Posts about interactivity


Reports are swirling that News Corp. is considering starting a magazine out of MySpace, with Nylon as a partner. Says AdAge: “The editorial mix would likely cover standout MySpace members and their interests, from music to their social scenes.”

Years ago now, when Time Warner made its disastrous merger with AOL, I suggested to editors there that they should start an AOL magazine making the people in its boards and chats the stars. Went nowhere. Even right after the merger, there was no hope of synergy within what as then AOL Time Warner.

If I were to make that suggestion today, I’m not sure I’d push for a magazine, especially to News Corp. (where I used to work, on a magazine). Why not a TV show? You want a reality show? MySpace is a reality show. Or make a show out of all the YouTubes that the MySpacers make famous; it already is a network. MySpace as a brand could be everything that Current isn’t.

: LATER: J-prof Andrew Grant-Adamson reports that students in his class couldn’t rustle up enough support for a MySpace magazine. Doesn’t bode well.

Dumb money

The Online News Association just announced that Mark Cuban will be their keynoter this year. Yow. Now on the one hand, Cuban could be perfect, for he has been pushing back at reporters and making his interviews with them open, even over their wailing and whining. But on the other hand, Cuban is most decidedly imperfect, for his latest venture,, raises no end of troubling ethical and journalistic, if not legal, questions about his media activities.

Mark Cuban has made his career and his fortune on dumb money. He sold his first company to CompuServe, a failure acquired by AOL, another failure. He sold his next company,, to Yahoo, which promptly did nothing but kill it even as broadcasting came onto the internet, yet Cuban walked away with something in the billions, allowing him to have fun, buying a sports team and starring in a TV show, which was also a failure. He invested in another well-known company sold to AOL; return to Square One. Yet people still invite him to share his wisdom. That’s because he loves to be provocative and he’s good at that.

But now Cuban is making smaller killings from the dumb money of smaller players who’ve invested in bad companies. Now one could say that’s just the way the stock market works: smart wins, dumb loses. But Cuban has given himself an advantage: He started an apparently journalistic enterprise in Sharesleuth to find the bad companies . . . so he could short them first.

What’s wrong with that? That’s what a prospective student at CUNY asked and so I went to read the controversy at Sharesleuth and the defensiveness at Cuban’s blog and here’s what I come away with:

* Cuban says he is being transparent: He says he warned us that he would trade on the information Chris Carey, his editor at Sharesleuth, digs up. Except that he’s not transparent at all — not until after a story about a stock is released. He has a period of utter opaqueness when he knows a company is crap and you don’t — nya, nya, nya — and so he gets to trade on his information and take money not from the offending company but from the poor shlub on the other end of Cuban’s trade.

* Cuban tries to say that he is underwriting this journalism to do what journalism is supposed to do: help the poor shlub. Except he already took the shlub to the cleaners. Doesn’t wash.

* Cuban also has to be aware that his celebrity will have an impact here. He argues that he’s just sharing what he knows about a company after he took advantage of the information he paid to gather about it. Generous, eh? Except he has to know that a site he, Mark Cuban, underwrites and promotes — he was, after all, a TV star… for a few minutes — will have an influence on the market for that stock. Is that company insider information? No, it’s Cuban information. But he can move a stock and he acts on that knowledge before the rest of the market can.

* It becomes a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? Cuban and company find a company they think is suspect. Cuban and company investigate and find smelly fish. Cuban shorts the stock. Then his guy reports what’s what to the world. The market gets a whiff. Then the stock falls. Then Cuban profits. You have to trust Cuban and company not to use their power to manipulate. After what he does to little investors, do you trust him?

You see, it’s not just about transparency — and I like to toot the transparency horn at every opportunity. It’s about conflict of interest. Whom are you serving, Cuban? If you say you are committing acts of journalism, exposing bad companies and outdoing the business journalists you despise, then you are saying you’re serving the public and the public should be able to trust you to do that. But no, the public in this case is the aforementioned poor — now poorer — shlub. So you’re not doing journalism, you’re serving yourself. Well, that could be OK: You hire your private analyst to find turkeys to short and you short them. But then you use your public prominence to reveal what you now know and that all but assures that the stock will fall, making your short a good investment. I’d call that a virtuous circle except . . .

Is everything unfair in love, war, and Wall Street? Yes, but some things are less fair than others. And it’s hard to sit up on a journalistic high horse — to ridicule the rest of journalism — even as you take behind-the-scenes advantage of your knowledge and the impact of your prominence. This, of course, is exactly why news organizations have policies requiring either not owning a stock or revealing ownership in companies you cover or not trading on them when you write about them: so you can judge whether to trust them and so they cannot take advantage of moving the market for a stock. If a professional reporter did what Cuban did, he would be fired … and Cuban would probably write a blog post attacking him.

There has been much discussion of this online. See this excellent editorial in the Star-Telegram:

It’s too bad that Cuban couldn’t let his investment in Sharesleuth stand on its own. He had to use it as a tool in a side deal to make himself a few more bucks to add to the gigazillion that he already has.

In the process, he cast doubt on Sharesleuth’s efforts.

See Gary Weiss writing on his blog:

It’s a shame that an ethical rich guy– one with the public spirit Cuban lacks — hasn’t stepped into the breach and set up a genuine financial investigative reporting outlet to examine crummy stocks. But as a public service, not as a source of pocket money.

Of course, there is yet another alternative, which is that mainstream media outlets crank up their coverage of stock fraud.

Securities Litigation Watch, a blog, says — and others quoted here agree — that Cuban’s actions are not illegal but that Cuban…

…has found the previously unexploited Achilles’ Heel of the insider trading laws and fired an arrow deep into it. The result is that for the first time, a legal form of what most people would consider “insider trading” exists and can be replicated by anyone with (a) the resources to hire a skilled investigative journalist, (b) the ability to generate a readership on the Internet.

And see the comments on Sharesleuth itself: This poster tries to give analogies that explain why Cuban’s activity doesn’t seem right:

I see a huge contradiction in providing information on what you personally believe to be a scam (in escence, posting a “do not enter” sign) but then on the other hand potentially making a financial gain (shorting the company stock). Essentially, it seems, indirectly partaking in the named fraudulent operation and knowingly so. This is even magnified by the fact of Mr. Cuban shorting the shares PRIOR to the report that it appears he has direct input.

In the report D’Arnaud-Taylor and his wife are demonized for selling the company shares into the open market, and maybe rightly so. But how are the buyers of Mr. Cuban’s short sell any less a victim than the buyers of D’Arnaud-Taylor sells? If both are aware that the underlining business that the shares represent to be a perversion of truth are they not each participants? (though Mr. Cuban on lower level understandably so). Is not the instrument of the fraud the stock itself?

Another commenter identifying himself as a shareholder in the company that Sharesleuth pilloried — an aforementioned poor shlub — says:

On the outset, it appears that you have good intentions Mr. Mark Cuban. Your plan is to uncover the “dirt” on companies to save investors from losing out, correct?…So this might make you a “hero” to some people…and I might agree with that EXCEPT for the fact that you appear to be making a decent profit on all of this negative hype you are building up. In a sense, you are profiting off of the unsuspecting shareholders (like me), who have put their trust in the companies you are digging up “dirt” on.

The honorable thing to do would be to NOT trade on the companies that you write about, thus giving your readers a chance to exit…or if you do trade wait for 30 days after the article has been released.

If you happen to uncover true “dirt” about a company, and that company is truly an “evil” company, than the shareholders are victims, correct? So, in essence, what you are doing now is profiting off of victims before they have an opportunity to escape.

Another shareholder:

So this is suppose to “help” people avoid investing in poorly managed companies or just plain bad companies…unfortunately the average investor got the info too late. I was down over $1200 by the time I was “informed”. Mr. Cuban I appreciate your work, but a little heads up for the little guy would have been nice. I know $1200 may only be lunch for you, but it is a lot more than that for most people. I love the Mavs, I love you, but this hurts. That’s just $1200 less I have to spend on Mavs tickets this year.

You see, journalism is, in the end, about trust and credibility and this is what Cuban is doing to his. Mind you, Cuban is right to ridicule the trust and credibility of stock analysts and much financial journalism that just sucks up what those analysts and company flacks feed them. They, too, don’t protect the public. But just because they’re bad, does that mean you need to be? Two wrongs, etc.

Cuban is, of course, unrepentant. He goes off on a rant that, as near as I can tell, reasons that news organizations make profits so why shouldn’t he? He says:

Every media outlet has an agenda. Given that almost all are public entities, the primary agenda is Earnings Per Share. When was the last time you read the New York Times say they were going to proactively choose to lower their earnings this quarter and for the next several quarters so they can invest in doing a better job of reporting ? Or that they planned on expanding the number of pages dedicated to their journalistic endeavors at the expense of shareholder return ? Anyone ?

Well, actually, I’ve sat in public meetings with Times editors as they talk about the cost of maintaining a Baghdad bureau and that is not a financially motivated decision. I’ve watched papers add pages to cover big news — as an editor, I’ve done it myself — when those pages came with no advertising and thus only brought loss. I’ve sent reporters on trips to cover stories that would bring no revenue. Why do journalists do these things? To serve the public. Haughty but true.

And what this brings out is the equally haughty question: What is the nature and mission of journalism? Is it an effort to serve the public over oneself ; is that a key element in the definiton? That’s where the Cuban case would lead us, I think. Is journalism now about getting any information from any source with any agenda? Well, I’ve argued that we all do have agendas and the worst thing is for them to be hidden. Is journalism about trust and credibility? And can we trust and believe Cuban when he’s making money on the information he can afford to gather and disseminate?

I sure as hell hope there will be ample opportunity to discuss this and challenge Cuban at the Online News Association. Are they presenting him as some paragon of journalism? Some new kind of media mogul? Some opponent of journalism’s old ways? Or a circus act? I’m bringing popcorn.

If Cuban had just started a new journalistic endeavor to show the way and shame the business press into reporting and investigating — not to mention to create jobs for reporters — he might have been welcomed with open arms. I’ll bet that there are plenty of ripped-off shareholders out there who’d have gladly contributed to make this a success. And advertisers would want to talk to an audience of smart investors. But by turning this into a personal and shady profit center, by trying to play the bad boy in this arena as he does in the basketball arena, he harmed his endeavor, his reputation, and even the nascent movement in independent journalism. Just so he could make a few bucks. Now that’s what I call dumb money.

: LATER: Mark Cuban responds on his blog. He digs up every snarky thing I’ve said about him and that’s fine. My view of Cuban is encapsulated in what I said at the start of this post. He doesn’t really respond to the ethical question about reporting on the company from a position that can move the market for it while having an interest in that market. I would very much like to see him explore that more. He lists the stocks he has shorted and their status so we can judge whether he has had an influence. I do think that Sharesleuth is bigger — and, in so many ways, better — than a blog comment and so its influence will surely be different. Cuban says that trust is built with getting the facts right. Amen, brother, amen. It is also built, in this age of transparency, with both revealing and avoiding, when possible and when necessary, conflicts of interest. You see, I’m a big fan of Sharesleuth and Cuban starting it in every aspect except that conflict, which does undermine trust.

See the comments on his post and this one; lots of good discussion. And I’ll repeat that I hope there is this sort of discussion at ONA. There are a few vital debates here. One is about reporting on companies and protecting the public and how we find better ways to do that than relying on newspaper business writers who are good at nothing so much as retyping press releases and quoting analysts who are good at nothing so much as spitting up company lines. The other is about journalism and what expectations and standards the trusted will operate under, whether that journalism is performed by a big, old, professional institution or by a renegade upstart company or by individuals or networks of all of the above. I’m not sure what the answers are in either case but I think we need to explore them through these debates.

: LATER STILL: Mark Glaser writes a very good summary of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Cuban and Sharesleuth. See also Gary Weiss’ next post.

The interactive Middle East

I’m about to cut off comments on posts having to do with the Middle East. A few people come in and take it over repeating the same angry arguments over and over until it escalates into scuds v. cruises. I don’t even both reading them. I suspect you don’t, either. I love interactivity. But who could love this?

: LATER: I closed comments on two posts for a few hours. They are back open. Can we please try not to fight WWIII here? Discussion is wonderful. Disagreement is wonderful. Even argument is wonderful. But shouting hurts the ears.

Computer hacks

Comment is Free had me write a post about Thomson’s news stories made by computer. A commenter comes up with the blog comment algorithm. For example:

Put one keyword in, say ‘CIF’ from the top of this page, and you get the following, ready for use almost anywhere on CIF:

“This is a deeply offensive piece. It all comes down to how the Israelis/Palestinians started all of this in 256BC/1917/1948/1967/2000. To deny this is deeply anti-semitic/rabidly Zionist/Islamophobic. Only what I expect to read on this bigotted site lately.”

Is writing the highest form of speech?

The problem with books, I’ve been saying, is that we give them too much respect. Because we treat them as holy objects, we are less likely to change and update the form — and that, sorry to say, leaves books behind as the rest of media must progress. I just read two pieces that speak to the question of whether writing is, indeed, our highest form of speech worthy of such worship.

In the first, blogger Tom Matrullo quotes Socrates. His context, coincidentally, is the silence of Columbia J-school’s Nick Lemann in the conversation he caused. Matrullo blogged:

As the flood of responses and comments to Nicholas Lemann’s “On the Internet, everybody is a millenarian” article in the New Yorker continues to flow, bend, ripple and eddy, one can’t help but notice how Lemann’s piece simply stands there, mute, defunct. Sans capacity to comment, respond, defend, link. It’s Plato’s old distinction in the Phaedrus: blogs are the speaking voice, alive and self-present. Lemann’s article belongs to the world of print, of writing.

Socrates talks about the written word as a lesser form of shared knowledge. He praises conversation, teaching, humanity. Here, he is speaking about the “propriety and impropriety of writing.” He tells of an old god, Theuth, who invented many arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, “but his great discovery was the use of letters.” Theuth extolled his creations for the god Thamus, king of Egypt.

But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.

Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality. . . .

We believe today that when we put ideas in writing, they are thus preserved. But if the paper they are printed on disappears, so do the ideas. That is what I mean when I say that print is where words go to die. If, on the other hand, ideas are spread from person to person, implanted in their own thought, enhanced with questions and conversation, then they live. So the the written word can be a crutch, sometimes a feint. And now here is the Socratic kicker:

Socrates: I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves. . . .

Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power — a son of the same family, but lawfully begotten? . . . I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

Phaedrus:. You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which written word is properly no more than an image?

By George, he’s got it.

Socrates talks about sowing ideas:

Then he will not seriously incline to “write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?

He talks about writing “for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age. . . .” Phaedrus calls this a noble pastime and Socrates agrees, then adds:

But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

And his thoughts are only stronger because others may question and challenge them:

But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man’s own and his legitimate offspring; — being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his others; — and who cares for them and no others — this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

Who better to endorse conversation than Socrates?

* * *

And then Simon Jenkins in the Guardian writes about the allegedly suffering art of conversation.

We are said to be losing the art of conversation. It is dying in a hell’s kitchen of mobile phones, BlackBerrys, iPods, emails, soundbites, chatshows and drinks parties. There it joins other civilities regularly pronounced dead, such as well-mannered teenagers, the tomato and the novel. Nowadays no one converses. People shout and text.

He summarizes social historian Stephen Miller from his study Conversation: A History of a Declining Art. “Storytelling, however good, is only half of conversation,” says Jenkins.

Miller starts with Socrates, Plato and Cicero, who first noted that free conversation, because it is transient and uncensorable, is the essence of free speech. It was always a threat to authoritarianism. Hence its fascination for the Enlightenment. To Montaigne it was intellectual callisthenics, the “fruitful and natural exercise of the mind” as opposed to the “languid, feeble motion” of reading. . . .

Historians of culture saw this golden age as destroyed by intrusive innovation. Cheap books and newspapers discouraged talk.

Imagine that: books as barriers. Jenkins then turns this around and you can guess where this is going. Put on your sunglasses and protective gear: a blast of blog, internet, and technological triumphalism is coming:

Miller is not a total pessimist. He quotes Hume, that “the propensity to company and society is strong in all rational creatures”. I think he grossly underrates Hume’s insight. Who would have predicted a quarter century ago that the passive act of watching television would be supplanted by the more active one of electronic interchange. We seem to be in perpetual conversation. The zombie army wandering London’s streets mouthing into space is conversing. The phone is no longer what it was to my parents, the means for some rushed emergency message. It is conversation. And what is a blog but a digital coffee house, lacking only respect for Swift’s maxim that nothing kills conversation like a bore?

And the beauty of this age is that technology and connectivity allow us to bring books and the ideas in them back into the conversation, sharing them, challenging them, teaching and learning from them with links.

El Blog

Blogger Boz reports that El Tiempo, Colombia’s mainstream media, just redesigned its website with impressive promotion of blog the paper now invites it readers to write. Sadly, I don’t speak Spanish, but Boz tells all:

They have activated comments on articles. Comments can be voted up or down by readers.

They have a “most read” and “most active search” section on the homepage. It looks like they may incorporate tags next.

Podcasts and videocasts.

They’ve created widgets that can be downloaded onto your computer or run on your Google homepage or MyYahoo. These widgets allow you to view sections of El Tiempo without logging in. This goes on top of their RSS feeds, which they’ve had for a while.

They have added breaking news via cell phone SMS.

They are allowing people to create and host blogs on their site. This is probably the most significant news. By allowing users to blog and placing some of those blog posts on the front page, they have taken a major leap towards integrating consumer generated content with their traditional journalism.

Overall, El Tiempo may just have leapt ahead not just most Latin American newspapers, but most newspapers around the globe in terms of integrating into the new media environment.


James Kelm asks about the impact of YouTube and viral video on the next presidential election — or any election, for that matter. He notes that candidates should look at this as a way to directly give their messages to the public. Of course, it can also be used by opponents to show or remix candidates’ worst sides (cue Dean Scream). I remember in the last election getting to hear podcasts of candidates’ stump speeches thanks to one site and it was a great way to hear directly and all at once, rather than reading the lines dribbled out by bored pool reporters.

For the upcoming elections, I think any video sharing service worth its salt should enable sharing and editing of video: We, the people, should take along our cameras and put up entire stump speeches. We should also TiVo and share candidates’ spiels on TV and also network reports. Then we should be enabled to easily remix compliations of quotes: what all the candidates really said about immigration, or Daily-Show-like what-he-said-then-vs.-now comparisons.

The next revolution may not be televised. But it can be YouTubed. [via Sullivan]

Newspaper as open-source focus group

Some intriguing comments on my column about the Guardian’s web-first move. Start with MrPikeBishop, aka Frank Fisher, proposing a means to augment the still-measly revenue of online news with online think tanks and reviewers:

It’s money though isn’t it? That’s the big fat fly in the ointment. . . . And that’s probably causing quivering sphincters at every paper in the developed world. Sure, the optimists will say expanded online advertising will take up the slack, and that punters may even spring for micropayments – they might, in the end. But in the interm…. wooooohooooh. . . .

Personally I don’t think the media have quite grasped that as well as presenting a different way of delivering the story, the web is also TWO WAY. You give to the punters, but the punters, as we see here, also give back. Don’t think that advertising, or pay for news, is the only revenue stream possible. I’ve already been conjuring with ideas of using intelligent web communities as on-demand think tanks, for project or idea review, or for brainstorming purposes, but there are more readily obvious opportunities to hand.

Take film, music – what’s the best way to get a new movie or album to break in a big way? What gets punters through the turnstiles faster than anything else? Word o’ mouth. Who’s reviews do people trust most? NME? Time Out? Or their buddy’s? A lot of people on this site [Comment is Free, that is] love film, a lot love music – Guardian, take that. Use it. Create an intelligent and articulate panel, and SELL that service. How do you know who you can trust on ebay? Feedback ratings. Millions now accept and use this rating system – why think it would only work for items on ebay? Why won’t it work for biscuits? Pensions? Coffee shops? Throw select readers a little bone, and sell their expertise and their valued opinion. Aggregate opinons, ratings, sell the service. Sure, the punters won’t do this for nothing, but if they get streamed new movies to review, or music, or vouchers for a new bar etc etc etc. The brightest underachievers in the world hang out at GU, that’s a resource.

There’s a lot lurking in that. It’s about capturing and giving value to the wisdom of your crowd. It’s about acting as a moderator for sharing their experience and opinions. It’s about networks of trust. It’s about beating the hell out of random focus groups with detailed and valuable research. It’s about sharing your stuff with the public and getting value in return. The discussion continues as gawain says:

I’ve never been called a bright underachiever before! Sounds good!…..sort of. Anyhow -good post MrPB -a tried and trusted central idea. It’s why reality TV is so popular now. But as far as creating intelligent and articulate panels, they can’t be set up like CiF right? I mean you’ve got the likes of me and the Stan-thing roaring and bellowing every few days. It got to be elitist to stay classy right?

MrPikeBishop responds with some gems (my emphases):

“It got to be elitist to stay classy right” Stan’s elite too y’know. C’mon, you can tell he’s a bright feller – dripping with intelligently crafted lunacy.

CiF looks like a lunatic asylum because that’s what people become online – that’s one reason why they’re so valuable: people open up. And the diversity here – nutters ‘n all – is of value too. You take the film industry; run by accountants who would rather remake the same film every 20 years because they can’t imagine what will grab people next. But the remakes are made, and then vanish – you look at films like 12 Monkeys, or Donnie Darko: those films are made by and for people who are outside the mainstream, and they are not just watched, but *loved*. They make a bit of money in the box office, and then they make film every day from that day on, in merchendise, tie-ins and DVDs – cult successes never die. Make a movie, and one day you’ll need to make another. Make a cult, and you can retire. . . . That’s one tiny aspect – what I’m talking about is utilising specialist knowledge and opinion to enhance business or service propositions – an open-source focus group, really. Wiki-reviews, kinda.

Everyman6 chimes in on the notion of open-source focus groups:

Utopian, but unlikely to save The Guardian. You can’t persuade punters to pay for other punters’ reviews, because they’re used to getting them for free. No added value. And online “focus groups” have to be vetted and weighted, because your random sampling of online nutcases isn’t representative of the wider public. Which gets you back to square one. How about a Farringdon Road Bring & Buy Sale, anyone? Georgina could bake a cake.

[Translation: How about a Guardian rummage sale? CiF editor Georgina Henry could bake a cake.]

He makes a good point but isn’t that potentially the real value of The Guardian in the end: vetting and weighing and making the internet not so random?

cktirumalai adds (making me jealous that my commenters here don’t quote James Joyce):

James Joyce, who had some personal experience of newspapers, wrote with ironic humour in “Ulysses”, “Sufficient unto the day is the newspaper thereof”. Apparently that should now be amended to “Sufficient unto the day is the newspaper which has been shaped with the active assistance of bloggers”. And bloggers can indeed help, pouncing on factual and other errors and providing unusual perspectives. If newspapers chronicle today’s history–or yesterday’s– the journalist can indeed profit from the views of alert contemporaries. But I cannot somehow imagine a historian of the 1850s posting it on a website for interactive comment: he would want a more select audience. For myself, I turn to blogs as a supplement; the newspaper, on which I grew up, is my staple.

Once more: I think that networks of trust will form. Links lead to a meritocracy and your or the Guardian can chose their links carefully. This will matter in advertising and in information as well as discussion.

Back to the focus of my column — news stories going online first — Ulla adds an interesting question:

The good thing about the web is that you can update and change articles pretty easily afterwards and continously. So for most of the people publishing on the web as soon as possible is not a big deal. What I find quite interesting is that yet there does not seem to be any difference yet in “writing for web” and “writing for print publication”. This will hopefully change longterm – that the advantages and disadvantages of web and print will be used to best advantage for the issues and as a news outlet. At the moment it still feels like when tv first came along and the programmes and news were presented as if it was radio.

I think that’s right and it’s part of what I’ll be grappling with when I teach at CUNY’s j-school: We’ve spent too much time in online journalism talking about it as a new means of story-telling (read: lecuturing). The real question is how you present a constantly growing and changing story in a sane structure that lets you take advantage of constant contributions and updates and allows you to link to more details from those contributors without turning it all into a muddled mess that makes you wish for USA Today.

: See also Georgina Henry on the finish of the Big Blogger contest and a question about what’s next. An unnamed commenter — sounds like MrPikeBisho — suggests a refinement of what’s above:

One suggestion – and I don’t know how practical it is – but you have a great resource there: the punters. What an educated, articulate and, by definition, under-occupied bunch – that’s a hell of a thinktank sitting there, waiting to be tapped. I can imagine one thread a week that sets a task: come up with a slogan for this product, figure out why customers aren’t using a particular service, tell us what you really want from a gym, develop an effective youth crime policy…. Put the resource up for auction – “get the best brains in the world working on your business in their idle hours” – kind of a human equivalent of the SETI distributed processing project. You’ll end up with a new slogan from Heinz: “buy our fucking soup!”