Beware the death pronouncements

It's dead, because I said soWhile everybody is always on the look-out for the next great thing, there’s an equally large number of writers and observers who are quick to point out the “death” of things as well. This just adds to the confusion about what roads we should take tactically, and it’s something about which those of us at AR&D talk frequently. The problem with these forecasts is that they’re usually wrong. They make nice headlines, but the problem is those headlines are often the only thing people see. When understanding of something is limited, people often skim as much as possible to try and bring their understanding up to speed. With tech — and especially the media 2.0 world — that can be a dangerous thing to do.

This is why a New York Times article this week is getting so much attention among those who have this understanding. Like most newspaper headlines, this one probably wasn’t written by the writer of the article.

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

This headline is actually completely false, and it’s proven within the text of the article itself. Growth may be slowing, but blogs are still a growing phenomenon. To suggest that blogging is on the decline, therefore, is simply untrue, as Mathew Ingram pointed out for GigaOm:

In many ways, this “blogging is dying” theory is similar to the “web is dead” argument that Wired magazine tried to float last year, which really was about the web evolving and expanding into different areas. It’s true that Facebook and Twitter have led many away from blogging because they are so fast and easy to use, but they have also both helped to reinforce blogging in many ways.

„,what we really have now is a multitude of platforms: there are the “micro-blogging” ones like Twitter, then there are those that allow for more interaction or multimedia content like Facebook, and both of those in turn can enhance existing blogging tools like WordPress and Blogger. And then there is Tumblr, which is like a combination of multiple formats. The fact that there are so many different choices means there is even more opportunity for people to find a publishing method they like. So while “blogging” may be on the decline, personal publishing has arguably never been healthier.

So now we have the “blogging is dead” meme to add to the “Web is dead” and “RSS is dead” concepts. None of these are true, and it’s why a new company called “Trove” got a reported $5-$10 million from the Washington Post. Trove, according to Poynter, is a “personalization engine” for the news.

The site, which will aggregate and personalize news from among 10,000 online sources, launches into public beta next month. It will be free at, and on mobile apps for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

The effort drops the Post into the middle of a crowded field chasing the elusive goal of news personalization. Several — LiveStand from Yahoo!, News.Me, originally a New York Times creation, and Ongo, a project the Post itself is a partner in — have been announced just within the past month.

Trove…also faces a challenge from tablet-only competitors such as Flipboard and Pulse, and older Web-based services ranging from Google News to My Yahoo!.

Two things strike me about Trove. One, it’s pretty cool. Two, it’s nothing but a pre-loaded RSS reader, just like many media companies made and threw away 7–8 years ago. Perhaps it’s the portable nature of the Web today that makes these more viable, but the technology for these kinds of applications is good old (dead) RSS. This is why I keep hammering away that we’ve got to get into real-time, RSS-delivered advertising, but that’s another story. Personalization aggregators is not a new concept, but start-ups and now traditional media players are suddenly seeing the value of the technology in a whole new way. I think it’s great.

The caveat in studying new media is to read enough from reliable sources to avoid getting trapped by headlines in the New York Times, the Wall St. Journal and other mainstream business publications. You’ll break your neck on the rocks in the shallows of their trend stories, if you jump in head first.

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