Ask not…

I was talking with a good news exec who’s trying to build a new kind of local news product but it was only hours after I got off the phone that I figured out how I should have told him what he’s really doing.

He talked about the community helping his company build a product. He should turn that around and ask instead how he can help the community build its network.

Appropriate to the day, let’s paraphrase JFK: Ask not what your community can do for you. Ask what you can do for your community.

When this thing is built – not a product, not a company, but perhaps a network or a looser ecosystem – it will work only when and if the community owns it. That’s why this news exec must help them build it. If he expects them to help him build his thing, they won’t – they’re building their own thing instead.

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  • Thanks for this.

    Networks are fundamental to the future sustainability of America, and the world.

    We must all focus on building collaborations through open networks. This is Open Source Economic Development: sharing the story of how we spend our time doing what we do and why – and figuring out what it is we can do together. Open Source Economic Development is practicing collaborative leadership, thinking and acting in knowledgeable ways about building networks, and coming together to link and leverage individual strengths in a simple process of “Strategic Doing” – that of moving ideas quickly to action. If we can start and follow through on this process designed for a “flat” world, there is no excuse for business stagnation, poverty and corruption.

    You can learn more about Open Source Economic Development in this paper –
    “An Introduction to Open Source Economic Development: Thriving on the New Economic Development Frontier”- by Ed Morrison, Purdue Center for Regional Development, I-Open – and at this link: http://i-open-education.near-time.net/overview/welcome

  • Very appropriate for today – “JFK: Ask not what your community can do for you. Ask what you can do for your community.” – and everyday.

    More than ever, companies that are following this advice are sticking around – because, as its been said by others, a brand is a collection of your customers’ (community’s) thoughts, and with the internet, a brand can be strengthened or weakened/exposed in an instant.

  • That’s right, there are already many tools out there for the community to publish their news. They want to be in control and own it themselves.

    Companies can help by either providing new tools as some sort of distributed publishing platform or by promoting the content which is already out there, making it easier to find by practicing link journalism. The “google news” of local community news.

  • This is why I have started writing a business plan for Public Access TV. I think that a person with the right connection and funding can make the connection that can make public and government access channel a great tool for each of their communities and not just for subscribers to the local cable company I can not participate in the conversations of my community because I have direcTV and can’t attend the meetings or watch the shows. The only thing he would need to create is the platform they can upload to and broadcast live…….Have him e-mail me!

  • I’ve been saying this over and over to web 2.0 and new media entrpreneurs – Why should I help you build your media empire?

  • Jeff, you wrote: “He should turn that around and ask instead how he can help the community build its network.”
    Think fractals and recursion… Just as he should be thinking about how to organize the work of his community into a network, he should be thinking about which inter-network it is that his network will fit into. If he’s building a “local news network,” he should ask which regional, national, and international news network will his network be an extension of? How will he tap, and contribute to, the network effects of the larger network? How will traffic, revenues, content, etc. flow between his local network and broader-scope encompassing networks?

    We should have all learned from the Internet that isolated networks tend to starve. Even networks that appear to address purely local concerns are greatly strengthened by tapping into the network effects that can only come from an inter-network or combination of networks.

    bob wyman

  • Absolutely right Jeff, and I guess due to his existing avenues of publicity he may be able to achieve this. I think this model is a lot harder for people attempting the same thing from the ground up – at an early stage, with no pervious community/user-base to feed off new ventures in this area need all the help they can get from the community. At leas this is what I’m finding with my attempt Good Baad

  • Jeff,

    I think your post — capturing your discussion with the news exec. — explains one of the fundamental problems with the news business today. For decades, we journalists have thought of ourselves as this benefactor, doling out news to the masses. We are having a hard time, I think, realizing that we need to fit into what the public is doing.

    We aren’t in control anymore. The public can get news in so many ways. For us to be relevant to the regular person, we need to not only figure out what the public wants and how it wants it, but also, as you say, let the public build the network.

    That last part seems a tough one for news organizations. It’s more than just asking readers to submit a guest blog or opinion piece. It’s letting readers take the reins while we complement and support what they want.

  • “That last part seems a tough one for news organizations. It’s more than just asking readers to submit a guest blog or opinion piece. It’s letting readers take the reins while we complement and support what they want.”

    Allowing the readers a platform at news orginaziations?

    What has that go to do with informing the public through journalism (which should be the primary aim of any news service)?

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  • Nice post, thanks for the sharing.

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