While in Sweden…. The new editor of Aftonbladet says they learned in a focus group with 20somethings that their major competition for time is Facebook.
I had a somewhat related conversation with my entrepreneurial students yesterday as we debated what properly can be defined as a journalistic enterprise, or part of one. This is a business variant on the who-is-a-journalist debate. But I argued that the real question is, what is the role of the journalistic institution in its community? Is it merely to inform or is it also to organize (which, not coincidentally, is the advice of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: bring your community elegant organization)?
Is a social service that helps local sports players organize properly part of a journalistic organization? For that matter, I’d argue, is a sports section? If we define journalism merely as reported content, then perhaps not. But if we define the larger role of the news organization to help its community organize itself, then social applications — even about sports — are properly part of the mission. I think we need to define the role of the news organization broadly, especially until we figure out what works.
So should Aftonbladet view Facebook as competition for attention — or its mission? I’m not suggesting that Aftonbladet should start its own social network; that would be the reflex of most media companies (we do it all ourselves). Instead, the question should be how to help the community where it is, doing what it does.
If I were making Facebook applications for news organizations now, I wouldn’t be making quizzes and such fripperies. I’d be figuring out how to get news that matters to you in your news feed. I’d be finding ways to tie you with other people who share your interest and know what you want to know. I’d find ways to enable you to recommend more news to your friends.
Seen this way, Facebook isn’t a competitor for a newspaper. It’s just another place to help your community.
(Aftonbladet news found via Media Culpa — which, by the way, is a great name for a blog.)