"Search engines are proficient at quickly returning a big pile of results to a query. But what’s the best stuff in the pile?"
If this isn’t the money quote, then I don’t know what is. The above sentiment was expressed in an article in the Washington Post about Brijit, an online magazine article aggregator. Brijit is a web service that compiles 100 word abstracts of print magazine articles which are then published and rated, both by users and an editorial team. Think Digg crossed with hand-selected recommendations by site editors.
The idea was hatched by Jeremy Brosowsky, a father of four, who loves magazine content but couldn’t find time to read his ever growing stack of glossies. He wished that someone could swoop in and tell him the most intriguing or important stories in the stack. Noting a need for such a service he took the task upon himself. According to the Post, "Brosowsky’s latest idea is attracting interest and nearly $1 million in
venture capital from about 10 investors, including Norman Pearlstine,
former editor of Time magazine and now with Carlyle Group.":
There are precedents for the idea. Reader’s Digest
became America’s most popular magazine for decades by condensing
content to short, easily readable articles. And magazine analyst Mark
Edmiston notes that "The Week," the National Review‘s weekly magazine summary of news, written with attitude and wit, has made a solid business.
"I think [Brijit] makes a lot of sense," Edmiston said. "I think that’s where the Web is going."
The Web is moving toward the combination of human reviewers with Internet search. WebMD
founder Jeff Arnold has said that if the latest evolution of the
Internet, Web 2.0, was about the consumer — meaning user-generated
sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube — then Web 3.0 will be about the editor.
So far, Brijit is reviewing magazine articles and some television
shows, such as PBS news programs. Brosowsky said Brijit is adding 60 to
75 abstracts per day.
Many of the 100-word abstracts allow readers to click directly to
the article on its publisher’s Web site. But some do not, because some
magazine Web sites require users to pay to read their articles online.
But that’s less of an issue now than when Brosowsky dreamed up Brijit
months ago. For instance, the Economist recently took all of its online
content dating back one year out from "behind the wall" — an Internet
publishing term for making paid content free.
This seems like a pretty smart idea to me. Here is an example of an abstract for a popularly-rated National Geographic article to give you an idea of their descriptions:
The Pacific island kingdom of Tonga emerges from its isolation and
obscurity through Teague’s descriptive prose, which draws the reader
into the beauty and madness of one of the world’s last true monarchies.
The passing of their beloved king has left this highly literate but
traditional people subject to the whims of an unreliable crown prince.
Teague’s lengthy exposition of a rising democracy movement flies by,
reading almost like a novel.
Go take a gander. Obviously, sites like Brijit add more value when more people participate. I’ll certainly have my eye on this venture, and I wish it much success.