Trylon Communications  - October 2004

Exclusive No Longer

News aggregators and Web feeds are leading to the demise of the exclusive news report. In fact, in many cases it is no longer the publication actually breaking a news story that gets the attention of these aggregators, but instead a copycat who most recently published the story.

For example, Google has a service called Google News (see related story). It is arranged by subject and based on when stories are published, with the most recently published article at the top. So when a story breaks, it can be the second or third report that reaches the top of the pile, not the article that brought the subject to light.

Google states that it takes more than “most recent” into account when compiling its lists. The search engine is said to use an algorithm that weighs several factors including the authoritative nature of the publisher, first to break, and page rank. However, in many cases it appears that substantive weight is given to page rank and how recent an article is.

The economics of this type of aggregation are unsettling. Whereas an exclusive would propel readership and sell more advertising in the “old” days, today it’s almost the opposite. The reporters and publishers of the exclusive story will find their article on the bottom of the list of articles covering the subject – usually the last to be clicked on. This means fewer readers, and less exposure to the advertising next to the story.

If this trend continues, consider the possible repercussions to the media industry. Why pay top reporters big bucks to uncover stories that will be gobbled up by the competition? Why invest the time and effort to uncover a breaking story, only to see the rewards go to the person reporting on your story?