In a one-size-fits-all product world, broccoli news of the sort Scott cites rode along with the bon bons of lifestyle and celebrity coverage. Yet a newspaper with no broccoli would not sell as a newspaper (it instead becomes one of too many magazines like that). So veggies still have value. But when one-size-fits-all media is cut up and unbundled, when advertisers can choose to sponsor this piece of content and not that, then the risk to necessary and unhappy news becomes greater.
Jeff's post is about funding for public-service content, especially for 'brocoli' - i.e. socially worthy but unpopular - content. That's an interesting discussion, but here I want to focus on something else: the operative word above, "along" (my emphasis).
Broccoli content can't work without:
- Non-broccoli content to go on the side
- A 'place' where the two sit side by side.
Those 'places' are what in this blog I've called aggregates. Aggregates can deliver huge public/social value - as big as the content they aggregate. They do this via (i) serendipity and (ii) shared experiences, and are the embodiment of the public sphere.
In his book Republic.com, Cass Sunstein identified serendipity and shared experiences as key values of old media. His concern is that new media, because of personalisation and unbundling, put these values at risk - leading to a society where everybody reads The Daily Me and social cohesion is lost. Jeff's point is related, although it's more about serendipity than shared experiences.
While Sunstein's concern is justified, I think the risk may not be as serious. As I've argued before, non-personalised, massively-shared aggregates will never go away (whatever the web 2.0 enthusiasts may say). This is not just because the trend away from one-to-many media is a slow one: it is also because the trend will never take fully over; audiences will always appreciate the value of shared experiences. Just consider the enduring appeal of web portals: non-personalised, massively shared, editorially-curated destinations that are visited by millions as a matter of daily routine: surely a sign of an enduring relationship.
Imagine consuming news without serendipity (the unexpected) and shared experiences ('being in the loop'): what you are left with is just information--which will never do as a replacement for news. Serendipity and shared experiences will endure, quite simply, because they are 'what people want' - often more than they 'want' the content itself.