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Ubiquitous Online News: Content Syndication and the Semantic Web

Ubiquitous Online News: Content Syndication and the Semantic Web

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Ubiquitous Online News: Content Syndication and the Semantic Web

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  1. Ubiquitous Online News: Content Syndication and the Semantic Web Dr Axel Bruns Creative Industries Faculty Queensland University of Technology

  2. Blogging and Open News • Not done in isolation, but highlighting the interconnection between amateur and professional writers • Practice of gatewatching: publicising and commenting on content found elsewhere on the Web • Depends on individuals’ ability to identify and point to ‘interesting’ material – content discovery – as much as on the quality of their commentary • Automated mechanisms for identifying material are now becoming available: especially news syndication

  3. News Syndication • News syndication is nothing new – common practice in mainstream news since the invention of the telegraph • Now direct access to syndicated news is possible: “today, in effect, the pipeline goes straight to the citizen” (Kovach & Rosenstiel) • Removal of intermediaries as well as potential for new sources to syndicate their own news – e.g. Indymedia news wire • But: “who the heck has time to read all this stuff?” (Lasica)

  4. News Syndication Technologies • Combination of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ models: syndication feeds need to be discovered and linked to (‘pull’), but then deliver news automatically (‘push’) • Key format: Rich Site Summary (RSS, a.k.a. Really Simple Syndication) • XML format that forms part of the W3C Resource Description Framework (RDF) • Provides key news story details (e.g.URL, title, time, author, summary, …) • Introduced by UserLand • Used by Netscape Netcenter • Now in use in most blogging systems • Sample feed: BBC World News

  5. Syndication Uses • Stand-alone news readers(e.g. AmphetaDesk) • Embedded inWebsites ( • Websites often allow directcommentary onsyndicated news • So, syndication feedsprovide raw materialfor blogging andsimilar uses

  6. Alternatives to RSS Syndication • Brute-force syndication • E.g. GoogleNews • E.g. Syndic8, NewsIsFree: ‘scraping’ of headlines from sites without RSS feeds • Dubious legal status • News aggregators • E.g. GoogleNews • E.g. Technorati, Blogdex, Daypop • Able to monitor prominent and emergent memes across individual sites • Trend towards a reappropriation/depropriation of news items and the perception of swarms of related news items

  7. Limitations • Much rhetoric of RSS as democratising • But power differences between small-time operators and mainstream news sources remain visible • Still no direct way to attach one’s commentary directly to the source article • In the blogosphere, this is being addressed: e.g. through TrackBack mechanisms which trace distributed discussions across multiple blogs

  8. Towards a Semantic Web (?) • Combination of • RSS (outward syndication), • TrackBack (inbound syndication), • and Semantic Web (more intelligent tagging of information) could enable bidirectional syndication – or intercast (Elin) – of news and commentary • E.g.: • original article on BBC World News, • embedded into other sites through syndication, • multiple responses on various blogs, • linked to original article on BBC site and themselves embedded into other sites through syndication again • Result: a flexible news intercast which takes place across multiple sites irrespective of news sources or site technologies

  9. Newssharing • Analogies to filesharing: • Content (news items / songs) detached from context (online newspapers and sites / CDs and DVDs) • Content discovered through sophisticated and automated tools and pieced together in new combinations by users • Similar ethical, commercial, legal questions – e.g., does it help or hinder product sales?

  10. Syndication and the News Industry • Stephen Gray, publisher of U.S.-based newspaper The Christian Science Monitor, on RSS syndication: “I look at the Web as an opportunity to have a million doorways to the Christian Science Monitor. … I think of it as a progression from one end, where it's free, to the other end, where it's paid. The pipeline has to be really big at the out end to bring in lots of beginners if you want to maximize the number of subscribers at the other end.” (qtd. in Lasica)