A few days ago, Stephen Baker at Business Week wrote about confirmation of the so-called cover curse:

When you see a glowing cover story on a company, the common wisdom says, sell. Now a trio of financial analysts has carried out a study of this cover curse at BW, Forbes and Fortune. (ex Andreesen). And they conclude, I’m sorry to see, that there’s something to the curse. Basically, a positive or negative cover story marks the end of a company’s “extreme” behavior, either good or bad. After the cover story, they tend to regress, in their corporate way, toward the mean.

To look at this from another perspective, it also means that big media is the last to see the trend. And I don’t mean that as an insult (honest, I don’t). Big media needs the story to be big — evident, justified, confirmed — before devoting its scarce space and promotional voice. So the curse stands to reason: Big media gets stories at their apex.

But now there are all kinds of new ways to detect stories — memes and their movement — long before that, and also detect those who are good, unlike big media, and sniffing them out. There are services, like Blogpulse, that are beginning to try to measure this. But it’s highly complex: Where do memes start? Who spreads them? Who had the authority to do so? Who gets them right and who gets them wrong? What is the biorhythm of a meme? What kinds of memes are there — trouble at a company, positive momentum at a company, and so on — and how do they differ in their growth rates? Some of this can probably be automated and mapped and timed and visualized, but some of this also comes down to what reporters have always done: sniff. Now they have new places and means to sniff and thanks to blogs — which don’t carry the weight of big media — they have new places to float and check memes. I want to see publications like Business Week give me the stories that are not ready for the cover — those are the stories that are truly valuable.