Yahoo! announced two major products this week: a podcasting service and then blog search integrated with Yahoo! News Search. Both of these products are outputs of Yahoo!’s strategy to introduce more user-generated content to their media offerings, as outlined by their CEO Terry Semel at the Web 2.0 Conference.
Some people have criticised the design of the blog search results – it’s a right-hand vertical pane off to the side of the main ‘professional’ news content. For example, check out this search for “web 2.0”.
I think the design is an appropriate way to begin the mixing of mainstream media and user-generated content together. There may be some short-term pain, in the form of criticism about the layout, but the reality is most mainstream ‘consumers’ of news content still don’t accept blogs. There are millions of Barry Dillers in this world who think blogs are just diaries written by teenagers in their rooms.
So it’s too soon to mix blog content with mainstream news content. Having it on the side is the right way to go, for now. Maybe it needs some further design work, but remember it is a beta. For example SEW suggests that a memeorandum-like clustering of news and blog results would work better. And Dave Winer makes the fair point: “There’s so much confusion about what is and isn’t a blog, why bother even trying to make a distinction.”
This is one reason memeorandum is so good – it literally makes the user forget who the source is. The important thing is the story and how relevant it is. Of course, memeorandum’s relevancy algorithms have a lot to do with that – and that’s not an easy thing to scale to a news service used by millions of people, like Yahoo! News is. But in time they will solve that problem and then we’ll get mainstream and user-generated content mixed together.
A final word on The podcast network. It’s a beautiful and user-friendly design and I’m sure it will entice many mainstream people to try out and subscribe to podcasts – which are essentially user-generated audio content. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Opening media up.