Is There a Cost to Free Custom News Aggregation?
I had mixed feelings as I read the coverage of The Washington Post's announcement of Trove, their free personalized news aggregation service, through Facebook, that will deliver customized news feeds from their site and the broader internet to select mobile devices, based on the users' particular interests.
If it helps an old line publication survive in these days of shrinking newspapers, it's a good thing. If it makes it easier for busy users to get the news they need in one place, on the devices they rely on, that's a good thing too. If it keeps journalists employed to add and select real content and build these custom news feeds, that's a very good thing. If it demonstrates to other planned news aggregators that "free" and mobile still is an effective model, that's good for all of us. The part that stops me is that it goes through the users' Facebook feed to determine his or her interests to build the feed. I'm not sure that's such a good thing, as I'm one of those people who tries hard to participate in Facebook without sacrificing my privacy. Trove's search engine will not find much about me on my Facebook page to set up my personalized feed.
I did like the fact that the Trove sign up page includes a "Let me know when I sign up without using Facebook" selection. I'll be one of those people.
Yesterday, I saw a link from former LP&Per Erin Hanley to an AllThingsDigital post about the iPhone tracking where its owners have been geographically. The reaction in the article was that this was both "cool" and disturbing. Apparently, there's an app available that allows anyone to map all of that highly detailed/stored information about where iPhone users have been. Ina Fried's post notes:
"I think this tweet from Chris Mulligan about sums up the mixed emotions rushing through many an iPhone owner this morning.
“The iPhone tracking is pretty sweet, but I wish it had more detail,” he wrote. “It’s missing a few places I’ve been. :( Oh, and I guess encryption?”
I guess I'm just suggesting that in our pell-mell race to get the latest tools to read and aggregate information, we make sure we're being mindful about what information we are trading for the privilege. I'll definitely be keeping a curmudgeonly eye on Trove to see if the upside outweighs the privacy downsides, from my perspective. What do you Facebook fans think about it?