MySpace News is no Digg-killer

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myspace-news-front.jpgMySpace has just put its new MySpace News service live, so I’ve been playing around with it. The service has been billed as a Digg-killer, but it’s not really – at least, not in its current form.

It’s a news-aggregation service with user voting, but with an extra layer of moderation in between the original news sources, and what gets onto the site itself.

You can’t actually submit individual news stories for other users to vote on. Instead, you have to suggest a blog, website or RSS feed. “Our staff will review it for appropriate content and quality,” says the site’s FAQ. “If it passes inspection, we’ll try to add it to relevant news topics.”

There’ll be plenty of people watching closely to see just how open MySpace News is, but on first impressions, it’s not shutting out News Corporation’s rivals. The World News section, for example, currently includes stories from CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, the Washington Post, ABC News, CBS News and Newsweek, among others.

Blogs seem well represented too. For example, on the Gadgets section, our very own Shiny Shiny is on the front page, along with the likes of Engadget, Gizmodo and CrunchGear. No Tech Digest as yet, but give us time…

myspace-news-categories.jpgThe rating system is more like Amazon than Digg, as you mark stories out of 5, rather than just giving them your seal of approval or not. The homepage could be a bit better designed though – the links to Suggest A Topic or Suggest A Site / Blog / RSS Feed are buried right at the bottom.

Suggesting a new topic works slightly differently, in that you choose a subject area (the FAQ gives ‘speed-knitting kittens’ as a tongue-in-cheek example) and a category for it, then enter a short description, and a list of the websites, blogs and feeds that you think are relevant.

As far as I can make out, there are currently 25 major categories, which since you ask, are: Animals, Arts, Autos, Business, Education, Entertainment, Events, Food/Drink, Funky/Random, Gaming, Health, Home, Living, Local, Music, Parenting, Politics, Recreation, Religion, Science, Self-Help, Sports, Style, Technology and Travel.

Then each of these opens out into sub-categories, so under Technology, you’ll find 27 seperate topics, with everything from Gadgets, Web 2.0 and Mobile Tech through to Nanotech, RFID and Futurism. Wot, no robots?

I do have concerns about the way the news stories are presented, though. Take the Gadgets category as an example, again. Clicking it brings up a ‘Top News’ page with 15 stories on it. Who decides which stories make it onto this page? I can’t access any more stories to vote them on. And I can’t search by keyword, or sort stories by date. Note, I’m using Firefox on a Mac, so do comment if all these features are available on your whizzy PC / IE combo…

This might just be first-day limitations, to make sure the service is working before rolling out more advanced features. As it stands, MySpace News is interesting, but too superficial as a news source, with no information on how stories make it onto the front (well, only) pages for each topic.

The sheer size of the MySpace user-base means MySpace News could be an important site, assuming the functionality improves in the coming months. For now, it’s a bit of a let-down, considering the anticipation that’s led up to its launch.

MySpace News

Stuart Dredge

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