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Are Editors Needed To Sort Through Digg Chaos?

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A year ago everyone (including me) was talking about how social news startups like Digg and Reddit were removing the need for news editors. Why should a human, with all his/her subjectivity and bias, decide what news is appropriate for us to consume on any given day, when the crowd can decide by simply voting?

But even as Digg continues to gain traffic and new users, some people just can’t be bothered sorting through all of the headlines, many of which appeal only to a niche audience. So things seem to be coming full circle as a new set of startups put a layer of human editors on top of the social news sites to pull out what they think is the most relevant stuff you’ll want to see.

Shoutingmat.ch, which describes itself as “a civilized retreat untainted by the excesses and whims of the mob” launched yesterday. The site, which has political, technology and “lifehack” news channels, sources stories from Digg, Reddit and other sites and presents it as a headline, with contributing discussion items from blogs and other news sources. Readers can also leave their own comments.

The end result of Shoutingmat.ch looks a lot like TechMeme, another non-edited news site (albeit one that uses an algorithm, not crowd sourcing, to decide what is news).

Ironically, the current top story in tech is the launch of the TechMeme leaderboard (a story that is now 36 hours old).

Shoutingmat.ch can be a good source of news, but all those human editors take a lot of time to sort through stuff. That means it’s no surprise that their top story is old news for TechMeme and Digg readers. And since those editors cost a lot more money to maintain than a bit of software sitting on a server somewhere, the company will need to generate a lot of page views to keep the lights on. We’ll check back in on them in a few months to see if they’ve perfected the model. Until then, I’m sticking with my prediction that, ultimately, the editor is a dying breed.

Update: In the comments it is becoming clear that, despite the About section description, the company is not using humans to source news items. That makes shoutingmat.ch a direct competitor to Techmeme and a bunch of other sites…and a slow one at that. The company says they will get stories faster over time.

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