Sunday, August 14, 2005

News by Committee: Common Times Uses Social Bookmarking to Create News Outlet

I peek in on the del.icio.us social bookmarking service regularly but find it frustrating at times. In its less actively maintained categories it can be more like a content flea market than a reliable outlet, though useful for picking up buzz and trendy ideas. One such item that came to light recently was also a social bookmarking tool - the Common Times news portal, a brainchild of the Common Media project to build directories of freely available content on the Web. Common Times looks at the most popular headline suggestions from news around the Web collected by social bookmarks and builds them into a very professional-looking news portal supplemented with an alphabetic "heat map" of topic popularity as well as a ranking of most popular news sources. As it is meant to attract the "open content" crowd the focus of the bookmarks takes on a predictable slant but it's an impressive packaging of the concept. Common Media intends to use the service to encourage financial donations for folks wanting to post multimedia content on their portal, so there's even a monetization model that has some relevance. Portal services such as Yahoo! can tell users which are popular headlines as well, but there's not an effort to use this as an explicit basis to build news streams purely on analyzing user-driven categorization. As with del.icio.us, Common Times is a great showcase for the potential of social bookmarking for building valuable context for content assets, but taking the concept one step further to demonstrate how a user-driven news service could go from geekishness to user-friendly usefulness.
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