Last year at this time we were undertaking a major reorganization of the company — both to survive the most precipitous decline in revenue we had ever experienced and to position us for the speed and flexibility we need to thrive in the fast-changing local media world we are going to be experiencing for some time to come. I am very thankful that our team was able to cut expenses commensurate with the revenue decline so that Continue reading “Year in Review and Work Plan”
People have asked me, often, why I don’t blog more about our progress in implementing our C3 organization. The last post was May 10th, a quarter ago.
I try to wait until I have something to say. Something to say requires change. Change requires time. Sometimes too much time for my taste. As the engraving here represents — time reveals all things, and truth is the daughter of time, adversely affected by hypocrisy.
The thoughts and comments of others are updated regularly, usually every week, in the right column, under what I am “paying attention to”. After reviewing the links that have been noted there, it is clear that the media environment has changed a great deal, and there have been many good ideas on how to proceed toward a new future. But, the Three Gorillas noted here over a year ago still remain, blocking change in our traditional media company – organization, culture and technology.
This year, we realized that we would not be able to survive the deepest and steepest decline in our revenue in anyone’s memory, let alone attack the culture and technology issues of creating C3, without truly implementing one organization that separated content creation from product creation. We needed to reduce our expenses. We needed to create focused product management for our existing and contemplated products. We needed services that could effectively support all of those products, including content creation.
As I noted in the May post, we took three operating companies focused on products and created 10 operating divisions which split content creation from product creation, and include:
- Content Creation and Collaboration – developing information content “without an agenda” other than strengthening communities in such a way that the elements are fluid and flexible, and that we can deliver “packages” to existing products
- Commercial Content – just like 1, except clearly with an agenda (buy, attend, believe) – commercial content elements that are fluid and flexible, as well as packaged messages for products
- Product Planning and Development – responsible for profitably reaching audiences with value added packaged products – print, broadcast and digital
- Sales – helping businesses and causes reach audiences
- Publisher – maintaining the integrity of the Opinion page of the newspaper and community development. Works within the Product Planning and Development group (in 3 above) on the profitability of the product
- Digital production – the networks, websites and mobile applications – both development and production
- Broadcast production – transitioning our broadcast production to high definition digital production
- Print production and distribution – producing printed products for us and others, and getting them physically distributed
- Human Resources and facilities – leading us to the proper people, in the appropriate organizations and facilities
- Accounting – providing appropriate financial operating statistics and auditable financial statements
The ten people who agreed to lead these divisions are attacking their new responsibilities with vigor and dedication. How is it going?
In a word, “messy” as recently noted by Becky Lutgen Gardner, who is responsible for the creation of information content without an agenda (#1 above). While this should not have been a surprise, it is still no fun to live through the confusion and anger. We are making progress every day, and have celebrated numerous small wins. We are developing “service level agreements” to make roles and expectations as clear as possible. Yet, the emotional connections we maintain to products and companies often blind us to the relevant tasks of creating a product agnostic local ecosystem of information. Reforming these emotional connections will take time, tasking and new tools.
Even when we get over the emotional barriers, there are the very detailed issues of understanding who is taking primary responsibility for the numerous tasks that must be accomplished every day to keep our business flourishing. Beckey Woodard Cole, who is leading our work force development efforts within the Human Resources division headed by Cathy Terukina (#9 above) created these slides to show the responsibilities for the judgments needed for individual products, while utilizing common content creation.
We have focused the organization on essential tasks and cut our expenses in line with our reduced revenues to maintain operating cash. We have a long way to go to approach our work with the openness, transparency and engagement necessary for success. While this reorganization was absolutely necessary for our survival, and to give us a place to stand to create the C3 local ecosystem of information, we will not make real progress unless and until we can create information in the first instance in such a way that it is fluid and flexible, and can serve multiple products and platforms. That will take some tinkering with the technical infrastructure, another of those Three Gorillas.
Here’s hoping that the progress report on the technical infrastructure is not three months away!
What do you think?
If it had not happened to me recently, I might not believe it. Despite David Cohn’s exhortations earlier this year, experienced, smart journalists, all atwitter, saying they could never Tweet or blog. Experienced journalists interviewing me on my blog, without reading the blog. Executives acting condescendingly toward social media. We can’t create the Complete Community Connection if we don’t have direct experience. By trying to “possess” the stories of our communities, we might lose them.
Virginia Heffernan provides insight in today’s New York Times Magazine that the world of content has changed fundamentally. Much more “with and by” than “for and to” audiences:
People who work in traditional media and entertainment ought either to concentrate on the antiquarian quality of their work, cultivating the exclusive audience of TV viewers or magazine readers that might pay for craftsmanship. Or they should imagine that they are 19 again: spending a day on Twitter or following a recipe from a Mark Bittman video played on a refrigerator that automatically senses what ingredients are missing and texts an order to the grocery store (it will soon exist!). Then they should think about what content suits these new modes of distribution and could evolve in tandem with them. For old-media types, mental flexibility could be the No. 1 happiness secret we have been missing.
Several people have made this point, but John Bell made it well, and recently:
You cannot be great with social media through simple observation. Applying it to your life and committing the time to actually “do” it will help your business. It will help you understand first-hand and give you ideas. It will suck up time. But two things happen: it doesn’t suck up as much as you fear and you end up with greater rewards than you imagined.
So, how to start? First of all, join Twitter. Follow Steve Buttry, Amy Gahran, John McGlothlen, and Steve Outing to start, along with anyone else you know on Twitter. A great introduction to Twitter is provided by TwiTip, including some informative Twitters to follow. If you really want to explore Twitter, Guy Kawasaki has some detailed ideas. Once you are up and running, try Twhirl to start, and once on your feet, perhaps Tweetdeck to sort things out.
Then, sign up for Facebook, have your Twitter feeds automatically update your Facebook account, and search Facebook for local friends, or long lost high school classmates. Be amazed at what you can discover.
For a more professional view, start with LinkedIn. You should find many people from your company already there.
If you would like more motivation, check out Xark and Twitter:
Journalists are in the communications business. Shouldn’t they at least have a professional interest in the evolving state of modern communications technology? Shouldn’t journalists at least be curious about the way other people communicate?
Only they aren’t curious: They’re hostile.
I said this back in September, and it’s as true now as it was then: Newspaper companies (and many of their employees) hate modern journalism. They resent change they don’t control. They’re angry that “the people formerly known as the audience” have developed alternatives to their mass-media monopolies.
So, let’s just do it, and see what we learn!
Are you willing?
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Being with Bill Densmore and the group he assembled at Missouri this week was a refreshing introduction to new people and ideas. We were gathered to create the “blueprint” for the Information Valet Project, which we tentatively described as:
A permission-based ecosystem assuring privacy that allows you, in a trustworthy way, to share personal information so that content providers and partners can create a structure to provide you with content, applications and incentives tailored to you and your needs.
This “ecosystem” assumes that an individual, by giving secure personal information and desires for specific information, will be able to access that information in an elegant way. As I participated in the discussions, I kept coming back to the need for a whole new structure to create the Complete Community Connection (C3). So, with a nod to Steve Outing, I am trying to be as transparent as I can be, both to our employees and the industry, about the issues in creating this new entity.
In looking for discussions on changing the way we create information in the first instance, I was struck by the conversation between Jeff Jarvis and Dave Winer on the Ecology of News. They both break down news into the essential elements, and then discuss the best way to package and distribute those elements. I would propose that the elements are Sources; Quotes; Factual Statements about people, places or events; Ideas; Data; and Opinions.
The Complete Community Connection would expand the current reliance on packaged stories in both directions – back toward the original elements, offering transparency, and forward toward a summary of local knowledge in a local wiki.
So, how do we do that?
We have to start with the creation of the “elements” in the first instance. By starting with each source, quote, factual statement, picture, graphic, audio clip or video clip as an isolated element, or “tweet”, properly tagged with automatic tagging engines, those elements can be packaged or searched directly, allowing the most transparent view of local information. Sometimes that could be done by reporting on scheduled events by live blogging, using Twitter tweets for participant comments, with the resulting “record” time stamped. All audio and video clips could also be tagged to the time, place, event and people. From those elements, packaged stories could be written, but any reader could go “through” the story to the original elements.
For investigative pieces, getting at those issues harder to pry out of the community, the reporter could still keep track of the elements in a similar system, but without the initial public input.
Patrick Thornton, with his BeatBlogging posts, is trying to highlight the best efforts to learn what can be done in this area. I believe that the transformation necessary from “for and to” to “with and by” will not take place until we engage our communities in the first instance of information creation.
To take it another step, what if the community could suggest what needs to be investigated? Leonard Witt arranged funding for a representative journalism project in Northfield, MN that Bonnie Obremski is carrying out at Locally Grown. Listening to Bonnie describe what she has accomplished in her six months in Northfield makes me think that local community bloggers, both employees of media organizations and organizers of particular micro-communities, can be the key collecting forces of the elements of local information for C3.
Those community organizers, with their blogs, would be operating under Alfred Hermida’s Three Principles for social media:
- Be human: Mass media was based on the notion of reaching millions of people with one message. As a result, that message often came across in an impersonal, corporate voice. Social media provides an opportunity to be more personal, informal and conversational.
- Be honest: Be transparent and open about what you are doing. Social media is about genuine relationships and anyone trying to fake it is likely to be found out very quickly.
- Be involved: Journalists should not approach social media by thinking, “how can I use this for a story”. Social media should be part of your job, not an add-on or something to be used for a story and then abandoned.
What do you think?
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I would fire myself as Publisher and rehire myself as CEO, Local (Your Market) Information Utility
It was nice to see this coming from a respected industry veteran, which shows that not only renegades are proposing fundamental change. I would add one warning though. If you haven’t completely changed your mindset, don’t rehire yourself! When I started this blog, I used LIU, or Local Information Utility, because American Press Institute was using it, and the last thing we needed was another acronym. However, after great feedback, I was persuaded that LIU was too constricting, with Utility conjuring up those entities that do things for you, or to you, and are not very responsive. So, I switched to Complete Community Connection, and it has stuck with our team.
The fundamental nature of the change required, the different tasks to be performed, and the switch in “concept” was noted over 11 years ago by Bruno Giussani in a First Monday piece when he was the founding editor of Webdo:
We knew on the onset that an online information service would have to be based on a different concept than the traditional printed one, that simply repackaging editorial content would not do.
It was obvious to us also that in order to respond to this challenge, the only way would be to take full advantage of what characterizes this new medium – interactivity, hypertext, and multimedia capability. With this in mind as a starting point, everything was to be created. A logic of production, consumption, and commercialization. A language, a rhythm, a new kind of connection with our readership.
I am going to position myself here as a journalist and an editor. Because it’s my original profession. Because it’s also the profession I am trying to re-invent (or more accurately, to learn again from scratch) since I have been doing it online. And mostly, because I firmly believe that journalists have an essential role to play in tomorrow’s interactive society and that they are quite wrong in fearing to become obsolete with the advance of the new media.
I will tackle three concepts which I believe outline the contours of this new journalism: diversity, community, and movement.
As George Gilder wrote, by establishing the existence of a mass audience, therefore necessarily a homogeneous one, the media in fact negate the individuality of their readers, their generous diversity, the real scope of their interests and passions, their multiple lifestyles and ambitions. In a way, the papers we publish today are contradictory to human nature.
The second concept I would like to bring up is community. Though there is much said about interactivity it is my feeling that it’s not fully understood by the press and everyone in the publishing field yet. The concept of interactivity is not about the user clicking on an icon to unlatch a reaction from his computer: it is above all about connecting people.
With this in mind, facts and information can circulate without interference and without the journalist acting as a filter. He will have to give up part of the power he used to have – based on his competence as well as on his position. The role of the journalist is changing into a more central figure, a mediator. He directs traffic, explores, becomes a facilitator of discussions. His new power will depend on his ability to animate a group of people, to develop methods and means to enliven the community, to organize information-gathering and use with the participation of the members of the community.
A journalist with little online experience tends to think in terms of stories, news value, public service, and things that are good to read, points out Melinda McAdams in her excellent account of the making of the Washington Post online venture. But a person with a lot of online experience thinks more about connections, organization, movement within and among sets of information, and communication among different people.
By redefining the way we think and write, this new structure redefines all of our culture. I agree with New York sociologist Neil Postman that
New technologies alter the structure of our interests: the things we think about. They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop.
They also alter our relationship to time. As an insider we know the newspaper as a succession of deadlines: lead time for articles, editing, printing, distribution. If one of these deadlines is not met, the paper will lose most of its value if not all of it. Consequently, information must fit into this schedule and it grows old with the paper it is printed on (today’s breaking news, tomorrow’s fish wrap).
Online content on the other hand is fluid, moving. It doesn’t know deadlines – actually, every moment is a potential deadline. There is no set chronological order, you can change original content, update it, correct it, complete it and re-use it, anytime. An article becomes a story in progress, enriched by other stories thanks to hypertext, and allowing for constant re-composition.
[some bold and italics added by Chuck Peters to highlight flow of concepts, others in original article]
Giussani’s First Monday article of 11 years ago is worth reading in its entirety, if for nothing else than to show that the game to be played has been defined for some time. We need to get on with it. As a matter of interest, Bruno has gone on to be the European Director of the Ted Conference and recently blogged about Charles Leadbeater‘s presentation at the Picnic 08 Conference on The Power of Mass Creativity:
the future is all gonna be about our activity to collaborate, to pull together the diversity of knowledge and insight that we need to make that possible”. What does that mean? “For most of my life, we have worked and being served by organizations that should do things for you but often actually do things to you. The logic of the Web is “with”, how to work with people, how to learn together. If you want a very simple way to think of the current shift, it’s that difference: from the world of “to” and “for” to the world of “with” and “by”.” “Is this just a passing moment, a fleeting fad? Or is it a possible permanent change in how we organize ourselves? And if it is, can we use that possibility or are we going to screw it up?” “Somebody recently asked to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web: are we asking too much of the Internet, are we loading too much onto it, bearing the weight of this social transformation? Tim answered: the danger is that we will ask too little from it, that we will reduce it to just another tool”.
[bold and italics in original article]
Note the “to and for” becoming “with and by”, another confirmation of the difficulties of using the name Local Information Utility to describe the new enterprise! Names are important. A Publisher publishes a product, which is why the first item Wurzer suggest is firing the “Publisher”. An Editor is product focused. A Community Manager, or Facilitator or Mediator suggests the more appropriate roles.
As we define new tasks for the new game, or “business model“, a few concepts are always at the forefront:
1. We need to focus on the network of information, and bring elegant organization to it. We cannot depend on the nauseating cacophony of tweets, blogs, comments and articles to organize themselves. They must be moderated and organized. That organization must in large part be automatic, through tags and links.
2. Given our past history, and the lessons learned, we need to separate the creation of news/information networks from advertising networks, yet be able to link them, and let users know which is which.
3. Product creation is separate from content creation, whether news/information content or advertising content.
4. The goal is to have the products complement the network and each other, not add to the cacophony. Time is limited. If people want a particular piece of information they should be able to get it, where they are, on whatever device. If they want to explore a topic, they should be able to do so within an elegant organization, perhaps introduced to them by the print product, not the mind numbing search through Google lists and tagged articles.
5. Everyone will be learning a new task, and operating within a new organization, so patience is a virtue.
So, what are the key tasks for someone trying to create a Complete Community Connection? I am assuming that printing and distribution functions are outsourced, so imaging, print and online ad layout, printing, inserting and physical distribution are performed cost effectively in centralized locations. That leaves:
1. Community Liaison – The focal point (CEO) for the local C3 organization, out in the community, attending Service Clubs, Chamber meetings, speaking to groups. Gathers the overall sense of the defined geographical community, and has the final decision on whether the network of information is serving the community, with the right mix of products and services. Responsible for the financial health and development of the local C3 organization, which should be creating a strengthened geographical community, consisting of mulitple communities of interest and affinity, resulting from the benefits of group collaboration in the manner noted by Bruno Giusanni covering a presentation by Charles Leadbeater :
What prompts collaborative creativity?
- New and easy ways to allow people to contribute.
- Ways to connect people together and to build on one-another.
- A shared sense of purpose and some individual sense of payoff, that they’re getting something in return as they’re contributing to something larger.
- Usually there is a core or kernel that’s put there to begin with (the initial Linux software for ex)
- Structure: these communities won’t work unless they can make decisions, so they need to have some elements of structure (think Wikipedia)
2. Information Content Creator (Moderator) – Responsible for using best practices to develop an organization of employees (for large, sustained, efforts) and trusted sources which create tagged text snippets, photos, audio and video relating to issues or events; live blog from events to develop the richest perspective from the community on the particular event; create summarizing, contextual narratives, with appropriate links; and contribute to the local wiki, much like the CIA’s Intellipedia. The “soup to nuts” news service described by Steve Outing.
3. Advertising Content Creator – Creates ecosystem of print and online ads, with text ads, SMS ads, photos, audio, video appropriately tagged and linked so that an advertiser’s message is appropriately placed, contextually relevant and properly timed.
4. Digital Asset Manager – Manages an organization to lead numerous outside vendors, partners and collaborators to develop an ecosystem of technology that offers current best practices for the elegant organization of local information for use by content creators and product creators.
5. Product Planning and Development – Manages the system and organization of developing products complementary to the network, reaching audiences that do not significantly overlap, which can act as promotional flags for the network, and support the network financially. The product managers must have access to all content, and be able to package it as they see fit to reach their audiences.
6. Audience Measurement and Marketing – The organization that independently determines if the multiple audiences in a community are being reached, and needs served, by the portfolio of products and services. Allows product managers to have an effective and efficient mechanism for understanding and reaching their audiences.
7. Sales – Selling audiences to advertisers, consultatively. Not responsible for products, or any content creation. Can act like the local advertising agency, and sell solutions to advertisers outside of those offered by C3.
8. Shared Services – Such as human resources, information technology, facilities, accounting. Their primary change is recognizing and supporting the fundmentally altered business model and structure.
As we get on with this, and make the changes necessary, each participant has to answer three questions:
1. Do I understand that I am a participant in an organization trying to create tools to be used “with and by” the communities we serve, to allow the individuals in those communities to know what they want to know so that they can have the power to do what they want to do?
2. Do I acknowledge that I will get to participate in the creative evolution of my job, key tasks, reporting relationships and organizational mindset as we evolve into a new C3 organization?
3. Do I want to?
Because you “gotta wanna” in order for this to happen.
What do you think?
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When I started this blog over seven months ago, I focused on mindset, as I had the sense that a completely new game was beginning:
Newspaper executives from around the world are trying to implement new business models. However, it is hard to implement a new model with an old mindset. Many are trying to arrange the concepts for a new ecosystem of local information. What I hope to do here is share my thoughts, and connections, as we explore these new frontiers.
If we were changing games from football to baseball, we would not have as many issues, as both games are very well understood, with many participants, observers, coaches and commentators. However, the local media game is changing so completely that we have difficulty conceptualizing the new game. John Steinbeck understood this well:
“And now a force was in hand how much more strong, and we hadn’t had time to develop the means to think, for man has to have feelings and then words before he can come close to thought and in the past at least, that has taken a long time.”
As we work to develop this new game, or business model, within our own company, conflicts arise. Those who see the future, but can’t articulate it, are frustrated. Those who see the future and want to make it happen quickly are very frustrated by those who don’t even perceive the need for a new game. Those who don’t perceive the need for a new game are frustrated by all the commotion.
These frustrations are playing out on the broader stage, summarized very well by Craig Stoltz. The New York Observer ran a cover story highlighting the conflicts between old and new media, and Jeff Jarvis wisely noted:
We’re all trying to figure what to do about it, and we all should have different answers and experiment with those answers.
Early on, I advocated moving away from an organization designed to produce “products”:
We cannot continue to focus on products. Products are just nodes on the network, promotional flags to local intelligence, in context.
So, the game is changing from a reliable cash-generating franchise focused on broadcasting authoritative snapshots reflecting the community to an entrepreneurial “elegant organization” to:
provide platforms that enable communities to do what they want to do, share what they want to share, know what they need to know together.
And, we cannot define these communities. As an individual, my interests are not easily discerned by my geographical location or demographics. So, I am looking for a way to keep up with friends, neighbors, certain local organizations, and certain local issues, while getting the overview of key issues that an editor thinks I should know. We need an elegant organization of information to make that happen. Several commentators are giving us perspective on that. Vickey Williams, exploring the “Six Competencies of the Next Generation News Organization” notes:
They rest heavily on the skills needed to personalize products and to build and serve communities of interest. The good news: Newspapers should be uniquely equipped to do these things.
Some other recent posts that I have appreciated are Jeff Jarvis with his “scenario for news” summary, Martin Langeveld describing his “future of journalism“, Steve Outing and his exhortation to “redefine news“, and Buzz Werzer’s “Checklist for Newspaper Publishers“.
It is my strong belief that an organization such as ours, with over 500 employees, cannot expect that we can change all the mindsets and pursue a new game by simply repeating the forces and ideas driving the change in a series of seminars or links to interesting articles. We need to change the tasks, titles and organization so that we are doing new tasks, in new ways, and making the results of our efforts available immediately to our communities as we begin the larger task of organizing all this information elegantly.
More on the new tasks and jobs in the next post!
What do you think?
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Many have asked about the significance of last week’s API Summit. As a participant, I was greatly informed by sitting in the room, and seeing what messages API was trying to send to the industry, after years of their Newspaper Next work. In addition, I was overwhelmed by the response to my first attempt at live blogging, using the just introduced tool of adding Twitter feeds to CoverItLive, which worked very well.
However, the transcript of the live blog, which is linked in full to the right at this site, covers seven hours. As Amy Gahran noted, I am trying to distill that, as the whole transcript is more volume and clutter than most want to spend time on gleaning the essence of the conversation. So, I have edited the transcript, and offer that edit for download below, with the following learnings referenced to the time stamped conversation from which I gathered that particular perspective:
1. Our fellow employees have ideas to pursue alternative strategies – 8:40 on
2. Our co-workers in media are frustrated as they try to act – 9:39-9:49
3. Live blogging and using Twitter gives tremendous access to ideas – 9:50
4. We need to stand traditional news gathering on its head, and engage the community from the very beginning, capture each essence, (whether text, video or audio) and link back to the essence as we package the story – 9:51-10:06
5. Even without the packaging into print, broadcast or online stories, the essences could be gathered with semantic technology to provide more efficient answers or commercial messages to user generated information requests, or flows of content around concepts – 10:06-10:20
6. It is not about change, or turnaround, it is about starting with a blank slate – 10:24-10:32
7. We need to start NOW – 10:33-10:42
8. Jeff Jarvis provides Davos perspective: we are not approaching the opportunities we have in front of us to start over – 11:04-11:11
9. Mark Potts begins conversation about why API participants aren’t linked into online conversation – 11:25
10. Michele McClellan notes that the power of the network is unseen until you start using the network through blogging and Twitter – 11:26
11. Twitter identities – 12:02-12:03
12. Top questions for API participants – 12:07-12:14
13. What we would do if we owned media – 12:14-12:52
14. Comments on social media tools – 12:58-1:02
15. Focus on revenue – 1:02-1:21
16. Video discussion – 1:21-1:37
17. Why don’t we act, NOW? – 1:48-2:09
Image by Roo Reynolds via Flickr
For some time, I have been saying that the problem with the media industry is that we are stuck on stories, or packages, whether they be articles with photos in print or online, or video packages. I have limited time, and limited brainpower, and I want to see current, relevant information, in context, anywhere and anytime. I don’t think we can get there until we create our content, in the first instance, as a “post” or “tweet”, and organize from there. It is nice to see others expressing the same thoughts. We need all the conceptual clarity we can muster to tackle the Three Gorillas.
Jeff Jarvis says the “article” can no longer be the building block, and that we have to build, from the “post” to a new organization:
Instead, I want a page, a site, a thing that is created, curated, edited, and discussed. It’s a blog that treats a topic as an ongoing and cumulative process of learning, digging, correcting, asking, answering. It’s also a wiki that keeps a snapshot of the latest knowledge and background. It’s an aggregator that provides annotated links to experts, coverage, opinion, perspective, source material. It’s a discussion that doesn’t just blather but that tries to accomplish something (an extension of an article like this one that asks what options there are to bailout a bailout). It’s collaborative and distributed and open but organized.
The (fast-)growing number of people who use Twitter find it to be an easy and fast way to share their lives, thoughts, opinions, links, stuff they have for sale, recommendations — their personal newsfeed — just with the people who care. They can do so whether sitting in front of a computer or out in the world via their cell phones. By also “following” Twitter feeds of news organizations, you can even get a pretty good overall view of the big-picture events of the day. Ergo, Twitter already can, to a degree, serve the expanded version of “the news” that I’m describing — from the globally significant to the micro-personal
As a subscriber to a news Web site, you’ll be able to configure your account to the type of news you wish to receive. The content will come from a variety of sources (listed here from global sources at the top down to micro-personal ones at the bottom):
* Wire services and syndicates with which the newspaper already has contractual agreements.
* Unaffiliated news Web sites. (Bring in their feeds; think Google News or Topix-like functionality.)
* Unaffiliated blogs. (Ditto; think Technorati or Google Blogsearch-like functionality.)
* Newspaper staff and freelance content. (Local and national. Text, photos, audio, video, multimedia.)
* Staff and freelance blogs.
* Citizen-/user-contributed content.
* User comments and interaction on all content.
* Discussion forums.
* Personalized news based on user preference. (Topic selection and/or keyword searches.)
* Micro-personal news from a user’s social networks, filtered from external sites by capturing user’s log-in data for those services.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see anyone who offers this range of news. News aggregators (Google News, Yahoo! News, Topix, et al) bring us the world via hundreds or thousands of sources; but they omit the micro-personal, leaving that to the social networks. Sites like FriendFeed can tap into multiple social networks and bring you micro-personal news from your social circle; but they don’t work well (if at all) at providing conventional news.
Perhaps the opportunity for newspaper companies is to evolve into the one source for ALL of an individual’s news needs.
Amy Gahran, who was most gracious as I spied her on the street in Boulder, expresses the urgency for us to act now:
What if the core of a news org wasn’t only a staff of trained journalists and editors gathering information primarily to produce packaged stories based on just a small fraction of available info? What if librarians and technologists also were on the job, getting as much info as possible into useful, modular, searchable formats that could be easily searched and mixed according to relevance to particular communities, interest groups, or even individuals?
What if news orgs’ core offering was not a basically one-size-fits-all newspaper, but rather a statewide or regional “relevance window” service that could be tailored to meet the needs of lawyers, businesses, property owners, schools, activists, healthcare providers, parents, teens, etc.? What if news orgs became very, very structured and flexible about how they collect, collate, and distribute information? What if, as a result, citizens, organizations, and communities could easily stay better informed than was ever before possible?
This isn’t just my bright idea, of course. Remember Robin Sloan’s classic prediction EPIC 2014? My Tidbits colleague Barbara Iverson observed, “Today, when you look at Epic 2014 or the update, you can hardly tell the imagined fictions from actual fact. …And look at the list of activities of a ‘newsmaster’ in Bill French’s 2004 post From WebMaster to NewsMaster, because it is more specific than what Jarvis says, but certainly calling for the same kind of changes in how we pull together information.”
Seems to me there’s a huge potential window of business opportunity here. Temporarily.
It is not just a business opportunity, it is an opportunity to create a new way of interacting with information that is relevant to us. Our current packaged articles and products just won’t do.
What do you think?
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For two months I have been primarily dealing with flood issues, and trying to think of a new approach to the issues of creating the Complete Community Connection. In that time, I have also given several presentations on ICMF.
While making those presentations, I realized that I was stuck in the rut of starting my thoughts with a current view of a media company, describing what is done today, and trying to describe changes to that existing system.
What if we start with a blank sheet of paper? How can we really see that blank sheet?
Jay Rosen reminded all of us in traditional media how hard it is for us to change:
I don’t think we realize how deeply one-to-many thinking sinks into selves of media people. Switching platforms doesn’t get it “out.”
So it is not just the “packaged” products that we are currently stuck with, and trying to get out of that box with ICMF, we have to break our “one to many” selves. How do we do that?
Well, our Content Ninja gave me a great start with a video from Kevin Kelly . For those of you who can’t stand 20 minutes of linear video, he makes several points, among many more, relating to our C3 effort:
- The web has moved from linking computers to linking pages to linking concepts and words. I don’t think he uses “atomic content” or “metatags”, but calls this new web by both 3.0 and semantic.
- The web is one machine, with no downtime.
- In order to make the web work well, we have to speak to it, so very limited privacy is the new norm.
- Media is all one, and the laws of media apply.
- Copies have no value.
- Value comes from immediacy, authentication and personalization.
- Each of us needs to be free to reformat the snippets of content
After watching that video, or reflecting on these concepts, how do we continue creating a way for each us to develop our individually defined “community connected” windows into the one semantic web?