Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Real-Time News Curation, Newsmastering And Newsradars - The Complete Guide Part 1: Why We Need It

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The time it takes to follow and go through multiple web sites and blogs takes tangible time, and since most sources publish or give coverage to more than one topic, one gets to browse and scan through lots of useless content just for the sake of finding what is relevant to his specific interest. Even in the case of power-users utilizing RSS feed readers, aggregators and filters, the amount of junk we have to sift through daily is nothing but impressive, so much so, that those who have enough time and skills to pick the gems from that ocean of tweets, social media posts and blog posts, enjoy a fast increasing reputation and visibility online.

Photo credit: dsharpie and franckreporter mashed up by Robin Good

"What we need to get much better at is scaling that system so you don't have to pay attention to everything, but you don't miss the stuff you care about..."
Ev Williams at a Girls in Tech event at Kicklabs
via Stowe Boyd's blog

Real-time news curation, or what I call "newsmastering", is the art of finding, aggregating, filtering, selecting, curating and republishing high-quality news stories on a very specific theme, topic, or for a particular audience interest, problem, passion.

It grows out of the need to make sense of this very need to filter and make sense of the enormous amount of information that is available out there and that keeps increasing by the hour.

Real-time news curation, is also an emerging, new online professional role, the news curator, or newsmaster in sorting, editing, enriching and picking the most relevant news and stories on specific topics-themes.

Traditional newspapers curated news content from their associated news wire agencies, affiliated news bureaus and direct reporters, to create a bit-of-everything top-down/broadcast characterized by a mass-communication approach.

In the case of real-time news curation, it is the user who selects his preferred topics and his trusted curator / newsmaster and then subscribes to it via a feed, social channel or newsletter.

As individuals become increasingly more media literate they increasingly select their personally trusted news curators on specific topics, rather than relying on the more superficial and generic information streams provided to them by traditional news channels.

Thematic and topic-specific news channels have greater affinity with the natural flow of information on the Internet. They intercept and provide valuable news information to those specifically interested in them, filtering out the junk and picking up the most relevant items.

This, I believe is the direction in which we are haded and the modality in which human beings will keep themselves updated in the near future.

If until yesterday you have relied on generalists on main TV channels and newspapers to "present" and report to you the news they got themselves from other sources, wouldn't it be a step forward if now you could get:

a) The specific type of news you wanted

b) from those trusted ones you believe to be "in the know" in your field of interest?

That's right; individual experts or small teams who curate topic-specific news channels by selecting the best of all the news out there on the topic they have built authority and expertise for (while disclosing and providing you with a link for each and every source).

This eight-part guide is dedicated to explaining and illustrating what these emerging news curators do, what is the difference between them and automatic aggregation, what skills and tools they require and what their future is going to look like. More specifically:

  • What real-time news curation is,
  • why it is going to be so relevant,
  • how it came to be,
  • how it is done,
  • what tools and skills you need to do it,
  • what are the tools and technologies needed,
  • which are the existing services and tools,
  • which is the ideal news curation system features set,
  • what is the future going to look like.

Here is everything you need to know to understand how we are going to manage the information overload and what real-time news curation, or newsmastering, is all about.


The Problem

No matter whether you see it as "information overload" or "filter failure" the key fact here is that there is so much information being produced out there, that it is next to impossible to follow or keep up with just about any specific topic, without spending considerable amounts of time looking at irrelevant stuff.

That is the the essence.

To make the issue even more frustrating, no matter how much junk you go through, you may still be missing on some important news story or product announcement just because there are so many sources to look up and it becomes physically impossible to scan them all.

There is indeed much more food than we can chew.

Duration: 23' 51'' - Clay Shirky on the concept of "filter failure" at Web 2.0 Expo NY

And so, we start relying on a few trusted sources to do the heavy lifting for us, and to bring back to us what we really need not to be missing.

These trusted sources may be blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter channels or Facebook contacts helping you find what is more relevant.

The theory goes that by following people who have your same interests, you can learn from what they share online.

But, the theory here has gotten quickly ahead of the practice, and following such people, while it does provide the opportunity to discover some great things, and have somme good exchanges, it forces you to have to digest and wade through a much larger number of information items with little or no relevance to you.

Is that sustainable?

I don't think so.



Key Reasons Why Managing The Information Flow The Way You Have Done Until Today, Is Not Good Enough

Here some very good starters:

  1. The information tsunami keeps growing daily,
  2. there are new blogs, Twitter channels and news sources launching every day,
  3. there is an increasing amount of personal, serendipitous, but also distracting, colloquial content
  4. there is a growing amount of spam and marketing push masked as blog posts or press releases,
  5. on Twitter and other social media channels, there are a large number of unverified news and stories pointing to low-quality or even missing pages,
  6. it is hard for a newbie to distinguish a reliable trustable source from a marketer or spammer,
  7. Crap detection is a rare skill among users and too much low-quality content sifts through unless properly checked,
  8. titling and meta information is often misleading, ambiguous or just not clear enough,
  9. you can't be there always. You can't check the news 24 hours a day, seven days a week,
  10. unless you have some advanced skills it may be difficult for you to find new relevant sources of information and news from the ones you know, unless they are the ones to promote them
  11. relying always on the same sources tends to limit your view and awareness of other new ideas and opinions in your field of interest,
  12. news stories need to be contextualized - sometimes the relevance of a story for you can only be found by reading the story and extracting something else, than the main call, from it.

Given the above, how do you go about keeping yourself updated on your specific field of interest, without wasting a lot of time by having to follow too many blogs, feeds, Twitter channels and Facebook friends who are often not talking about what you are specifically interested in?


The Natural Remedy - The Spontaneous Evolution of Online News Curation


How Did We Manage So Far? From Google to Social Media

Google News


New blogs, online newspapers and magazines, social media networks. How did we manage to follow them all anyway, up until now?

In the beginning it was Google, who offered you a helping hand by playing the middle-man between your specific needs out there. "Are you searching for something? Here is a web page that can help you with this info", Google would reply.

But when it came to starting to "organize", sort and "make sense" of everything else being published online, what is happening in a certain market, or staying up-to-date on a specific topic how does Google help you achieve that?

Google News? ...hmmmm, not really.

"...In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource? One solution has been algorithmic: Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but fall short when it comes to personalization..."
Pete Cashmore


RSS Aggregation


And so we got into RSS. Each one becomes his own self-directed curator, by subscribing to his preferred sources and feeds and by reading what he likes best.

But that got us in more trouble.

By utilizing RSS readers - aggregators you have yes stopped the daily tour of your preferred web sites, but you have gotten into serious more trouble as now you get all of the content coming from all of those different web sites being democratized into your RSS readers and making each article, look like every other one.

The consequence is that there is now more wading through stuff that is unimportant to you than ever before.

Many of the RSS feeds you subscribe to contain a lot of personal stuff, replies and comments that add little or nothing to your craving to find out and learn more. Furthermore following many of these RSS feeds requires serious time and attention. Two personal assets that are increasingly valuable as they become scarcer and scarcer.


Topic-Based Aggregation


Further on, we have tried "thematic" or "topic-based aggregation" based on a pre-selected number of quality sources publishing content on specific topics. This type of aggregation has introduced some benefits for those wanting to get only the latest from the most popular, authority sites, in a fast and easy fashion.

Relevant examples have been the early "fully automated" Techmeme, AllTop, and similar sites, including Google News.

All of these topic-based aggregation sites have indeed been an improvement over the original situation, and they have indeed saved us time, but at the same time also this type of solution has kept bringing in just too many unrelated things, making no effort to curate, edit, sort or group news content in any better way than the most basic one.


Persistent Searches


Even those expert publishers and newsrooms who have started utilizing RSS feeds based on "persistent searches" to scan and catch what was happening outside their well known resources, have frustratingly found out how difficult it is to obtain any kind of clean useful results.

The problem when you start aggregating content coming from unknown sources by using specific keyword searches is that, notwithstanding how many filters you use, it remains very difficult to filter out articles that are created exclusively for marketing or link building purposes, duplicate content, spam, press releases and all of this junk material which, for the most part, you don't want to wade through.


Social Curation


Then, more recently, we have started to rely on someone else.

Our friends and network contacts. A trusted circle of blogs and online friends sharing their discoveries on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

And when those few people who have interests similar to ours are in the hundreds or thousands, the job becomes even more difficult.

Many of those you follow on Twitter or Facebook may post frequently about issues and stuff that is not directly to your specific interest. But you keep following that person, because you respect their view on something and you want to know what they say or point to when they talk about it. And by doing this we surrender to a growing flow of titles, links and posts which, to be really honest, we have zero interest for.

So not only we feel frustrated but now you need to spend even MORE TIME sifting through lots of irrelevant content, to find the few stories and resources that really interest you.


Personal Curation - Blogs


At the most basic level, bloggers represent the first generation of self-organizers of the network. If we exclude Yahoo! initial honorable effort a similar one (e.g.: ODP), there is nothing else, that comes close in scope, to what the universe of bloggers or noosphere, has been able to achieve.

Bloggers have been first to scout new independent sources, alternative voices, and who have pointed links to new ways of looking at any issue. They, more than any other group, have brought, among much useless noise, the true emergence of effective meta news sources that originate, filter and aggregate valuable content online.

So, what it appears to the many superficial onlookers as a universe of mindless writings (blogs) is nothing less than the initial phase of a complex and orderly process whereby humanity at large takes control of filtering, gathering and re-organizing his own know-how an discoveries.

Newsmasters may indeed represent the second layer of filtering that we can now apply to this ocean of content and information ...and newsmasters, as it appears, have been indeed emerging and quietly working at this nouvelle craft, for quite some time now.

(Robin Good - The Birth Of The NewsMaster: The Network Starts To Organize Itself - February 19, 2004)

Just about any online publisher who has been spending time selecting and picking out great content and resources for his readers has been doing the basic part of what is now called content curation.

Starting with the early blog times, and even before, some people have spontaneously been sharing their favorite articles or have been collecting selected resources into special lists to help those interested in those topics to make sense of that space or to keep themselves update on new discoveries and tools.

Some have started archiving these inside social bookmarking directories like Delicious, Reddit, StumbleUpon or Diigo, while others have started posting them to their favorite social media sites.

Now that social media has become the first publishing and communication ground for many people, serendipitous sharing of news and information has become one of the main spontaneous activities that people do on social platforms.

But even with blogs doing a great job of this, following a good bunch of them does not solve the problems we have met earlier. There is a lot of stuff that we are not interested in that we have to wade through.

Craig Newmark on editors and news curation - Duration 1':38"


Why These Basic Curation Efforts Are Not Enough

This first layer of curation, that we get out of blogs, social media and other independent sources is already something very valuable that helps each one of us organize and make better sense of all the information out there.

But still, it is a bit chaotic.

Isn't it?

Here are a few reasons to consider:

  1. Content is organized in spontaneous and unexpected ways. It is not easy to know or anticipate who will curate what or when,
  2. you still need to follow a lot of sources to be able to spot most of the relevant news that interest you,
  3. you can't avoid having to receive some overlap of news content provided by these sources,
  4. some of this content is mixed with personal content or private replies gone public,
  5. all of this content is often de-contextualized and it can't be appreciated without actually going back to the source,
  6. It is difficult to detect original sources from reposted, reblogged or retitled stuff,
  7. credit is not always honored,
  8. quality of curation ranges from simple re-sharing to valuable commentary addition, title improvement, tagging, referencing to other content and more.


The Emerging New Frontier: Real-Time News Curation / Newsmastering

Imagine instead someone or a small team that is dedicated, full-time, to scout, spot, uncover and bring back to you all of the best information, resources and new tools on a certain topic - theme and who also goes about not just verifying and checking these sources but "curates" them by titling, commenting, adding additional information and grouping them with other relevant news stories.

It is by looking at the difference between the typical part-time serendipitous curation and the dedicated work of a skilled individual or newsroom team that you can best appreciate the true difference between what has been a popular, spontaneous activity for most active online individuals, and a new emerging news publishing role which carries lots of opportunities and positive implications (I have written and referred to this role as the "newsmaster" and to its process as "newsmastering").

Some great examples of news curation at work have already become popular and highly-respected news sites and business information services, among these SmartBrief, The Drudge Report or the new, human-curated Techmeme, but I 'll have more of these models in Part 3 of this guide.

If I had to make a statement about real-time news curation, I would probably say that I see it as one of the most disruptive new emergent roles of the media professional. So much so, that I have strategized many of my business activities around this very concept.

But don't listen to me.

Here are some other voices:

In the attention economy, with its millions of daily status updates and billions of Web pages vying for our time, how do we best allocate that scarce resource?

One solution has been algorithmic: Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but fall short when it comes to personalization.

In 2008, the answer revealed itself: Your friends are your filter. With the launch of its Facebook Connect program, Facebook allowed sites to offer content personalization based on the preferences of your network.

Meanwhile, Google's Social Search experiment is investigating whether Web searching is improved by using information gleaned from your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Digg and the rest. Increasingly, your friends are becoming the curators of your consumption, from Web links to movies, books and TV shows.

Professional "curation" has its place, too: Who better to direct our scarce attention than experts in their fields?

Pete Cashmore


"[...] the digital realm too needs curators. Information overload makes it difficult to separate junk from art.

It requires a certain finesse and expertise - a fine tuned, perhaps trained eye.

Google, memetrackers such as Techmeme and social news sites like Digg are not curators. They're aggregators - and there's a big difference.

The call of the curator requires people who are selfless and willing to act as sherpas and guides.

They're identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts.

Digital Curators are the future of online content.

Brands, media companies and dedicated individuals can all become curators. Further, they don't even need to create their own content, just as a museum curator rarely hangs his/her own work next to a Da Vinci. They do, however, need to be subject matter experts."

Steve Rubel


Let me further explain.

The solution to the ever-expanding tsunami of news and information coming at you every hour is the one of using an intermediate layer of human filters, as originally suggested by Stephen Downes, to act as collectors-hubs and topic-specific curation agents for a theoretically ever expanding universe of interests and themes.

I call such human filters and curators "newsmasters", as their job is mainly one of finding, aggregating, selecting, editing and publishing the very best and value-rich news on a specific topic.

The deliverables newsmasters generate are "newsradars", hand-picked stream of news on a specific theme.

A newsradar is a constantly updated thematic channel of highly relevant web references that are gathered in accordance with specific, persistent search criteria. Newsradars can focus on anything: topics, people, opinions, products, news items, events or passions. The constant updating of the channel is accomplished by leveraging the persistent-search, aggregation and filtering capabilities built-into RSS technology couple by the ongoing skilled and attentive work of a human newsmaster curator.

In other words: newsmasters are an emerging class of self-elected and professionally appointed news curators who create unique value by working exclusively on finding, aggregating, filtering and curating topic-specific news channels.

It's as simple as that.

"The mistake made by the early advocates of push - ... - lies in the idea that 'brand' will replace intelligent filtering. Brand fails because in order for something to be a brand, it must appeal to a large mass of people. But if it appeals to a large mass of people, it will invariably disappoint people looking for something more specific. The early advocates of push tried to promote existing brands, and readers found in push nothing they couldn't find in mass media."

Stephen Downes
How RSS Can Succeed - Feb. 24 2004

Let me help you now, review, see and make sense of the positive sides of news curation by summarizing for you what I see as being the key beneficial points, both for the user-reader as well as for the newsmaster in such a curated universe.


What Are The Benefits of Real-Time News Curation?

Key Benefits For Users

  1. Saves tons of time
    People can subscribe specifically to your news selection if your focus matches their specific interest and save tons of time in not having to scan each and every news story from all the sites that cover their interest.
  2. Guarantees the ability to stay updated on a specific topic at all times
  3. Creates a trusted information source that can be relied upon for business
  4. Enables the ongoing discovery of new news sources and market / topic / actors
  5. Provides a channel in which diversity and varied opinions and more valued than anything else
  6. Creates a "trusted" relationship with the curator-newsmaster as he builds its reputation and credibility not on advertising and commercial partnerships but on its integrity and ability to provide true value at every step.
  7. Generates many valuable information channels
    In turn this approach to highly specialized and curated news channels, multiplies the number of opportunities for providing, unique, specialized information value to a huge number of audiences now defined not by their demographics but by their specific "interests". Such new channels could provide to users much greater value than the one traditional offered by mainstream news channels.


Key Benefits For Curators - Newsmasters

  1. Creates unique value not available elsewhere
    Providing your original filtered news selection of what is to be read out there on a systematic basis can be of great value to your readers.
  2. Increases your authority on a specific topic
    When someone starts being a resource for news to others he gains in credibility and authority in his field of interest. Just like for newspapers, people view the ability of selecting and identifying relevant news to publish a high-authority trait. 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?
  3. Benefits your SEO
    Newsradars are the love of search engines which are always looking for fresh, new, high-quality content, possibly on a specific topic.
  4. Supports alternative business and monetization models
    Newsradars can be used in a number of ways to provide both extra value to your readers as well as to create more content on a topic, introducing a new content space for sponsorship, enriching an existing guide and more.
  5. Provides new opportunities
    By realizing the value that news curation can bring to your activity, you may be able to free up a significant new time and energy which you had frozen into other less effective content production activities.
  6. Helps the system scale
    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.
  7. Helps others stay informed and updated on their most-sought after topics
    Helps you help those who are really interested in a specific area to learn more, make sense, and be much better updated on what is actually happening.
  8. Introduces human-based filtering to the news distribution ecosystem
    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.



Not everyone needs to be a front line reporter or a blogger.

There is a need for news-jockeys to look at this ocean of information and select the important from the superficial, the original from the cloned, the fresh from the replay.

Instead of going out there to generate more content, consider how much value can be provided by simply selecting and organizing the very best that is out there.

"The old model was "one to many" (NBC -> viewers). The new model is "one to a few" (YOU -> your friends and followers). That means there is an overwhelming explosion of content being created (Twitter feeds, blog posts, Flickr photos, Facebook updates) and most of it is interesting to a very small number of people. But, mixed in with this cacophony of consumer content, there is contextually relevant material that needs to be discovered, sorted, and made "brand safe" for advertisers.

Curation is the new role of media professionals.

Separating the wheat from the chaff, assigning editorial weight, and -- most importantly - giving folks who don't want to spend their lives looking for an editorial needle in a haystack a high-quality collection of content that is contextual and coherent. It's what we always expected from our media, and now they've got the tools to do it better.

Yes, that's right, the future of media is better, not worse. It's more detailed, multi-faceted and nuanced.

Curation is the sibling of aggregation, a word that the web has know for a while.

Aggregation means gathering; finding all videos with the key words "Easter Supper" in them. But as more devices like cell phones are used to create content (video of a hotel room, a tweet from a rock concert, an audio post from a political protest) gathering no longer adds value.

In fact, aggregation can equal aggravation.

Strangely enough, curation shifts the balance of power back to brands and publications. While anyone can make content, the decision to gather it, and present it by trusted content curators has more risk, and therefore more value."

Steve Rosenbuam

"We need passionate experts of all kinds to be able to wrap their future-looking goggles and to see those individual stories as a map rather than a set of individual road lines." (Robin Good)

End of Part 1 - Why We Need It

Coming up next in this Complete Guide to Real-Time News Content Curation:
In Part 2 - Aggregation Is Not Curation
In Part 3 - Types of Curation and Real World Examples
In Part 4 - How To Do It
In Part 5 - The Curator Attributes And Skills
In Part 6 - The Tools Universe
In Part 7 - Business Applications and Trends
In Part 8 - Legal issues


Recommended Readings

Originally written and "curated" by with the editorial help of Daniele Bazzano and first published on September 7th, 2010 on MasterNewMedia as "Real-Time News Curation, Newsmastering And Newsradars - The Complete Guide Part 1: Why We Need It"

Photo credits:
The Natural Remedy - The Spontaneous Evolution of Online News Curation - Prevention
RSS Aggregation - juliengron
Persistent Searches - Jay Simmons
Social Curation - Silex Technologies

Robin Good -
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Tuesday, September 7 2010, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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