Jason Kottke posts an interesting article comparing the positoning of The New York Times against blogs in Google searches for ten top news stories of 2005.

The story behind the research is a long bet between Dave Winer (of Userland / RSS fame) and Martin Nisenholtz (the CEO of NY Times Digital), in which Winer proposes the following:

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times‘ Web site.

In Kottke’s experiment, blogs come out on top, although „traditional media“ wins in spirit over „citizen media“.

The premise behind Winer’s bet is that Internet users are increasingly discarding the top-down, few-to-many model of traditional publishing and are embracing instead the decentralised, democratic, „wisdom of crowds“ model of personal publishing (read: blogs). Winer says:

The pervasive big publishing philosophy of Dumb It Down, forces all stories through too narrow a channel to model the diverse and complex world we live in. When the Times covers my industry it seems they only know three stories — Microsoft is evil, Java is the future (or open source or whatever the topic du jour is) and Apple is dead. All other stories are cast into one of those three. They’re boring the readers into looking for alternatives, and because they are limited in the number of writers they employ, they can’t branch out to cover other angles.

All that we can conclude from the experiment is that blogs fare better in Google’s search rankings than The New York Times, and not that the average Internet user places more authority in blogs than in traditional media. It is important to note that The NY Times and blogs are (for the most part) attempting to fulfill different mandates – The Times strives after an objective reporting of the facts, blogs are generally based on personal commentary.

Personally, I turn to blogs for niche (and micro-niche) topics, such as web development or marketing, where there are a number of sites that enjoy my trust and discuss topics that will only get the attention of the mainstream media when they really do go mainstream, when they are already old news amongst experts. For most other topics my needs are amply met by mainstream media – I just don’t need the level of detail concerning The European Cup or NASA’s latest exploits that a tightly focused blog would provide. It has often been said that a key to blog success is to identify a niche, and the keep the writing on topic. A blog cannot afford, and doesn’t try to cover all topics, whereas The Times strives „to present authoritative coverage of the most important events of the day, immediately and accurately.“ What Nisenholtz noted in 2002 is still true today, that personal publishing and traditional media are not mutually exclusive.

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