Who wants bad news on demand?
Social media sites such as twitter are rapidly redefining the way we recieve the news. Newspapers are getting past their sell by date and news shows on the television feel increasingly old fashioned as the years go on because people have access to news stories and ongoing developments at the touch of a button, no matter where they are.
Perhaps the best online service for this was Breaking News, a CNN-owned company which sent out global news alerts 24 hours a day. Despite having more than nine million twitter followers alongside a website and app – as well as building a large following amongst journalists, government staff and industry workers around the world – Breaking News was unable to sustain itself commercially and was closed at the end of 2016.
Now, the original team behind Breaking News have come up with a way to bring the popular service back and run it in a way which generates the money needed to stay afloat. The key innovation is that the new service called Factal will deliver carefully targeted bad news for a price.
The obvious question is of course why anyone would pay to have bad news delivered directly onto their mobile phones. It is hard enough to escape the seemingly never-ending torrent of misery which is produced by the mainstream press, let alone actually paying money to seek it out.
However, the target audience is not individual people; instead, Factal will target governments and businesses that need to get information about things going wrong from a reliable source as quickly as possible in order to head off greater disasters.
For instance, as the world continues to change due to man-made climate change floods, wildfires, extreme storms, heatwaves and all the rest are becoming more regular and severe. If local governments have access to a high quality breaking news stream then they will be able to move people out of affected areas more quickly and save lives.
The people behind Factal believe they can accomplish this by adhering to a strict code of ethics which applies to sourcing, corrections and privacy. The founders of Factal also state that they will break the mould by saying what they don’t know as well as what they do know. In this way they hope to bring the standards of a traditional newsroom to bear on a thoroughly modern service, in stark contrast to the seemingly ethics-free zone that the likes of Facebook and Twitter exist in, and give customers the best of both worlds.
When it comes to the spread of breaking news the internet acts as something like an incubator for panic and lies. Everybody can chip in but there is no requirement for the truth or any form of discretion, making it extremely difficult to tell truth from fiction. If Factal, and others like it, can help to inject a little sanity into internet discourse and bypass the sea of disinformation then it would seem to be a sensible investment for governments, companies and people trying to respond to current events in the best possible way.
Whilst it may deliver bad news, Factal aims to do so for admirable reasons which will hopefully end up generating good news stories.