Guest blogger Bas Timmers on the customisable future of news

Bas Timmers is Newsroom Editor at Dutch broadsheet de Volkskrant

It´s 2015. Newspapers don´t exist anymore. At least, not as a mass medium. Because everyone is living in his own cocoon, his own little world, assembled to his own preferences. Customizable, as the phenomenon is generally called. A television(or a computer screen or electronic paper?) displays documentaries and YouTube-like videos from internet users with the same preferences and the same lifestyle. The mp3-player pounds out songs automaticallty that fit the mood of its user, because the bloody thing can sense the mental state of of its boss. And in the meantime it also suggests some new songs that might match his preference.

The journal, on paper or on a foldable piece of ultra-thin e-paper, is tailor-made: a bit of politics, a snack of showbiz news, some sports and a lot of news about gadgets. Information that, by the way, is still supplied by the good old-fashioned newspaper company, that doesn’t make newspapers any more but rather focuses on delivering written content accompanied by videos and hyperlinks. And ads that match the profile of the user of course, but only if he wants that to happen.

The consumer keeps track of the latest news in his own world of expertise through rss feeds or something similar. And with a mini-broadcasting device (a sniffer) he scans his immediate environment to see whether there are friends and/or interesting people in the pub, cinema or shopping mall where he is. So he doesn’t need to ask his friend where they are, or lose time with chit-chatting with some rather boring people.

This consumer only buys in virtual stores. He gets advice from the iLama, the internet version of the Dalai Lama. On the basis of advice from other consumers and his buying behavior this iLama decides what devices to buy and not to buy. The real social network is only formed by physical friends: the rest happens through virtual online networks. Those friends do get an unlimited view in his life, though: where he is, what he does, when, what his calendar looks like, which movies he watches, what music he listens to, etc. Because he is king of his own world…

Science fiction? You bet. But the workshop I AM 2015 was all about dreaming up scenarios for the future.

Teachers, filmmakers, internet editors (like me), interface designers and other folks created the iLama. It may sound unlikely, but in his introduction consultant Krijn Schuurman pointed out what has happened in the past ten years: email, the growth of online shops, downloading movies, cell phone payments, a second-hand market online, voice recognition, MySpace, YouTube, Google. An impressive list that only few would have dared to dream up in 1997. With that in mind the iLama doesn’t seem so unlikely.

(Although the idea for special glasses that make boring people invisible on the street was very, uh, futuristic.)

Inspiring it was indeed, as was the entire Picnic ’07 event. The multimedia conference in Amsterdam was a mix of keynote speeches, workshops, network events and drinking a beer. Ideal for people who are orienting themselves to the future of online news. That is what this weekly column will be all about. Now just hope that I’ve got enough inspiration to produce something every week until 2015…

Bas Timmers
Newsroom editor at the Dutch daily quality newspaper de Volkskrant

14 thoughts on “Guest blogger Bas Timmers on the customisable future of news

  1. nigel barlow

    This sounds like a nightmare world to me.Information tchnology has taken journalism to its extreme with individuals completely controlling their content.

    The result is that social interaction will end (perhaps it already has) and news ideas will no longer be generated.

    Don’t get me wrong,as a student journalist,I totally embrace the growth of the online medium and its many advantages,but this information cocoon is a danger to society.

  2. paulbradshaw Post author

    I think you miss the point about social recommendation. It is not about saying “I only want to read about UK stories” but “Someone who knows someone who knows someone I know has read this article about South Africa.” We will still be open to new ideas, and editors and journalists will still be part of our social networks as readers.

  3. Bas Timmers

    I don’t necessarily see this development as evil. You will get both social recommendations and professional recommendations (from journalists) and thus get far more knowledge of subjects in which you are interested. And other people bringing you new ideas is an integral, if not essential, part of the cocoon.


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