Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Feature famine: PubSub Reshuffling Highlights Content Technology in Search of Markets

TechCrunch highlights the sinking fortunes of PubSub, a content filtering tool that burst on to the scene a couple of years ago but seems to have been moving past its peak as of late. PubSub was supposed to tame the "firehose" of content that was available from online sources such as weblogs, press releases and financial reports and filter it effectively based on keyword searches. Unfortunately, the filtering never quite matched up to the reality of people's expectations, providing content that was little different than the output of many search engine queries and in the eyes of at least one commenter at TechCrunch sending out content from "spam blogs." By contrast a comparison of Alexa stats with Newsvine shows that news being filtered by humans seems to be gaining in popularity. It's very hard to provide all-in-one filtering services that can top human intelligence as well as major search engines and weblog filtering services such as Technorati. At the same time aggregators servicing enterprises and publishers are becoming more willing to select high-quality Web sources to add to their offerings, broadening the marketplace for online content in venues previously reserved for major publishers.

There are still a lot of good ideas out there for managing Web content that are going to grow over time, but many tools that people had been hyping are going to fall by the wayside - again. In developing content technologies, it always helps to have a deep understanding of your audiences as both markets and content creators and to develop products that service their expressed needs. Having a good algorithm and a desire to market it is generally a one-way ticket to the bit bucket without a plan to create unique content in a way that satisfies audiences consistently. PubSub may yet turn their plans around and they have retained a decent audience, but we can expect to see many features in search of publishing markets begin to consolidate into plays that address some more cohesive user needs.
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