How bloggers can be part of the solution

by Carl Natale on October 14, 2010

Flickr photo by library_mistressThose damn bloggers. Mucking up the Internet so the rest of us can’t find anything useful.

Oh, wait. I’m one of those bloggers. Probably part of the problem I am. The problem as defined by former Portland Press Herald reporter Paul Carrier:

Here’s an example. After it was announced this week that novelist Howard Jacobson had won Britain’s most prestigious literary prize, I wanted to find out who the other finalists were. Running a Google search for Man Booker Prize turned up 639 “news articles.” But some focused only on Jacobson. Others slowly, teasingly mentioned the short-listed authors in a chatty, long-winded, meandering “we’ll get to it when we get to it” style that tested my patience.

via An Agony in Eight Fits: The blogosphere as a source for news?.

First let me get a couple things out of the way.

  • Disclosing a connection: I used to work with Paul. Actually, we worked for the same newspaper. But because he based his reporting out of the State House, I had very little contact with him. To say we knew each other would perhaps be a stretch.
  • That being said: I have an enormous amount of respect for Paul as a reporter and writer. Journalism lost a lot of talent when he left the paper.
  • Oh the irony: I love that a recovering journalist is using a blog to explain why mainstream media is much better than the blogosphere. If you can’t beat ’em, blog it.
  • The World Wide Irony: And since I’m blogging about it, anyone else searching “Man Booker Prize” probably will find this. I’m sorry I don’t have the information you need. Maybe next time

The Problem

Let me get to the real problem. It’s not that bloggers are filling the Internet with useless content. It’s that Google is an inadequate tool for finding what’s useful. Seriously.

I’m really surprised Paul’s search only yielded 639 results. (Oh yeah. 640. Sorry.) Most searches return thousands of possibilities. That’s good. Isn’t it?

Not really. The top results may be what you need. Maybe not. Google is trying to use your past behavior to figure out what each individual searcher needs to know. But that can only go so far. Especially as we get more careful about privacy.

So Paul’s problem is a search problem. Not a content problem. All those useless sources he found were writing for audiences that wanted that information. Those sources were filters for people not named Paul Carrier.


Yes, filters. Thats what bloggers are. We selectively write about interests our audiences. At least that’s what happens if we’re doing our work right.

Paul just needs better filters. Which aren’t easy to find. Especially since he doesn’t know he needs one – or two.

The newspaper used to be a filter. All the news fit to print. Or fits in print. Now with the Internet, it all fits. Which gives the journalists fits. It’s not that their stories aren’t relevant any more. Their employers aren’t used as filters anymore.

Blame the networks

By network I mean the people you communicate with. The people at work. Your Facebook friends. Your Twitter followers. Your favorite bloggers.

They are the ones who are telling you to read the story in the L.A. Times or Gawker or Sports Illustrated. They’re the ones making newspapers feel inadequate.

But I digress

Back to the filters. There is a lot of content out there. Maybe. It seems like a lot. Most of it is based up on the same information. So it’s duplicated. Which you can’t always tell when you scan a Google search page.

So I contend there has to be value in offering filters. Offering only what a niche audience finds useful. Because we don’t have time to sift through 640 results to find the one useful L.A. Times story.

How do you filter content for your audience?

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