Posts about Book

Reverse syndication

In the story about their layoffs today, the New York Times mentioned, as it often does, that the Baghdad bureau costs them $3 million a year.

I’ve been wondering about a new way to help support that bureau: reverse syndication.

Now, the Times supports that work not with advertising associated with it directly — who wants to associated a brand with war? — but by doing the other things — food, entertainment, autos, homes — that bring in the money. And it runs a syndicate in which it sells its stories to other news organizations. But I know from my time in newspaper online sites that syndication is a dying business as newspapers cut back all the costs they can and as the web link pretty much obsoletes the model: Why buy the content when people can get it to already online?

So how about turning that model around: Let’s say the Times says to Tribune company that it will provide all the reporting on Iraq for Tribune’s readers. But instead of charging Tribune for syndication, the Times pays Tribune a share of the ad revenue it gets from traffic Tribune sends to the Times. Tribune, which is also engaging in layoffs, can’t afford to do everything anymore and so it has to do what it does best and link to the rest. Granted that the ad revenue on a Baghdad story won’t be great but added traffic would add revenue and would help.

And if this model works, wouldn’t Tribune also want to link to Wall Street coverage from the Times. Or the Wall Street Journal and Reuters could compete for that traffic. There’s a church-state question here: Would Tribune be motivated to link to any of these three because they have the best coverage or because they pay the best commission? Given equal quality, the best commission will win. But Tribune has to give its readers the best links to the best coverage or its readers will seek those links elsewhere. So I think quality will succeed.

(This is the first of two posts exploring new models for the business of news — I’d love to see you explore more. I also want to give credit for inspiring this to Jim Kennedy, the head of strategy at the Associated Press, who drew a similar model when I first brought Daylife to meet him as he tried to figure out how we as an industry could help support quality coverage from local papers that right now aren’t motivated to take national traffic since they can’t monetize it well. This may be a model that addresses that.)

Google’s killer crowdsourcing tool

I just created a questionnaire asking what you would kill in a newspaper’s budget if you had to cut costs. Please do go fill it out now.

This is made possible by the new Google Forms, which enables you to create web or email forms people can fill out, with the results pouring into a spreadsheet. This is incredible for surveys and other projects in which you want to gather a lot of data — like WNYC’s Are You Being Gouged project. It’s so simple but so powerful.

(Inspired by Steve Rubel)

The internet is the social network

Google has released a social-graph API, which in theory — though, unfortunately, not in practice — is what the internet is all about: relationships and connections.

I’ve said it before:

The internet doesn’t need more social networks. The internet is the social network. We have our identities, interests, reputations, relationships, information, and lives here, and we’re adding more every day. The network enabler that manages to help us tie these together to find not just connections or email addresses or information or songs but people — friends, colleagues, teachers, students, partners, lovers — across this open world, that will be the owner of the biggest network of them all: The Google of people.

So with its social-graph API, is Google trying to become the Google of people (or beat Facebook to it)? Yes, but the problem is that this relies on explicit, semantic links we just don’t use. It wants us to include rel= links when we link to someone defining the relationship. I just don’t see that happening. Sometime ago, the semantic folks wanted us to put vote links in (marking them as positive or negative); it never took off.

Here’s Brad Fitzpatrick of Google explaining the API:

I believe the killer social graph app will be the one that sniffs and understands our relationships without our having to take explicit action or by exploiting the actions we take for different reasons. Facebook exists to help us organize our friendships and in the process of doing that, it knows who are friends are (unless you’re one of those who befriends everyone). When I take pictures of people on Flickr or Facebook and they get tagged, it must mean I was there with them. When I tag them, it must mean I know them. When people follow me on Twitter — and vice versa — a relationship of mutual interest is defined. When I join a group at Facebook or Yahoo, another relationship of interest is there. When I go to a MeetUp with someone, both interest and physical meeting are established. When I link to someone’s blog, that, too, defines a relationship and the definition becomes only more explicit if we know who writes that blog and whether they have any other relationship with me. On my blog, I want to link you to the other things I do online, my other identities, and I can do that through ClaimID. Witness:

My claimID jeff jarvis

When you put all those relationships together with my identity and the actions among us, you start to draw the real social graph, the true social network that is the internet.

OK, so what? What benefit is that to me or anyone else? Well, it’s another way to visualize and manage my relationships. We can layer on this content and memes and see where they start and how they spread and that starts to define leadership and curiosity and credibility.

The internet is less about content than relationships and teh true social graph will show us those relationships.

Reinventing Sears

Newsday’s Ellis Hennican writes today about a notion for reviving the still-and-forever-flagging Sears: turn it into an annuity membership with which you get a lifetime string of and repair of updated TVs, lawnmowers, whatever. This is not unlike Interface Inc.’s program of leasing carpeting. In essence, this is the cable-box model the old telephone model: they own the device and rent it to us. — and that’s the problem with it, since those programs were and are ripoffs. But in this case, there’s no monopoly. So the real question is, do we trust Sears to survive.

I like this discussion of reinventing companies and industries in the digital age. Here’s my proposal for the social airline. I’ll write one soon about retail.

Davos08: The Google environment

The other day, I live-blogged the Google Foundation conversation about its work in energy and other areas. What fascinated me was seeing a world as run by engineers. YouTube put up the full video: