Davos08: Journalistic innovation

I ask the session on innovation (see the post below) for advice: I tell them that I’ve jsut about given up on seeing innovation from the newspaper industry and so I am thinking about getting a grant to start an incubator. I ask the room whether I should and if I should what it should be.

Larry Keeley says that networks outside of newspapers are 700 percent more innovative (yes, he has a way to measure that, which I’ll get). So he suggests creating an award, like the X prize, to motivate innovators. He’s thinking about the Pulitzer of blogs but I’ll disagree with that since I think the Pulitzers skew journalists to do show-off work that’s not often useful; it’s too inward thinking. But an X prize for a company that solves a problem, now that’s interesting.

  • OK, I’m biased – declaration, I’m still somehow in the hat. But fair play to the Knight News Challenge people. They’re putting their (considerable) money where their mouth is and doing just that… aren’t they?

  • Rick, I can’t say it’s surprising that a consultant with no particular media ties is declaring that what would save the newspaper industry is an X-Prize when such a thing already exists. Far too many people are willing to prescribe solutions in arenas where they don’t even know which medicines are being taken right now.

    And Keeley’s metrics for innovativeness are downright silly. It’s entirely possible to introduce new innovations in all 10 of his categories and still go out of business. Newspapers are screwed right now because they invested all of their extra cash in the 1990s in wasteful new media projects that left them cash-poor for when Craigslist actually came in and started undermining their classified ad revenue, the first time newspapers really started to lose money. They stopped pursuing profitable growth and joined the dotcom bandwagon, focusing on the single solution of online delivery without focusing on the needs they had to meet.

    But isn’t that always the way? Over-fascination with a single solution at the expense of human needs leading to economic ruin? I seem to recall that radio technology stock speculation precipitated the Great Depression, as well.

    I’m very interested in this subject – I’ve talked a bit with the SJ Mercury News, and I’m very curious to see where they come out. They have a real opportunity in the middle of the chaos swirling around them…

  • I’m going to echo Rick here (with a similar caveat of bias, since I’m linked to the Newspaper Association of America)…

    Anyway, Rick has a good piont: Look at the number of Knight News Challenge grantees who have come from newspaper companies. Also, look at some winners from the digital media awards programs and look into the Scripps Entrepreneur Fund. Pete is right that a lot of newspapers spent a lot of money in the 1990s investing in digital media – but what were they supposed to do? And, seriously, where would those newspapers be now if the forward-thinking publishers at those newspapers had not invested in it? Those same papers are the ones leading innovation in the industry today.

    – Beth

  • As a direct beneficiary of the Knight News Challenge grant to MTV, I’ll third what Rick and Beth have said.

    I guess the difference is, though, that the KNC is funding future projects based on speculation; the X Prize required certain milestones to be met before funding was granted, right? We have yet to see just how awesome our Choose or Lose ’08 Street Team turns out to be — but watch for frequent video updates from us on Super Tuesday, might be worth throwing a couple up on PrezVid.

  • Why can’t the government fund innovative media that’s also “serious” journalism?

    Stumbled on the question following Michael Arrington’s out of character post :http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/24/if-real-journalism-fails-as-a-business-should-government-step-in/
    citing Bollinger’s comments in the session you moderated.

    If market forces aren’t supporting it (shock: the market does not always act in the public service, our idealistic objective for an effective media)– maybe the government can step in through indirect subsidies that Nick Lemann mentions in his response to the Forbes post on the same topic. Lemann falls short but insisting that serious journalism can’t be innovative, but his funding premise is correct. And certainly PBS and NPR are far more critical of the government than the independent private venture FOX News.

    France does this all the time– a group we’ve worked with at GroundReport is http://blogtrotters.fr– financed by the french govt and doing great innovative reporting and citizen journalism.

    Full response: http://www.groundreport.com/Opinion/How-Government-can-support