A Question for Geeky Folk

Does this sound familiar?

According to my Google Reader stats, I read over 19,000 articles of news, tidbits, posts and the like in 2010. By “read” I mean that they popped up, I skimmed over them and said, “Mark all as read”. Of the ones I actually absorbed, the number is closer to 6,000. That’s still a lot of news and none of it probably mattered at all.

I mostly read a lot of web, Apple, business and tech news. I follow dozens and dozens of feeds on those topics alone in Google Reader and I use Twitter as a means of keeping a curated list of people similar to me with shared interests that post interesting tidbits from sources I don’t directly follow.

So I was pretty excited when News.me launched. It’s a service that takes those Twitter feeds and spits out an email every morning with all the top links shared from the day before. That’s great, I guess, but I’ve already been made aware of those by following Twitter. The email I received today featured 4 out of 9 stories alone from Smashing Magazine. It’s completely dominated by a few top publishers and by the time I read it, it’s old news. Maybe I need more people to follow on Twitter, but then I lose all control of Twitter and it becomes a collage of crap like Facebook. It just shows me everything I’ve already read. If I stopped following Twitter, how would I ever know to follow new users and what about the folks that I like that don’t do tech stuff? For News.me to work, I still have to keep all those people in my feed.

What’s frightening is how much time I spend reading the news. I asked a friend how much time they spent browsing around and while it certainly varies, they can sometimes spend most all day reading blogs, posts and other things that really don’t matter. Unfortunately, I do the same thing. There needs to be a filter or system in place.

But that’s News.me; that’s the answer for the system to parse through and give you what you want. Except,  I don’t know what I want, necessarily. I know that I want the good news that matters and I want to stop spending so much time parsing through everything, but I don’t know where to look and where to find it. It consumes hours upon hours each week. It’s important for me to stay on top of these things; it’s my job, but it takes time that I could be using elsewhere. The system needs human curation. I don’t think it can be adequately automated. Even if I followed just a few of my favorite blogs, like Daring Fireball or Shawn Blanc, I’d be afraid I’m missing some great post from Mac Rumors or Neven’s blog.

So, my question for you, dear reader is this: does this sound familiar? Do you have this same problem? As much as I enjoy reading through all the various links, blogs and stories, I’d rather be in better control of my time by not spending all of it reading this stuff.

What if there was a news service that aggregated all this stuff into the top 10 stories with none of the fluff. GigaOm, Engadget, Tech Cruch, The Huffington Post Tech section, they all latch on to the link-bait stories and post something every 15 minutes. I don’t want to know that Steve Jobs might sneeze tomorrow or that Microsoft “might be in trouble” according to some no-name analyst predicting the future or that HTC released some new version of Android device and another one’s likely on the way next week. I want to know whats really happening, what’s really going to happen and I want updated just a couple times a day: in the morning before I wake up and in the evening after work.

Breaking news, like if Microsoft declared bankruptcy or Google inventing a second sun, would be worth an interruption. Some original reporting would be great, if it were good, too. Some new jQuery library or a gallery of inspirational websites or tips on how to use an iPad as a steering wheel aren’t of use to me. If I wanted to see a gallery or some snippet of code, I’d Google around for it.

I’d even be inclined to pay for such a service. $2.99 a month for a subscription to such a service would let me save countless hours of time and remove half my feeds and halve my desire to check Twitter all the time sounds like a life saver. Make it integrate with Instapaper and everything’s covered.

Yes, they’re podcasts like TWiT, but that’s once a week and is a little too slow for my tastes. I want to have something to read every day.

What about you? Does that sound more or less like what you’d want to see and read? Nothing sensational, nothing hyperbolic; just great coverage of the truly important news and tips linked to sources updated twice a day.

Death of the Newspaper

Over the past couple of days I’ve been reading a lot about the death of U.S. newspapers. Some analysts say that print is dead and we all should just move along to the Internet. Others say otherwise, like this guy:

We live under the happy illusion that we can transfer news-gathering to the Internet. News-gathering will continue to exist, as it does on this Web site and sites such as ProPublica and Slate, but these traditions now have to contend with a new, widespread and ideologically driven partisanship that dominates the dissemination of views and information, from Fox News to blogger screeds. The majority of bloggers and Internet addicts, like the endless rows of talking heads on television, do not report. They are largely parasites who cling to traditional news outlets. They can produce stinging and insightful commentary, which has happily seen the monopoly on opinion pieces by large papers shattered, but they rarely pick up the phone, much less go out and find a story. Nearly all reporting — I would guess at least 80 percent — is done by newspapers and the wire services. Take that away and we have a huge black hole.

I even read where one guy thinks we should make universities pass along the costs of newspapers to their students so they’re forced to read it. Well, that may be one way to raise money for ailing newspapers, but a piss poor way of pleasing your customers. As an IUPUI student I subsidize The Indianapolis Star, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and USA today. Too bad I’m never on campus early enough in the day to actually pick up one and read it. Heck, I’m not even on campus most days of the week to pick one up. So that’s a retarded idea.

Some other arguments include moving all newspapers to the Internet. To that, I say, well, maybe you should. You already spend millions on printing the things and my frugal self never pays a dime for newspapers. Heck, I even write for one. I just get it all online. The folks that don’t have net access probably don’t have a newspaper subscription, either.

As usual, I’m here with an idea: shut down all the unprofitable print newspapers and turn it all to the Internet. Keep your reporters and staff and generate revenue via web ads like you already do and cut the frickin’ printer. It’s draining you people ragged.