What if the consumer decided which stories were covered in the news? A new study tells us that it would be a very different agenda. But is that a good thing?
Whether journos like it or not, public control of the news agenda is already with us and growing. This is partly about the citizen becoming a news producer, sending in emails, video and making their own blogs or online videos sites. It is also about news aggregator sites like Digg, (Top story today: TRAUMATIZING: Britney Video He-Bitch and Brother Confess their Gay Love!) Del.icio.us (top story today: dinosaur comics) and Reddit where the running order of ‘stories’ is decided by the reader. They select what they like and vote for a top ten. It is no surprise that a self-selecting group of random people with access to everything on the internet has a different set of priorities to a bunch of career news hacks.
But before we dismiss this survey as comparing two different things we should realise that this user-decided news agenda is our future. The old TV news bulletin or newspaper is being replaced by RSS feeds, video on demand, mobile TV, online news video, video+, social networking sites and so on. People are choosing what they consume in detail and then telling their friends.
So it is still worth looking at the detail of this survey. There are some encouraging signs that people still care about politics but not in the same old packaging. Politicians and journalists take note. But generally, the group preferred breaking stories, domestic stories, and celebrity or human stories. What is interesting is that not only do they choose different subjects but that they have different patterns of consuming the stories.
Much more research needs to be done on how people consume news online. But it is clear that news organisations have to realise that they are now in competition with Britney and Dinosaur Comics.�