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Breaking News: Top Story Of The Day

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 25, 2014 in Internet |

There are some posts I write where I think: this is it, this will get people talking. Others seem almost to be place-fillers, something which was on my mind or which happened to interest me for a moment or two but no more than that where I imagine they will be seen but hardly noticed. My expectations are seldom right! It is really strange what interests people, what makes them stop and think, what gains the most views during the day or over a longer period of time. Perhaps it is just the luck of the draw, just chance that one or another post rises above the rest and arouses interest, wakes people out of their Internet slumbers and entices their fingers to caress the keyboard and leave a written reaction. Or perhaps we are so used to the media hype, the millions of newsworthy stories, posts, status updates and Tweets which appear or have appeared, that there is nothing left which inspires, and we are just wandering through whatever is there without a real thought in our minds.

Viktoria Michaelis: Breaking News

Photo Credit: Just NoraCreative Commons

When I scroll through the various news sites on the Internet, or check out the ones which appear to have attracted the most clicks, the most interest, I often wonder why so many people have read what is there. Is it really from interest, or just because it has been seen by countless other people and, therefore, must be important? Or is there something special about the story, some draw on the mind, which brings people to spend their time reading? Does Breaking News or Exclusive even mean anything these days, when so many news sites manage to get their information at exactly the same time, manage to publish it almost immediately for all and sundry to gasp over?

A few days ago I came across a site which had made it into the most read of the day, according to the number of clicks it has received – according to Alexa and their news ranking system. It was a bare site with a name. Nothing else at all. Not one single post was there, not one single entry. The site wasn’t even complete. Even the domain name was uninspiring. Yet it ranked as one of the most visited sites for the day. Were all those visitors disappointed? What did they expect to find?

Viktoria Michaelis: Breaking News

Photo Credit: allaboutgeorgeCreative Commons

I sometimes get the feeling that the Internet has become a massive barrel of slime which we are forced to fight our way through in order to find anything of real interest, at least as far as news is concerned. Every single site battles against time to be the very first with the news, the very first with an exclusive and no one seems to realize how elusive this moment is, how little meaning it has. There is almost nothing exclusive on the Internet any more, our technological advances have made the scoop and almost impossible status to achieve. News sites are filled to over-flowing with photographs of celebrities showing a side-boob or earwax marked up as being a scandal or hot, depending on the editor’s choice of the day. Photographers concentrate their efforts of finding sweating stars coming out of the gym after a work-out, or snapping shots of a wardrobe malfunction which was probably designed just to attract their attention in the first place.

The real news, our lives, are flitting by at such a fast rate, and we’re missing out. We spend our time being influenced by what other people want us to see, want us to read, insist that we believe in. And then the stories fade into oblivion, are never quite as exciting, earth-shattering, motivating as we might have imagined, as we might have believed or wanted them to be. There is a new exclusive, a new wardrobe malfunction, a new rising star with a side-boob shot, new sweat stains, and we have gained nothing as readers. Some news sites are now just collections of vitriolic comments and political rants, and have nothing to do with reporting the news, the real events of the world. Our minds are being bent out of shape by a mass of simplistic nonsense, and some people are lapping it up as if it is the real world, real life, as if missing the latest ramblings with no real content would make their life incomplete.

Is this really what the Internet is meant to be?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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1 Comment

  • François Demers says:

    The Internet was originally meant to network huge numbers of computers together: dozens, perhaps even hundreds, all accessing the same data and software. That was in the early 1960’s, when it was first envisioned by mad scientists at MIT and a computer weighed more than a Steinway Model D.
    Then, it was meant to be a telecommunication network without single outage points that would allow the American DOD to stay in touch after a nuclear wipeout by the Soviet Union.
    1990 saw the first ISP provide commercial access. This was about 5 years after the word processor (sometimes running on a personal computer) had buried the IBM Selectric in the office. Email was now poised to bury the post office and fax machine simultaneously.
    Fixed-line telephony went IP and the slow but unstoppable worldwide regulatory abolition of electromagnetic waves broadcast television and its replacement by coaxial and fiber optics cables did the rest.

    So, the Internet is just a thing, a telecommunication network. The turning point for the bucket of slime is the agony and certain death of the half-decent daily newspaper on actual paper: television “news” has always been akin to trying to find out the brand of Parmesan cheese a person ate by tasting their fecal matter (I cannot take credit for the language or the extraordinary accuracy of the insight, both come from the snob.ru website).

    Any working telecommunication system must have a feedback mechanism. In the case of the Internet, actually, the Web, the feedback is deemed to be quantitative (clicks, unique hosts, duration, bounce… things Alexa can count.) Quantitative feedback is useful but it is not complete. However, as qualitative feedback, when it is available, requires time and intelligence to analyse, it is often ignored. Yes, selfies are getting boring, is possibly the least predictable (and thereby most important) phrase in this entire comment. There is no hardware or software system that can detect or highlight it. The system rewards the simplistic with more clicks and visits. The simpler the better, until nothing at all gets everything there is to get (which is also nothing at all). For an illustration, visit your friendly digital social network which may be partly responsible for an observable phenomenon: actual, in-person meetings are on the rise.

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