I couldn’t help but comment on Molly Woods’ article, “Making Adjustments in the Search for the Perfect News Feed” in today’s NYTImes Business Section.

When it comes to news feeds, we’re all ears at TrendTopics. But when a large, and I mean LARGE, audience creates its own “news feed” from like-minded social networking contacts you move from a “what people need to know (about their world)” to “what people want to know”.  In my opinion, the difference can have far reaching implications.   Buzzfeed has built an entire business around creating such feeds, i.e. they cull search stats and simply write about what people are searching for (their ad-driven news generators are based entirely on this type of model).

There’s been plenty written about how this emerging behavior is creating a consensus mindset in the social networking crowd, but I wanted to address the more local affect this is having.  I do need to admit that I’m a big user of social networks, although primarily for business purposes.

I’m seeing more and more people my age (50’ish) turning to Facebook and Twitter as their primary news source. The result??? It’s harder to have a conversation with friends that involves topics outside their new social network “news feed”. There’s an old word for this behavior – provincial.  I hate using that word, but it’s becoming more aplicable as these personal “feeds” become more the norm then the exception as news proxies.

This is a little bit of a rant. So skip the post if you’ve heard this before. Too many of my friends (not the Facebook kind of friends, but the real kind) are becoming less, let’s say, informed.  Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. were initially a place to share things about yourself, your family, your interests, cats, kids, new purchases, relationships, etc. But when someone spends 3 hours a day on one of these social platforms, it quickly squeezes out time for “something else”. I believe more traditional news consumption was the primary loser in this time-tradeoff.  Entertainment and sports still held their media timeslots, but news in the sense of what’s going on around you got the media squeeze.

What’s this got to do with TrendTopics?  We monitor and measure news, both traditional and social.  As social news feeds increase in popularity, the zero-sum news consumption game implies that audience numbers in more traditional channels will decline.  Recent numbers suggest this is already underway.

Ms. Wood’s article assumed that these news feed changes where the norm.  But are they really “news feeds”.

Paul