News Consumption, RSS Readers, and New Business Models

Rob Reynolds, the xplanation, Sept 15, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

You look at charts like these and you begin to think that if it weren't for the internet, people wouldn't read at all. That's maybe an exaggeration (though Harry Potter notwithstanding, one wonders how much of one). But it's certainly fair to say that, in the US at least, people would not be reading any news offline. The unfortunate part is that the number of people who actually read news is in a distinct minority, which means at that at the very least their news is punctuated with misleading political advertisements, and more probably, is itself a political advertisement.

Rob Reynolds writes, "I think George Siemens is correct when he says that "The cohesion or sociality that hold an online group together are far less explicit than I recall even a decade ago (Yahoo groups, or prior to that, online bulletin boards, the Well (I never joined)). The enabling structure of engagement is no longer the group or network. Instead, it's a tweet, or a single picture." It is precisely these social forces or influencers that have led to the stagnation or decline of many RSS reader services. Rather than sort through the news on their own, most are relying on tips from others via Twitter or Facebook." Of course, you know where these influencers are getting their tips, right? That's it - RSS readers.
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