Thursday, January 2, 2014

Newsana: A News Aggregator To Help Keep People Informed and Engaged

“Our mission at Newsana, our goal, is ultimately to become the world’s arbiter of high-quality news, analysis, ideas and opinions” ... The biggest problem with the online news experience right now is there is just too much content.”

- Ben Peterson, Newsana co-founder

Those of us with a passion for a better Canada know that the key to achieving it lies in having an engaged citizenry armed with information, knowledge, and some critical thinking ability, none of which occur in a vacuum. Probably the biggest deterrent for most people in acquiring those tools is time.

To be sure, there are sites that aggregate the news, but foraging through the dross can still be time-consuming. Now there is a new kid on the block that may help address this problem.

A few days ago, The Toronto Star ran a feature on people to watch in 2014. One of those people is Ben Peterson, quoted above. In April of 2013, he, his partners and backers launched Newsana, a news aggregator with a difference - the stories it carries are those suggested by its members.

Here's how it works:

Newsana ... hand-picks news from members, highlighting the top five items in topic areas from arts and entertainment to business to the future of journalism, as voted on by members themselves. The top five can change throughout the day.

Members are also ranked: and if their pitches are well-received by others, they move up in the rankings of influence in chosen categories. The goal is to have members share ideas and debate issues.

Members must apply to join the site (to date, some have been rejected) or they must be invited by an existing member.

The blogs that I read on a daily basis are written by some very knowledgeable and passionate people who frequently lead me, with their insights and links, to information and perspectives that I would likely never have acquired on my own. Those bloggers have immeasurably enriched my understanding of the world we share.

So here is what I'm thinking. Having recently joined Newsana and become a contributor, mainly in the Canadian Politics topic, it occurs to me that the kinds of quality articles the organization is seeking could be very effectively provided by engaged bloggers. While there is no provision for writing one's own pieces, contributors are given the option of writing a lead-in to create interest, as well as the opportunity to engage in dialogue with those who comment on the articles provided, not unlike what we do on our own blogs. I also suspect that a news aggregator like Newsana will attract an audience of people who may not necessarily read blogs, but still want to learn more, which takes me back to my opening observation about the need for an informed and engaged citizenry.

So I invite my fellow bloggers to take a look at the site and consider helping it grow so that together, we can continue our efforts to challenge the sad status quo that currently exists in Canada and make positive change a real possibility.


  1. I had a look, Lorne, but I'm not convinced that it will wind up as more than just high-end groupthink. Somebody else is telling readers what is important and, by omission, what is not. I'd rather decide for myself what articles in The Guardian or the Times of India, der Spiegel, le Monde, etc. are important and relevant.

    I'm not all that keen on aggregators. They're a means to contact with readers but most of the stuff that turns up on them is of no interest to me.

    I'll keep an eye on them from time to time but I probably won't get involved. I'm waiting to get a look at Glenn Greenwald's new journalism venture.

    1. What you say may be true, Mound, but for those who have no time for newspapers per se, it strikes me as at least better than being blissfully oblivious of the world or, even worse, letting the government, with its moneyed propaganda machine do their thinking for them.