Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A quick content analysis of top social news sites

I looked at recent headlines from 6 social news sites: Digg, Newsvine, Slashdot, Boing Boing (group blog), Fark, Metafilter and 1 news site, The New York Times.

I found a couple of things which I would like to share with you:
- Each site has its own quirks and coverage style
- No news site is the ultimate news site.

In the latest column in BivingsReport, the writer analyzes what is wrong with Newsvine and offers 3 things that are wrong with the social news site:

1. Too much AP content, most of which is international commodity news easily found elsewhere on the Net.

2. Providing a mix of editorial news content (NYT) and social news content by community does not help user – the study says it could neither get comprehensive editorial matter or exciting social news matter.

3. Too many navigation choices on front page which may confuse users: Most Active Stories, Top Seeds, Newsvine Live, Newsvine Columnists, Top Wire, Newsvis, Group Spotlight, etc.

On the other hand, Digg has just 2 broad sections: Popular and Upcoming

4. AP’s content may be coming in way of more social content coming to the front page.

The bottomline: Newsvine must focus on one single thing – exactly what they are. Maybe, you can’t be everything to everyone.

The 7 news sites with recent top 10 stories and my notes for each:

Wordpress 2.2 officially released!
Borat and Martha Stewart on The Tonight Show
The Lighthouse Skyscraper: 4000 Solar Panels, 3 Huge Wind Turbines [Photos]
Sun's CEO response to Microsoft patent claims
Old IPv4 flaws resurface with IPv6
High Times Editorial Office- NEW CollegeHumor Original
RIAA's IP Gathering Techniques About to be Busted
Windows Vista sells 40M licenses in 100 days
I stole the digg LED sign
Shocking Mainstream Media Defense of Ron Paul's 9/11 debate comments

Note: It is obvious that the Digg Community likes middle-of-the-road, ‘not too deep’ stories on gadgets and science, and quirky online obsessions such as the current penchant for Ron Paul stories. Yesterday, one of the top stories was a list of top wardrobe malfunctions.

Car Bomb Kills at Least 32 in Iraq
Sarkozy Inaugurated As France President
4 Peacekeepers Killed in Somalia
Afghans Protest at Pakistan Embassy
Road Accident Kills 20 in India
Daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. Dies
Nigerian Politician's Home Blown Up
Report: Bono Objects to Penthouse Smoke
Sony Corp's Quarterly Loss Widens
LA Wants to Slash Greenhouse Gases

Note: Mostly international stories, nothing stands out in particular.

However, there are occasional flashes of brilliance.
Did you know Newsvine put the Virginia tech shooting story ob front page faster than Digg did?

"I am not the attorney general. That's the attorney general."
I'm a great believer in unintended consequences
Wey oh wey oh wey oh wey oh.
Down the memory hole
Awesome Tapes from Africa
UniverseNewsFilter: Scientists claim to have detected dark matter
Wedding Ring Coffin
Histoire(s) DVD

Note: Metafilter news feels like a cozy magazine for a group of insiders with an all-around coverage style.

The quality of these eclectic stories is good, often making you feel you are reading New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly.

Click Here To Infect Your PC!
Wolfram Offers Prize For (2,3) Turing Machine
A Side Effect of Testosterone Poisoning
Threat To Free, Legal Guitar Tablature Online
Independent Human Interface Guidelines
MIT Hacks XKCD Talk With AACS key
US Senators Question Indian Firms Over H-1Bs
The Rise of "Hybrid" Vinyl-MP3s
Toyota Going 100% Hybrid By 2020
Linus Responds To Microsoft Patent Claims

Note: Slashdot’s focus is technology and the stories reflect this. The stories have ore depth than Digg. Reason is obvious: Editors working in the background.

Boing Boing
Jerry Fallwell talks about his first time.
George Bush's cone of cell phone silence
EL Doctorow's gigantic Civil War novel "The March"
Neuros OSD: a set-top box that treats you like an owner
Your old CD ROMs could help kill a bogus patent!
Insane children's book depicts horse smoking drugs, drinking
Art pieces left on store shelves
Salvador Dali on "What's My Line?"
Physicians for Social Responsibility Gala, June 7
Rocketboom covers Maker Faire

Note: BoingBoing’s forte is geeky eclectism and it shows up in the story selection on this group blog. The focus is on what geeks like to read, mixed in with the occasional online rights and wrongs type of stories.

If you are going to make a false claim to police that you were robbed of $3500 you just withdrew from th...
A Hitchhiker's Guide to Instant Karma...
The 160 books boys must read - No Dickens, no Rowling, but yes to Pratchett and Pullman...
Veteran sherpa Appa ; scales Mt Everest for 17th time...
"If you want to play the works of Mozart or Beethoven, you also have to think and feel like the inf...
Old and busted: Drive-In movies. New hotness: Drive-In church...
Proving once again that Italian culture is about 50 years behind, Sophia Loren to strip if Naples moves ...
Photoshop this television technician...
Ugly ass red wolf pups on display at Florida zoo. Complete with ugly ass slideshow in link...
How to surf on calm water using nothing more than a surfboard and a few sticks of dynamite...

Note: Fark is the zanier, highly opinionated version of Digg.
Its USP: great headlines. It tends to slide towards a pulp read. The new generation supermarket tabloid, perhaps?

President Intervened in Dispute Over Eavesdropping
Poppy Fields Are Now a Front Line in Afghanistan War
Bush Nominee to Get Payment From Old Job
Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority Founder, Dies at 73
Now Departing: Airline Careers
Ivy League Admissions Crunch Brings New Cachet to Next Tier
Bush Picks General to Coordinate War Policy
Among the Rich, a New Dispute Over Air Rights
Terror Attack Scenario Exposes Deep Differences Among G.O.P. Hopefuls
News Analysis: Reality Overtakes the Illusion of Unity in Gaza
The rules

Note: You can feel the heavy duty editorial quality working full-time – news analysis, live reporting, big picture writing.

The Times’ political coverage is evident in today’s headlines but its technological and business coverage is as good and the stories find mention on Digg and Reddit on a daily basis.
This is also where from many bloggers pick stories to write upon.

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