I recently attended a talk given by Dan Lyons. It dealt in part with the economic and professional impact of digital media on journalism, and spawned a lively discussion.
Reporters have traditionally provided access to information and points of view which are otherwise unavailable to the reader. With the explosion of digital content, from individuals and publishers, access to information and points of view is rapidly approaching a price point of zero. News, commentary, reference material, humor and fiction are all plentiful. If information wants to be free, information is getting its wish.
This means that selling access to information is a rapidly shrinking business. The variety and quality of fact and opinion available for free on the web is far beyond sufficient for me, and I expect the same is true for many others.
In fact, there is too much of it. The challenge is in finding the good stuff. I rely on a network of friends, aggregators, and search tools to find the material which is of good quality and relevant to me. I need to invest a significant amount of time and attention to make it work, and in some cases it requires specialized technical skills. There are other people who do this much better than I do. That seems to me like an opportunity to offer a valuable service.
I think such a service would require a strong human element. Perhaps eventually, science fiction “intelligent agents” will be developed, which will scour available content for items we might want, learning and applying knowledge of our preferences. Until then, humans, with the use of technology, seem much more capable than automata of identifying good and relevant content.
So, how about a personalized service, which would provide me with fresh, good quality, relevant content, from many sources? Not a simple tag/keyword/recommendation engine system, but something truly personalized. That is something I would pay for. Could this scale so that one human could service many others in this way? Is anyone already offering something like this?
The idea is similar to the way in which Canonical derives revenue from free software, by providing the content (software) at zero cost and providing services around it, including packaging and certifying other software.