Posts about linkeconomy

The journalism of filling space and time

Election days are — next to the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas — the worst days of journalism on the calendar. They are “yeah, we know” days. People shop. People vote. Tell me something I don’t know. Please. This is the journalism of filling space and time. We have to print an edition or fill airtime and this is what’s happening today and you’re going to come to us anyway so we’re going to tell you about it even if we have nothing — nothing — new and informative to say.

The journalism of links, on the other hand, would dictate that it’s not worth using resources to tell people what they already know because no one will pass that on and passing on is the new distribution chain for news. (People won’t just come to you anyway anymore.)

I’m not suggesting that news judgment should be determined just by what is passed around. We know how silly the most-emailed lists are; they’re the wacky stories, water-cooler journalism. Instead, I’m suggesting that if you can’t imagine anyone linking to your coverage — if you can’t imagine anyone saying “this was new,” “this is good,” “this was valuable,” “go here for more,” “I didn’t know this,” or “you should know this” — then chances are, it’s not worth saying and in the link economy it won’t get audience, and so it’s not worth making.

In that link economy — in the Googleverse — you stand out above the level playing field by creating something uniquely useful, informative, compelling, or valuable. As other news organizations cut back, they will more and more point to good work done elsewhere. So another way to ask this question is, “have I contributed something to the press-sphere (and will I get attention as a result)?” For elsewhere in the sphere, others are doing what they do best and linking to the rest.

At the Telegraph, online editor Marcus Warren just told PaidContent: “We are doing what we do best, main content, but also linking to the rest, as Jeff Jarvis would put it.” Or as Marcus Huendgen just said in Der Westen, “Do the fucking links.” Yes, I’m gratified at the spread of that meme. It’s not just advice. It’s a recognition of the new architecture of news and media.

A few years ago, the Associated Press did a lot of research among young people as it prepared to create a news product for them. One meme they heard again and again: “Don’t tell us what we already know.” Don’t waste their time — and your dwindling resources.

So I come to you today over-informed about how many people are standing in a random line or about a random machine that broke down and got fixed — because that’s where the reporter was standing and she had nothing else to tell me. Don’t bother.

The start of reverse syndication (and end of the AP?)

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger today put out an entire edition without anything from the Associated Press within. The sharp-eyed reader will notice lots of local news by staff plus articles from other papers–Washington Post, LA Times, McClatchy, the Glouceseter County Times–and content from online services such as Sportsticker.

It’s one more nail in the heart of the AP as other papers cancel their contracts and more threaten to.

At the same time, Political announces that it will give stories to papers with ads attached that Politico and Addify sell and they will share revenue with the papers. Politico’s deal is the first major substantiation of the reverse-syndication model, a product of the link economy. It’s another nail in the heart of the Associated Press, which is built instead for the content economy.

The old syndication model in the old content economy just won’t work today when all the world needs is one copy of a story up in the cloud with links to it. Today, the more links that article can get, the more valuable it is. So sharing value with those who send links to it only makes sense.

The AP is not bad (no matter what foolish things it may have done in the blog kerfuffle recently). It’s just expensive. Papers the size of the Cleveland Plain Dealer say they pay $1 million a year. As they get more local, as reverse syndiction models come to the fore, as they have to tighten budgets, the industry-supported AP syndication model is mortally threatened. Still, this isn’t about the AP. It’s about the new architecture of news and media.

The imperatives of the link economy

At a Berkman center session last week about supporting investigative and international reporting — “difficult journalism,” in convener Ethan Zuckerman’s wording — I talked about the link economy v. content economy and at lunch, one of the participants asked what the link economy requires of us. Try this list on for size:

1. All content must be transparent: open on the web with permanent links so it can receive links. It’s not content until it’s linked.

2. The recipient of links is the party responsible for monetizing the audience they bring. In the old content-economy model of syndication, the creator sells content to another and the one who syndicates has to come up with the ad or circulation revenue sufficient to pay for it. Now in the link economy, it’s reversed: When you get traffic, you need to figure out how to benefit from it. As Doc Searls said at the event: this is a shift from “making money with” to “making money because.”

3. Links are a key to efficiency. In other words: Do what you do best and link to the rest.

4. There are opportunities to add value atop the link layer. This is where one can find business opportunities: by managing abundance rather than the old model of managing scarcity. The market needs help finding the good stuff; that curation is a business opportunity. There is also an opportunity to add context (here are lots of links about Darfur but here is a page that will explain what they mean). There is also a need to add reporting and new content and information atop a link ecology. There is a need to create infrastructure for linking (full disclosure: I am involved with two companies trying to do this — Daylife and Publish2). There is a crying need for advertising infrastructure and networks to help the recipients of links monetize them.