The launch of news site Daylife almost two weeks ago was met by a flurry of feedback from thoughtful types across the web.
So what happened?
Bloggers alternately fawned over Daylife’s “engagingly pretty” interface and decried its lack of interactivity. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, a Daylife investor, was disappointed at the absence of commenting and RSS feeds. David Weinberger at Joho the Blog made a convincing case that Daylife’s navigation was built inside-out. And Nick Denton’s gossipy Valleywag focused on the entrepreneurial inbreeding and conflicts unavoidable in such a sprawling investor list.
Daylife reacted with humility and calm to the charges. RSS is coming soon, Daylife’s blog assures us. Some features inevitably miss the boat in site launches and must follow later,wrote Daylife Consulting Editor Jeff Jarvis.
As the smoke clears, it appears there is more to Daylife than meets the eye. As Jarvis is quick to point out, Daylife is much more than a site. He focuses on its API, which will give any site tools to analyze and organize the news. Daylife may get compared to news aggregators, but with such an emphasis on its API, it’s equal parts aggregator and distributor. GigaOM suggested Daylife is “the closest thing we’ve seen to a webified newspaper”-so might the newspaper of the future exist across hundreds or thousands of sites, defined more by its tools than unique content?
We’ll let Jeff Jarvis explain in his own words.
Rachel: Founder Upendra Shardanand once described Daylife’s addictive format as “ImdB for news.” How would you explain what Daylife does?
Jeff: Daylife does a few things. Keep in mind that it is a platform for news, not just a site, so it empowers other sites, large and small, to bring more relevant news content to their readers.
Daylife gathers, analyzes, and organizes the news. That analysis yields all sorts of valuable results — some of which are visible on the Daylife site and others that will come out as more sites use the Daylife API. Because we analyze the news, we can see coverage from a high altitude: who’s covering what, where.
But at eye-level, it allows us to see the connections in the news (e.g., Angelia Jolie is connected with newsmakers from entertainment and world politics and Africa). This ability to make connections is an essential value of Daylife. It also allows us to create an infinitely browsable news space at Daylife.com.
Rachel: From what sources does Daylife draw its content? Are any citizen journalism sources? Why or why not?
Jeff: Daylife gathers and analyzes news from thousands of sources — an ever-growing list — both mainstream and blogs and from all around the world (in English to start). We’ll be relying on the public to tip us off to more good sources now that we are public.
Rachel: Daylife may be the closest thing out there to the fictional newspaper-of-the-future "EPIC", predicted more than three years ago in the film "EPIC 2014". However, the film cast a fabricated Google conglomerate as EPIC’s creator. How does Daylife compare to the Google News aggregator? And is Daylife inspired at all by EPIC?
Jeff: I think EPIC has been inspiring many people throughout the news industry.
Let me answer your question from a slightly different angle: news in a connected world. I think that one of the great benefits to Daylife being a platform is that as people use it to put links to relevant news on their sites, we help distribute that news out onto the tentacles of the web. And in turn, this means that the platform and the people who use it can drive audience and traffic back to news at its source.
I believe that is part of a new architecture of news that is emerging: When a person or an organization invests in news coverage, the more that is discovered by interested readers, the better they can support that coverage (with audience to advertising, in the case of commercial sites; with contributions of money and reporting, in the case of NewAssignment.net; with attention, in the case of all reporting). It’s easier to discuss this over a whiteboard.
In the past, news organizations tended to replicate the same work over and over; we can’t afford to do that anymore[…]We need better ways to get to the news that is valuable to us. Daylife is part of that effort.
One example of a use of Daylife’s API is the Huffington Post, which uses Daylife’s platform to power its NewsRanker. Huffington Post built that using Daylife data to find out who’s getting covered more. And when you click on names there, you get pages build using Daylife showing you the world’s coverage of those people.
I’ll add that we see Daylife and [open journalism project] NewAssignment as highly complementary: The public can use Daylife to see what is not being covered and then go to NewAssignment to get it covered.
Rachel: What will Daylife’s greatest challenge be moving forward?
Jeff: The obvious challenges any startup faces: To get seen and distributed and to do a great job listening to the users — including both readers at Daylife.com and developers using the Daylife platform — to constantly improve and expand the product.
Rachel:. How could Daylife evolve how people consume news?
Jeff: [My response to the EPIC question] is part of the answer. And I think it may be too soon to know the rest of the answer. […] I think one side effect of Daylife is seeing news outside of the strict taxonomy — structure of politics v. business v. entertainment, etc. — that has been the structure of news and information in the printed age; now we see news through its connections, cutting across all those old lines. There’s much more but I do believe the best internet platforms are built in such a way that even their builders are surprised at the uses to which people put them. So I’d rather sit back and watch than predict.
Rachel: How might Daylife affect the power balance in the media? Will blogs grow more influential? Vested interests be unveiled?
Jeff: The internet allows us all to see the world of news from every perspective[…] It’s true today that I can click from The Times to Haaretz to Al Jazeera to an Iraqi blog to an Israeli blog on a given story. But when all that is put together in one place, it gives a new context to the news. That, I think, is good for the world, and if Daylife plays a role in helping to do that, we’d be delighted. .
The more information society has, the more efficiently it can find and judge that relevant information, the more informed we will all be. That is the promise of the internet that is just beginning to be fulfilled.