Certain journalists have recently expressed fear of a "new" trend they believe threatens their already struggling institutions -- the growing news personalization websites that Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. coined "The Daily Me."
But they shouldn't be scared. The trend isn't bad, and it isn't new. In fact, far from being an enemy to news media, The Daily Me trend stands to help save journalism.
Critics of the phenomenon believe giving us the power to "become our own editors" will encourage insulation and bias. But we have always been our own editors. Every time we consume media, we make choices, consciously or not. When we skip articles, choose one newspaper over another, switch television channels, or tune in to a radio station we decide what we want to consume. The Internet has simply provided tools to make the selection process broader, easier and better structured.
If and how you 'personalize' your news experience is simply a question of new methods, not new habits.
When readers actively select their own topics, as they do on DailyMe.com, for example, they are typically more engaged, not less, than those who rely solely on the editorial choices made for them in traditional outlets. Specifically, DailyMe.com users who personalize their news view an average of seven pages per visit, or about double the pages viewed by non-registered users.
There are other important advantages to the personalization of news consumption. Few would argue, for instance, that it's better for a reader to have superficial knowledge of a broad range of subjects -- rather than deep, up-to-date information from various sources on a subject of intense interest. Readers who suffer from diabetes, for example, might rely on a Daily Me site to collect relevant articles from multiple sources in one sitting.
Of course, the editorial choices of professional news organizations also play a critical role in informing citizens, and a good personalized news site will still direct users to quality reporting from newspapers and other traditional organizations. After all, just because the medium is different doesn't mean we should accept standards below those set by professional journalists. Quality news personalization is not about breadth or depth; it's about both.
So while it's an unnerving time for newspaper reporters to be sure, and many harbor misguided skepticism about emerging news platforms, the industry should recognize that journalism isn't going anywhere -- it's only the devices from which we consume content that are changing. And personalized news sites best serve those new devices by trimming the headline fat down to content manageable on small screens.
But going a step further, there is a fundamental question to be answered: Are we better off letting others -- namely news editors -- choose our daily news dose based on the common denominator of the audience? Of course not. Each of us has a responsibility to seek out and understand conflicting views. The Daily Me only makes this essential process that much easier.
Personalizing the news is not only a reality, it is a necessity. The Internet, whether through search engines, news sites, portals or different versions of The Daily Me, will give every journalist the ability to find a true audience, not defined by geographical location, but by shared interests. In short, it's the best way to empower journalists to do what they do best and win far more readers than newsprint can hope to reach.
If that won't make all of us more informed, what will?
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Hauser, a media entrepreneur and recovering lawyer is the CEO of DailyMe.com, a board member of National Public Radio and a journalism advisor of the Knight Foundation. Before starting DailyMe he spent 7 years at AOL's Latin American division and previously was head of news at the largest television network in Venezuela.
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