Megan McCarthy currently runs Mediagazer, a news aggregator focusing on stories examining the changes in the media industry and the implementation of technology into mass communications (read: my bible). Megan helped to launch Mediagazer, a spinoff of technology news aggregator Techmeme, in March, 2010, after being hired as the first human editor of Techmeme in 2008. Prior to joining Techmeme, Megan covered Silicon Valley and startups for Wired.com and Valleywag, a technology blog owned by Gawker Media. She’s ridiculously connected and knowledgeable and by her own admission “spends far too much time thinking about the future of media.” I grabbed her for 15 to talk aggregation. [Image]
You recently turned one! What have you learned over the last year about the media industry?
My top takeaway is that there’s a lot of change, but also a lot of opportunity. In the past year we’ve had acquisitions, shutdowns, rebirths, personnel shifts, and major upheaval in the way publications are trying to monetize. While some aspects seem to be shrinking, there’s room for more growth in other places. I’m excited to learn about the next big thing.
What makes Mediagazer so successful? (Talk a little about the algorithm / curation process) What does success look like for an aggregator?
Success is a page that shows all of the top media stories of the moment, efficiently and comprehensively. The algorithmic approach gives us breadth, so you see all relevant takes on a story, and the human element helps us curate things a little more quickly and elegantly. My aim is for Mediagazer to be the one site that anyone who wants to make money in media needs to visit every day.
Any plans to change anything? Any other spin offs planned?
Nothing concrete! We’re keeping an eye out for other improvements and topics that might make for good sites. Please let me know if you have any ideas or requests!
You recently added Twitter as a way to cite sources / get tips etc – why did you do this? Has it been successful?
Twitter has become a valuable resource for lots of people in the media industry. It’s just another way to publish information, and there were times when a story would break on Twitter, yet we couldn’t put it on Mediagazer until someone else wrote it up in a proper blog post. That didn’t feel right. News under 140 characters is still news. Incorporating Twitter into the collection of stories we have makes things feel more complete.
What’s next for Mediagazer?
Just aiming to perfect the mix at the moment. We have a few ideas we’re kicking around, but, again, nothing concrete, and feedback is welcome!
How has running Mediagazer changed your view of the media industry?
It hasn’t changed my viewpoint of the industry, but it has sharpened my view. I know a lot more about the patterns of this topic – how things are released, which writers are strongest in which categories – than I did before I started.
What’s the next disruption for the media industry?
The disruption I’m waiting for is the one involving Advertising. Right now, things are segmented – the people who buy TV spots are different from the people who buy magazine pages are different from the people who place mobile ads. Yet, I think that cross-platform content is inevitable – consumers care more about the content than the medium and want to be able to access whatever information is out there from wherever they are. The advertising world cannot keep pretending that different screens are siloed from each other. This will result in more money moving towards digital, but it will have to come from the more traditional media side – and there are years of built-up businesses who are doing quite well with the status quo, so there will be resistance.
How do we make people read more news?
Easiest way is to get them involved in creating it.
What’s the future of news? Aggregation? Curation? Something entirely new?
There will be more interaction, and, because of that, smart publications will realize they need to focus on the display and design of their products and how – physically and intuitively – their users consume their content. Aggregation and curation are aspects of this – they’re both just ways of delivering news.
What advice would you give journalists out there? And grads?
Focus on the execution, not the idea. You could have the greatest idea in the world, but it’s useless if it just lives inside your head. Also, if you can’t find a gig you like, learn how to set up your own website, teach yourself how to blog or podcast, and just start doing it. You don’t need anyone’s permission.
What do you wish you knew ten years ago?
I wish I knew Python and the number to a recruiter at Google.
In all seriousness, though, I didn’t get involved in media until about five years ago, even though I was an avid consumer and an unintentional student of it for most of my life. I didn’t know what skills were necessary to enter this field, so I never knew where to start. I wish I realized how silly that was. Turns out, sometimes you just need some perseverance and boldness and to realize that the door is already open and just waiting for you to walk through.
How do you stem the flow of information coming at you? What tools do you use?
I use a lot of alerts and alarms. Our algorithm is a great help. I have Tweetdeck organized with certain columns for people/publications that I follow on Twitter. And sometimes it’s best to stem the flow by being aggressive and trying to anticipate what the next step will be and seeing if it’s out there.