I'm in the second row of the paidContent 2011 conference at the amazing TheTimesCenter and I just watched a panel called "Quality, Quantity and Mass Content." Larry Dignan from ZDNet hosted a panel that included Jason Rapp from Mahalo, Chris Ahearn from ThompsonReuters, Luke Beatty from Yahoo's Associated Content and Lewis D'Vorkin from Forbes and True/Slant.
The feedback I got from other audience members is that Larry asked a couple of tough questions, but the panel was mostly evasive, especially on the topic of Google's "Farmer" update.
Felix Salmon told the panel that Twitter is his best place to find news and links and asked when these publishers' sites are going to be as good as Twitter. I'm not really paraphrasing. There were no great answers from the panel because the question was flawed. Of course Felix's Twitter stream is full of golden content, he follows really smart people who like many of the same things he likes!
A comparison of Felix Salmon's personalized Twitter stream vs. content farms is apples and oranges. If Felix was forced to spend an hour watching the straight not-signed-in stream of every tweet ever, he'd say it was way worse than *any* content site, especially if he was comparing the generic Twitter firehose to a content site in a vertical he cared about. We all see low quality content on Twitter every day in Twitter's trending topics list. Lady Gaga is not on that list because she's the best content, she's in there because she's liked a little bit by a really wide audience. The top ten of all topics on earth will always be the lowest common denominator content, not the highest quality content. It's not targeted and neither are Google results.
A better question for that panel would be:
When are you going to let me personalize my experience of your content into a format that looks like my Facebook/Myspace/Twitter stream -- filled with the topics I care about and devoid of the content I despise?
I don't think any of those publishers are working on that.
TechMeme comes really close without exposing actual personalization controls because they made topic and source constraints that already matched hardcore tech/investor preferences: TechCrunch, Engadget, Boy Genius Report, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb and the WSJ's MediaMemo and BoomTown. Oh my god, it's like TechMeme knows me.
It will be a real shame if publishers are waiting on a combined Bing and Facebook to deliver everyone a useful, personalized view into their content. Big publishers are worrying about giving up 30% cuts and all kinds of control to Apple, but they're not looking at content consumption preferences and taking control of their own destiny.