A Small Yet Significant Switch

I have personal evidence that news brands are dying. Today I realized that the memetrackers (Tailrank, in this case) are my first choice for news now, even if it isn’t tech news. Up till now, I’ve still been relying on CNN to give me the latest, but I am now ready to stop site grazing […]

I have personal evidence that news brands are dying.

Today I realized that the memetrackers (Tailrank, in this case) are my first choice for news now, even if it isn’t tech news. Up till now, I’ve still been relying on CNN to give me the latest, but I am now ready to stop site grazing for news headlines and go straight to a memetracker first. (for many tech-heads, this has already happened)

I realized this change had occurred when the top story was the 2nd part of the conversation between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell, which is the best writing on the Web at the moment, and the thing I am definitely most interested in.

Big change

Though seemingly small, I think this is a significant change (for me, at least), as the power of brand is all about top-of-mind. Which service do you turn to first? Is it CNN, or is it Tailrank? If you only had one site to look at, which would you choose? Which do you trust to give you the better information? The first answer that pops into your head is the stronger brand, as far as it matters to you.

So, even though we talk about the power of companies and the brands they portray, the real activity goes on in our heads each and every moment. What’s counter-intuitive to think about is that news brands survive because of millions of choices made every day, not because they have a monopoly on the news. It’s not that they have a physical lock on anything. Instead, they have a mental lock on us, simply because we think of them before we think of others.

This is all old-hat, of course. In no way is this a new, blazing insight into the minds of man. The insight for me was that I didn’t realize how strong the CNN brand was for me, until I actually thought about switching away from it. It also suggests that when designing things like memetrackers that compete with very strong brands, any mental associative devices you can add might be helpful. This is probably why so much time is spent on taglines…because when they work, they work to be the first thing recalled when a particular topic comes up.

Aggregators have an advantage

In a way, aggregators will always have advantages over systems that have their own agenda to push, even if that agenda is, in part, to provide the best and latest news. The Simmons/Gladwell story that I’m interested in is at ESPN, not on Sports Illustrated, which is affiliated with CNN. The memetrackers are simply being less biased than the news organizations who claim the same, and so have no problem showing me just most talked about memes.

So the thing I’m most interested in won’t be available on the CNN homepage any time soon. The switch has flipped.

Published: March 4th, 2006

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