As Unfair and Unbalanced as You Like


One of the weird consequences of post-mass media is that we can now live in an ideologically pure media bubble of our own on just about any medium. Partisan news reporting is available 24/7 now, on cable, on the Web and on mobile extensions of both on your phone. Play your cards right and keep that bubble intact and you may never have to see a challenging point of view again. But stray onto a video news aggregator and you never know what might happen. All of a sudden a right-wing wingnut may find himself confronted by a Jon Stewart clip making light of Saint Sarah. Or a loony lefty might happen upon Sean in full torpor over our Manchurian President's hidden Stalinist agenda. The Web is a dangerous place.

And so it was refreshing to see at the new video aggregation and curation service Newslook that I could do an ideological search of recent clips from a range of news sources. Enter keyword "Obama" and designate a Conservative ideology and you can stay safe with a cloud of Hannity rants and Gingrich hyperbole. Flick over to the Progressive filter on the same search and watch the Jon Stewart and Colbert videos cascade in. And for the moderates in the bunch there are Leans Progressive, Centrist and Leans Conservative settings as well.



Of course the narrow mind will want to filter the feed to reaffirm their prejudices, but there is also the opportunity to review the ideological range of opinions on any hot topic. The ideology search tool is actually a bit buried in the Newslook tool set. It could be turned into a standalone product of its own.

This is a curious but very useful tool for the Newslook service that launched last month. The site pulls together thousands of current and past news clips from scores of sources. Editors pick the best videos to offer and categorize the content, including the content's ideological perspective. They tag them and add denser descriptions.

Newslook has a modestly designed site that faces consumers. But the business model seems aimed at supplying customized feeds of aggregated and curated content to publishers. There are interactive widgets that can pull video streams into other sites, and Newslook says that it will add ads to the feeds to monetize the video themselves.

As video content becomes an expectation of users at almost any site, publishers surely will be looking for reliable, higher quality feeds of content that aren't subject to error-prone automated feeds. Whether adding another layer of advertising to clips that often already come with embedded ads is another question. CEO Fred Silverman tells me that the service is phasing out its YouTube and embed feeds that do have ads already folded in and will be relying more on licensed feeds direct from the content sources. "It is this content that we monetize, primarily with short pre-rolls," he says. "We try to limit our ads to 15 second pre-rolls, as it is a bit obscene to run a 30 or 60 second spot before a 90 second news piece." We couldn't agree more. Short pre-rolls for short news content. That is what we call 'fair and balanced.'

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