The future of media is algorithmic aggregation, at least that is the approach Future US is taking. The U.S. subsidiary of Future PLC, and publisher of such niche magazines as Nintendo Power, Guitar World, and Maximum PC, is adopting a different approach online than simply putting its print articles on the Web. Instead, it has launched dozens of news aggregation and discovery sites called “Blips” that are a combination of Techmeme and Digg. The Blips collect topical stories from across the Web and present the headlines in discussion clusters like you’d see on Techmeme, but stories can also then be voted up the page like on Digg.
There are about 40 different Blips on various topics, including TechBlips, EarthBlips, and WrestlingBlips. All of them are accessible from Future’s online portal, DailyRadar (which also houses the magazine content under games, music, tech, entertainment, and sports tags). Future has been launching Blips quietly since last summer, and they now account for 9.3 million of DailyRadar’s 27 million monthly unique visitors (which is up from about 12 million uniques a year ago before the Blips sites were added). These are internal numbers. ComScore shows 11.4 million uniques worldwide in March, 2009 up from 6.4 million last September.
The Blip sites are based on Future’s $3 million acquisition of BallHype last year. Now Future is rolling out about half a dozen new Blips every month. The underlying technology evaluates 26,000 different news sources, blogs, video sites, and photo sites to create topical Blips. Once a source is white-listed by an editor or added by a reader, it then becomes part of the mix. Stories are clustered together, with the placement of headlines determined by a combination of links, votes, and age (newer stories rank higher).
I am not convinced the Blip strategy will make a meaningful difference for Future or offset the downward spiral in print advertising, but it is an interesting attempt at adaptation. TechBlip is not going to displace TechMeme any time soon, but most of the other Blips address under-served or highly-focused niches: AnimeBlips, CricketBlips, CraftBlips, GuitarWorldBlips, MommyBlips, etc. Niche news aggregation is one thing, but then aggregating the aggregators gives Future the scale to sell ads across all of the Blips. On the other hand, the Blips are so targeted running ads across the network might not always make sense. If you are targetting mommies, you are probably not interested in reaching anime aficionados.
To show off the technology, DailyRadar has an interactive Trendmap showing which tags and keywords are peaking on the site. You can create Trendmaps for different broad categories and grab it as a widget, which I’ve done below: