My Guardian column this week expands on an idea I discussed here, about viewing charity to news organizations as collaboration in the news ecosystem. The kicker: “Charity is likely to be a contributor to the future of news. So will volunteer labour in the form of bloggers and crowdsourcing. But we still need a business model for news. News still needs to be profitable to survive. It’s not a church.”
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In the midst of the UK’s MP expenses scandal – and as Gordon Brown’s government teeters, with nudges over the edge from The Guardian itself – the paper asked its columnists and then its readers to reform, even reinvent government. The results are in and are fascinating.
Tom Clark’s writeup in today’s
paper service is quick to point out that this is a survey of Guardian readers with their baggage in their left hands. But that makes it even more surprising that, for example, 70% say they do not support demographic quotas as a means to configure Parliament. They want to change voting and the structure of Parliament and they want a constitution. May I recommend a First Amendment?
What’s exciting about this is that it turns the usual discourse around, shifting from complaining about government to doing something about it, taking responsibility. After the destructive comes the constructive.
: And see Lloyd Shepard’s tweet: “sheesh. when voting is a process of elimination, you know democracy’s in trouble. this is how people end up supporting arsenal”
My Guardian column this week reports on my weeks’ experiment of reading The New York Times and Wall Street Journal only on my Kindle. I’m still reading The Times that way, though I think I prefer the iPhone for that and will likely switch. When the Journal raised its price from $9.99 to $14.99, I canceled. Snippet:
…The reader works wonderfully for books. But it also tries to turn a newspaper into a book, starting us on the first page of the first story and nudging us through its awkward user interface to proceed a page-turn at a time through the entire product, as we used to on paper. The digital among us, however, no longer read news in this way. Online, we search and link and flit and explore. We are in control of the experience, not some editor somewhere.
Online, news has been freed from its packaging. Indeed, that is a key architectural underpinning of the web itself: content is separated from presentation. The same text and media can be fed into a web page, or into an iPhone app or an RSS feed. Substance parts company with style. . . .
We care less about the form of news and more about the information it imparts. That is the key strategic problem for editors and publishers hoping to charge us online: once news is known, it is knowledge that can be spread through conversation, which means it can no longer be controlled behind a pay wall. News is spread in the speed of a tweet. The half-life of a scoop’s value is lessened but the value of links grows. . . .
But in news, neither the device nor the form matters nearly as much as the information and its timing. This requires that publishers unleash their news on every device possible. But no single gadget will be their saviour. None will bring back the good old days – if they were that – of news and the world delivered in neat little packages we paid for.
The second edition of the Guardian MediaTalkUSA podcast is up, with On the Media’s Brooke Gladstone and The New York Times’ David Carr having at it, plus interviews with Craig Newmark and Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman, plus news from PaidContent. Enjoy (I hope).
The Guardian’s first American podcast, Media Talk USA, just debuted. Warning: I’m the host. In the first monthly episode, I interview Arianna Huffington and I’m joined in the studio for a spirited discussion with Jay Rosen of NYU and Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal. Plus, Paid Content reports on U.S. media news. Here’s what I said about it at the Guardian site:
We need it on this side of the water because American media do not get the depth of coverage that UK media enjoy (or don’t) from Media Guardian and its competitors. CNN’s Reliable Sources concentrates mostly on politics and media. Public radio’s On the Media is quite good but tends not to worry about the latest news. I blogged sometime ago that I wished OtM would take on more current news but its cohost, Brooke Gladstone, told me that wasn’t what they were about. “If that’s what you want, start your own show, Jeff,” she said. So here we are.
And there is more than enough news about the news to cover and dissect. Listeners in the UK might be wise to look at the wave of destruction overtaking US newspapers as the canary in the coal mine. Over-leveraged news companies are going bankrupt; huge swathes of newsrooms are being wiped out; newspapers are starting to die and more will follow. TV and radio stations will find themselves in similar straits. Advertising is in for more upheaval than they dare to imagine. But on the other hand, entrepreneurs and investors across the country and popping up with new businesses and new business models for news and media. At Media Talk USA, we will jump off the news to examine the state and fate of media with a variety of provocative guests.
Please give a listen.
The Guardian is launching its first US podcast, an American rendition of its wonderful Media Talk show, and I’m proud (and nervous) to say that I’m presenting it, as they say. Here’s the home page for the Media Talk USA, which will be
broadcast podcast monthly from the studios of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. The premier episode features Jay Rosen of NYU and PressThink and Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal in a lively discussion and an interview with Arianna Huffington, plus news from PaidContent. We even have a Facebook group. And what would a Guardian venture be without a Twitter feed? A preview snippet here.
My Guardian column this week is on the New York Times’ hyperlocal experiment with mentions of CUNY’s involvement, Patch, and Barisatnet. Snippets:
The New York Times is embarking on a test of blogging in two neighbourhoods and three towns around New York. So far, there’s nothing remarkable in that: another attempt by a newspaper to grab for the elusive golden fleece called hyperlocal – the ability to serve readers and small advertisers in highly targeted geographic niches. But what is new in this effort is that the Times is trying to create a platform to help others – not staff reporters, but community members – make journalism. A wall just fell. . . .
All these parties must collaborate, not compete. They must create complementary content that fills out their local news worlds so that each of them adds value and stands out for it. Writing the same story everyone else is covering does not do that; it never did. They also should work together to create a framework that supports all of the sites commercially – that is, an ad network – and promotionally – that is, with links.
The days of one news organisation owning a town and its news are over; no one can afford to do that any more. Instead, if these experiments succeed, they will do so by collaborating to create a new network – a new ecosystem – of local news.
Their work is vital because I believe such structures will be the building blocks of the future of news – of what will replace or at least supplement the services that will disappear as regional and city newspapers shrink and die. And die they will. In the US, UK and elsewhere in Europe, metropolitan papers and their over-leveraged owners are in dire trouble. We have little or no time to decide what can and will succeed them. These efforts around New York are attempts at an answer. Whether they will grab the fleece at last, it’s too soon to say. I’ll let you know.