A distributed strategy for news

I’ve been talking with folks lately about the need to develop distributed strategies for news, which includes:
* Widgets that enable people to embed your news (and links and brand) anywhere.
* A platform strategy enabling people to build on your content, data, and functionality.
* A network strategy that includes blog networks (a la Glam).

The objection always thrown up is that Comscore/Nielsen/ABC et al won’t count that. I say we need to count differently. Rather than counting page views from users on a destination, we need to count relationships with people wherever they are.

A few things to note in this context:

* Google (which, by the way, now has more traffic than Yahoo — even though its real traffic should be counted via its distributed strategy with ads and widgets everywhere) accounted for two-thirds of search traffic to U.S. newspapers, which increased a third from 2006 to 2007. I assume that universal search — that is, the inclusion of news headlines in standard searches — has and and will continue to have a huge impact on traffic to news sites. Google is the new newsstand. (This, by the way, makes Mark Cuban’s silliness look even sillier.)

* Reuters has opened its content up via an API. It’s thinking like a platform. This will distribute Reuters news anywhere and everywhere by enabling people to build value themselves atop it.

* Note again TripAdvisor’s use of Facebook as a platform to gather (free) content more than distribute it.

News cannot continue to think of itself as a destination. It has to think of itself as a feed that goes to where you are. Remember that momentous quote Brian Stelter got from a young person in the NY Times: “If the news is that important, it will find me.”

  • In this global economy sharing news horizontally will play a big role. I’m glad to see people like yourself who peruse this method. At the end the consumer will benefit and everyone will stay informed. The current lack of intercontinental news sharing is shocking. Edward.Palonek @ edward-palonek.com

  • “News cannot continue to think of itself as a destination. It has to think of itself as a feed that goes to where you are.” News is the wire, and we’re all copy editors.

  • Totally agree, Jeff.

    Just one small note — the “if the news is that important, it will find me” quote (which I wrote about here: http://tinyurl.com/ynsep4) came from a focus group that Jane Buckingham of the Intelligence Group did, which Brian quotes in the story.

  • Jeff:

    I think you’re spot on; however, I wouldn’t categorize it as either/or. News organizations need to allow people to consume news when and wherever they want.

    But that’s only the first of many steps.

    They need to find ways to allow people to engage with each other (NING, MeetUp), they need to include community managers who can actively engage and get information from the community, they need to build databases that give us context (that is what computer networks give us – the news is quickly becoming irrelevant in those terms) and they need to move away from the belief that the banner/advertising model is the future.

    So many things need to change — and are changeable.

  • “The objection always thrown up is that Comscore/Nielsen/ABC et al won’t count that. I say we need to count differently.”

    Why do you care how folk count hits? Count *money* not hits… The real measure of success will not be how many people read the stuff but rather how much we pay the writers.

    bob wyman

  • Adding to what Mathew said, if news is important it will find me…on Twitter! Well that is at least the concept on my Twitter Newspaper http://www.Tweetwire.com

    With Twitter there are not annoying teasers and ‘More at eleven…’ garbage like network newscasts use in a desperate attempt to keep their viewers on the edge of their seats.

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  • Paul Evans

    Many newspapers, mine included, appear wedded to the web portal concept even if they refuse to provide the interactive features that will bring users back (model won’t work anyway, but why not at least put on a good show?). They seem to think that the best way to keep their audience is to deny them what they want. It is kind of like a wife threatening not to sleep with her husband until he stops having affairs.

    A couple of years ago I wrote a memo and did a presentation for the people at my place. They were complaining about Google and Digg and all the sites that were “stealing” their content. I argued that it didn’t matter how people got to our content as long as they knew it was our content. I pointed out that we could build our information silo and then allow the same content to be distributed in countless different ways. It didn’t cost us a thing and, if our content was compelling, might bring in a lot of different people from a number of vectors we were not even considering. I thought I saw a light go on in the editor’s eyes, but here we are nearly three years later and they are still afraid of RSS, SMS and mobile presentation. Forget about widgets, APIs and all that other new fangled gobbledygook.

    In the past newspapers didn’t have to think much about who their audience was or how to reach them. Certainly their audience had little leverage to demand anything from the newspaper. Times have changed drastically. At least some of the trouble newspapers are facing is due directly to the inability to adapt. What happens next is simply darwinian.

  • Jeff:

    it should be clarified that Reuters opened its content via tha API only for non-commercial use (like the BBC did quite some time ago). Would be interesting to learn about their stance wrt. ad supported blogs.

    Since Reuters licensed Attributors technology they should be able to detect easily where these feeds are used for commercial purposes / are very likely to generate a non-trivial amount of money

    BTW. signed up immediately and got accepted into the program. They definitely get it. Instead of trying to promote news industry standard formats that nobody in the web world cares about (e.g. IPTC, NITF, NewsML) they are offering their content in all the important web formats ATOM, Media RSS, RSS and even JSON. Will report back when i found some time to do some experiments

    Unfortunately they only provide separate text, photo and video feeds.

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  • I couldn’t agree more – you could make this argument for many of the magazine publishers as well. Summer Redstone said it well – “The content mountain has officially relocated”.

    Would you call/count this as “off-site reach”? This seems countable and perhaps the best metric to gauge success, assuming you can monetize it.

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  • Carl B.

    I recently attended a presentation on strategies for success in the distributed media (TV, Radio, and Internet). It was given by the former Chief Strategist of Netscape (Kevin Coleman). In it he showed a model I found extremely interesting for this area and the collision (no not convergence) that will take place in the next five years. The build once – distribute multiple times scenario was not new. What was new one-point of entry to multiple point of content type to one point of receipt (the content consumer) architectural model. The events he showed that lead up to this change have already begun to occur. Given what I have seen since the presentation in the spring of this year, I believe we are on-track for a 2012 realization.

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