The future of journalism, and the interaction between journalism and technology, is a very interesting topic (In another pet project, I tried to imagine what a newspaper would look like 20 years in the future!).
I think one of the core issues that journalism has is that it clings to the idea that a newspaper itself - a collection of articles curated by the editorial staff - is something that has a future. As a consequence, newspapers seem to agree that it’s a viable solution to ask for subscriptions - everywhere.
This assumption is wrong. People want to be informed, and they want tools to do the curation for them, and this curation should not be constrained by who published the article first.
So I tried to come up with an alternative and coded it.
What it was
The basic premise of my idea was at its core a mix between Hacker News, Reddit and StackOverflow: Any user could add any link, and any user could vote articles up or down. The more people upvote your stuff, the more privileges you gain on the page, giving you access to more sophisticated moderation tools.
A couple of algorithms made sure that if you visited the website less frequently, you would still be greeted with the most relevant news. You could even subscribe to receive curated news either daily or once per week.
What I learned
The idea worked beautifully, and it has potential. Having only one ad-free, non-annoying platform to see all relevant news, and clicking on the ad-infected pages only if things seem interesting was a great experience of how the world could be, if we wouldn’t optimize for click bait or cute images of kitten.
How it ended
Corona happened. The worldwide pandemic impacted zeitungsbote in two ways: One, I was quickly getting tired of all those headlines all around the same topic. The beginning of the pandemic was a situation where the information level was low, but every newspaper everywhere published article upon article about it.
It wasn’t how zeitungsbote presented these news to me - it was simply that I was fed up with it and wanted to not see any newspaper headlines for several weeks.
The other side effect was that due to the restrictions during the Corona crisis, I suddenly had much less time at my hands to pursue pet projects. So I pulled the plug on zeitungsbote.
This post is part of my Pet Project Sematary, click here to get to the first post in this series.