The Death of Us

Who’s editing your online news? Increasingly, not an editor.

The Internet hasn’t changed just how fast we get the news but also who decides which news we get. Should editors control front-page material or should you? Or perhaps we should just leave it to the mathematicians. Here’s a users’ guide.

  • Google News

  • Edited by: A lot of fancy algorithms
    News sources: 10,000
    Unique users: 9,790,000
    Top story, April 6, 10:30 a.m.: “Senate GOP Reach Immigration Deal”
    Our take: For a thorough view of the most current news, Google is your best bet. Its search engine updates the site every 15 minutes, accounting for relevance, recency, and source. There’s not much in the way of multimedia, but you can filter results for broad topics, or not-so-broad (the ever-fascinating “Britney Spears baby,” say).
    Cool feature: News in 13 languages
    Cost: Free

  • The New York Times online

  • Edited by: Hardworking Times journalists
    News sources: Around 10
    Unique users: 12,702,000
    Top story, April 6, 10:30 a.m.: “Immigration Plans Face Test Votes
    in Senate”
    Our take: They’re not machines, but human editors aren’t too shabby. The basic news site is consistently eclectic and current. And new features including expanded multimedia, a My Times personalized Web page, interactive blogs, and searches could foretell the future of custom journalism.
    Cool feature: Excellent multimedia, from video to slide shows to graphs
    Cost: Basic news is free, but a Times Select subscription is $49.95 a year.


  • Edited by: You
    News sources: 1,350
    Average daily users: 800,000
    Top story, April 6, 10:30 a.m.: “Parallels Releases VM Workstation 2.1 for OS X”
    Our take: Users submit stories and “digg” them: Having the most recent votes gets a story closer to the front page. The idea–power to the people!–has huge potential. The question is, which people? Tech-obsessed diggers ignore sports, travel, and health, to name a few things.
    Cool feature: Digg Spy, which lets you watch as stories win and lose votes in real time
    Cost: Free