Techmeme sent an email today to a select group of readers it has put on a whitelist of Twitter users whose short commentary about news of the day will appear automatically on the site. Techmeme has been a trailblazer in news technology for years and today's experiment is something other media outlets would likely love to implement in the future as well.Technology news aggregator
Site founder Gabe Rivera downplayed the news in a conversation with me, but I think it's a big deal. The leading technology industry news aggregator continues to move from nearly 100% automated link analysis at its birth five years ago, to half-human assisted with the hiring first of Megan McCarthy two years ago and later a team of editors and now this - a direct line to add smart quips to clusters of highlighted, long-form coverage of news events.
Techmeme announced the initial inclusion of Twitter messages at the end of January.
Rivera's email to whitelisted Tweeters (including myself, at least until I reported on this) included the following instructions:
Please be smart and insightful if you take advantage of this. Something more than just snark. (Though snark combined with insightful is fine!)
Short version: If you tweet something and include a Techmeme permalink, your tweet *will* appear in "Discussion" under the headline you've linked, because your Twitter account is on our whitelist!
Rivera emphasized in conversation that it wasn't just the whitelisted community members whose Tweets would appear on the site and that the ranking of all topical Twitter messages is something he's experimenting with.
The site has faced allegations of elitism and favoritism since the day it launched and critics will undoubtedly see more of the same in this new experiment. Fans far outnumber critics of the site, though, and between Techmeme's cold-hearted algorithm and its "librarians on speed" beneficent editors, I think the mix of coverage there works out quite well.
The formula developed on Techmeme has been spun out into other sites on other topics, most notably Mediagazer, a site aggregating coverage of media industry news. Techmeme's first hire, Megan McCarthy, now edits Mediagazer. Former ReadWriteWeb reporter Lidija Davis is Techmeme's lead editor durring the US daytime. The site now has a staff of six humans, working beside computer scientist Rivera's much-refined news discovery and ranking machine.
Imagine This Everywhere
The press loves to pounce on the Twitter updates of well-known people in all kinds of fields, from Hollywood to US foreign policy. Imagine if other media outlets created a direct pipeline for those people to post their comments on coverage directly to the coverage itself! Might the front page of The New York Times someday include an appended quote like: "This article gives too much credit to the Republican party's strategic thinking." - @BarackObama.
Probably not. But other media outlets are sure to take steps like Techmeme has today to capture and incorporate the most glamorous of User Generated Content into their own output. More likely than requiring a permalink to coverage, as Techmeme does of tech geek Twitter users whose personal brand audiences are generally smaller than the aggregator's is, other sites will use keyword matching in filtering Tweets from the stars of stage, screen and industry. It's a compelling value proposition for readers.
Can the whitelisted Twitter users deliver? It's a risk, but smart move by Techmeme - and something we're sure to see variations on elsewhere in the future.