coming at us. It increases day by day and shows no signs of stopping. The number of interesting sources and blogs we like to follow increases daily and so the time required then to separate what is relevant to us from what is not.

The newsmaster plays a vital role in this information economy. It saves you from having to go out and check all of the relevant news sources that publish news that may interest you. SHe acts as a filter and saves you from reading ten stories from Techcrunch or Mashable when there is only one from each that is relevant to your specific audience.

The unique value that the newsmaster brings into the information economy equation is the more formal acknowledgement and introduction of a human-based news filtering into the news distribution mechanism. The newsmaster helps the system scale, provides higher quality and more relevant content to be accessible by a greater number of people, does the dirty job of categorizing, ordering and separating news according to specific audiences and interests.




My Case

For example, in my case here at Master New Media, I and the other newsmasters in my team work hard at one very specific goal: finding breaking news stories, resources and new tools that are specifically relevant to people who want to be professional web publishers.

When in the news selection session I look at that infinite stream of news in front of my eyes, the only key criteria I have for hand-picking relevant news for my readers is asking myself: how is this story relevant to someone who badly wants to improve its online communication skills? Is this just another cool item, is this something that appeals to me (and not to my readers) or is this story specifically relevant for my readers? If it is, I hand-pick that news and include it for my readers. If not, I'll use it for something else, but I will not dilute my newsradar focus and quality selection just to have more stuff.

See, that is exactly what Techcrunch and Mashable do. They give you tons of great stuff, but the focus, the thread line that pulls it all together is very, very broad. Whatever falls under web 2.0, social networking, new media and technology they cover.

What would be the benefit for my readers, if I cater to an audience of people who want to learn more about professional web publishing, that I tell them about each new web 2.0 tool that comes out or about the new 5 million dollar financing round that a new social media company has just closed? Unless you are in the business of making business out of other web companies I would not think this stuff would be of much use to you in the real world.



Isn't Normal Blogging Already A Form Of Newsmastering?

Well, you may say, "but isn't this what most tech and media bloggers do?"

Most tech and media bloggers try to make as many news into their own stories to gain extra page views, visibility and traffic. They are just echoing the PR news machine. Nothing more.

The exception to this are link posts and link blogs in which straight lists of interesting news stories are shared publicly by an author.

See, you really don't need to make the story yours if your goal is to gain extra value and credibility to your audience.

Who do you perceive as having a greater command of a topic? Someone who writes a news story for a news company or someone who picks up the best news from all of the authors of all the news companies?

If you are great at finding some the most interesting news in your field, why not make a valuable content resource by publishing / sharing it as an actual news feed? That is what I would call a newsradar.

Think about it. This is an extremely valuable news service you can give to your readers. If they like the news you select for them, they are going to come back to you to get more of them.




What Is A Newsradar

A newsradar is an aggregated set of RSS news feeds on one specific topic.

I have chosen this name to describe the fact that such a feed scans the Internet for relevant, compliant news and as a consequence allows to track and closely monitor any specific topic, product, event, person or brand that gets mentioned on the Internet (even when, the source does not publish an RSS feed.)

You can have a newsradar on just about any topic.

Actually there are a number of companies that have created and used newsradars to enhance the value of the information they provide to their customers. Most do not call them news radars, but what they do is exactky what I have described for you here.

The difficult part in creating effective newsradars is that they require some time to be setup, good knowledge of the field to be covered and personal time by a competent person to maintain them. Rare traits to bring together, believe me. And one more reason why newsmastering is a valuable opportunity for creating a marketing advantage over competitors if you are in the position to do so.




How Can You Create A Newsradar

Anyone can create a newsradar by utilizing any software or web service that allows both the aggregation and manual filtering of multiple RSS feeds into one. This means that not only the service you use must allow you to subscribe easily and mix together any number of different RSS feeds, the same tool must also allow you to play the role of the news jockey who selects, orders, remixes and plays the best and most relevant news coming under his specific area of focus.

There are now very many tools that allow you to do this effectively. I only recommend the ones that I know and have used and in this light I have three basic ones that you can consider using:

a) Google Reader


Google Reader is a web-based RSSreader which allows you to subscribe to all the RSS feeds you want and see them as one stream of news inside your browser. By utilizing Google Reader "Share" function you can create a news RSS feed can be created that will include only the specific news stories you have selected to "share". This gives you effectively the basic newsmastering ability to choose sources, aggregate and then play the news editor by selecting only the ones to publish in your news stream. Simple, free and easy.



b) BlogBridge


Blogbridge is a great cross-platform open-source RSS feed reader, aggregator and publisher. It can hook up directly to your existing blog publishing system to create a seamless bridge between your news production and your more traditional site publishing chores. BlogBridge has a cool interface, many valuable features and great support. Read more about BlogBridge newsmastering potential and other related newsmastering services such the BlogBridge Feed Library (this remains a cool idea to further cultivate).



c) MySyndicaat


MySyndicaat is the most sophisticated and powerful one though it doesn't come without its own idyiosyncracies and limitations. Not an easy to use tool, as it requires some getting used to, MySyndicaat has some really powerful functions and it is targeted at professional news publishers who want a powerful and scalable corporate-grade tool to manage all of their news aggregation and republishing. To get a free account you need to contact gianni [at] kipcast (mentioning you have read this news on Robin Good' site) and provide some good reasons for which they should give you an account (they are not interested anymore in freewheelers and are activately marketing to serious news publishers).

If you want to know more about the tools and techniques that expert newsmasters use check Marjolein Hoekstra of http://cleverclogs.org/ (I now realize should have included her in the list of past MasterNewMedia glories in my internship article the other day, as I can't miss seeing how much Marjolein has picked up from her internship / collaboration experience at MasterNewMedia) and John Tropea of Library Clips blogs who have long surpassed me in their competence and familiarity with such tools.




What Is A Newsmaster

We need something of an entirely new order of magnitude to manage all of this information. Search engines, open directories, and millions of bloggers are not enough.

We need a multi-layered, self-organizing approach that allows the load to be highly distributed and the focus and depth to be guaranteed by the combined result of many highly focused individual efforts.

As Stephen Downes correctly explained: "The layered mechanism works because at no point is the entire weight of the filtering process concentrated in a single individual or a single resource.

It means that individual agents can work without the need for central control, with the only requirement for a functional system being an open set of connections between the agents.

What RSS does best is that it allows an individual to scan, filter, and pass forward. That's all it ever has to do.

The network can and will do the rest."

The newsmaster is a like a disc-jockey for the news. It manually selects the best and most relevant news stories according to a specific theme / focus.

A newsmaster is anyone who while utilizing automatic RSS aggregation and filtering tools acts a news curator, digest editor in hand-picking and selecting exclusively the stories, coming from external news sources, that are particularly relevant to his audience.




Difference Between Automatic Aggregation and Newsmastering

Automatic aggregation and filtering of news can be applied only to the most basic part of a newsmaster workflow. The real added value is specifically in the ability of the newsmaster to manually pick the very best and most relevant stories for its target audience. This is why newsmastering is so valuable to those publishers who address a very specific market niche and have invested significant time in profiling their audience characteristics, interests and news needs. To republish cool breaking news from a broad spectrum of sources offers little or no value to your reader as most everyone has already identified broad, mainstream news sources which serve reliably that type of content.

Techmeme is an automatic aggregation and filtering web new service which is very popular but which covers a very wide range of technology and media related news while basing its news selection algorithms more on popularity (which news have more of a news chamber effect) than on originality, relevance (too broad an audience) or inherent information quality. You just need a live human being to do that.




Linkblogs Are A Primitive Form of Newsradars

Link blogs, linkrolls, daily link lists, linkstreams or collected selection of links, a content many bloggers and small web publishers like to put out (especially on weekends) is a primitive form of newsmastering itself.

In many cases small publishers create link blogs because of the limited opportunity they have to give coverage to interesting news and announcements they run into during their news gathering and reading tasks. In order not to waste such relevant content encountered many web publishers put out short blog posts in which they include a short list of titles and links they have run into during their online wanderings. Morale: the interesting news found don't go lost and can be used as a valuable content asset for the publisher audience.

Newsmastering is just the formalization of the linkblog attitude into a systematic, daily news selection and curation process that allows the publisher to create a highly customized news content stream. Instead of a post containing a bunch of links, you create a news feed, which if updated regularly, can have its own permanent space on your web site.




Want To Know More? Ask!

Of course there is a lot more to say about newsmastering and newsradars.

For example the whole topic of how to identify and create a cool pool of news sources it's worth a whole discussion, as much as how to create and utilize the power of "persistent searches" to be alerted of breaking news on specific topics and to discover new unknown but relevant sources.

Want to know more? Not clear about some of the aspects of newsmastering? Know of a specific tool that could be helpful to create effective newsradars? Have some great example of newsmastering to show?

In each and every case use the comments section here below and contribute your own ideas and suggestions. I'll be happy to reply and comment back at every opportunity you give me.

 

Originally written by for MasterNewMedia and first published on August 15th 2008 as "What Is Newsmastering And What Are Newsradars? RSS News Aggregation And Re-Publishing For Beginners"

 
 
 
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posted by Robin Good on Friday, August 15 2008, updated on Saturday, April 24 2010


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