by Jeff Jarvis
I loved this comment from Michael Rosenblum on my response to BBC ONE Controller Peter Fincham’s speech before the Royal Television society, below, reacting to this line of Fincham’s: “User generated content is great but…..” Says Michael:
I think it only fair to point out to our friend at the RTS that Harry Potter was ‘user generated content’, that JK Rowling was not a ‘professional’. In the world of print, which produces some pretty good stuff, EVERYTHING is ‘user generated’. Soon, the same will be true in TV.
: Proving his point, The Times reports today that a talent agency is now scouting online video stars.
My Guardian column this week brings together a few posts furthering the notion that the internet obsoletes the institutional voice of the editorial writer (translated into British newspaperspeak: leader writer). Column here; nonregistration version here.
: The column is up at Comment is Free and generating interesting comments there.
A throwaway line I used in a post the other day keeps repeating on me like pepperoni pizza: If you want to be big in media in the future, make yourself into an API.
I’ve been wondering what it would mean for a news organization to turn itself into an API — that is, a programming interface that lets the public use and remix and also contribute information. Or put the question another way: What would Google do (WWGD) if it ran a news organization? And I don’t mean GoogleNew but any of the reporting organizations it could afford to buy (though I’m not sure why it would): The New York Times, the LA Times, CBS News, CNN. Or, for that matter, what would YouTube do? Or Firefox? What would it mean to open up the news? I’ll start with a few answers of my own. Please add yours:
* Let people — no, encourage — people to distribute your stuff for you. You can no longer spend a huge marketing budget to get people to come to you. So go to where the people are, with the people’s help. That’s what got YouTube seen: letting people put players in their own space, which in turn drove people to discover and dive into YouTube.
* Think distributed in your business, too. That is how Google makes much of its fortune: by taking its ads to where the people are and sharing just a bit of that wealth.
* Let people — no, encourage — people to remix your stuff. They’re doing it anyway. They’re taking a paragraph from here and a quote from there — or video from here and audio from there — to tell the story from their perspective. Stop thinking of that as theft and start thinking of it as a compliment. If you’re not being remixed, you’re not part of the conversation. And the conversation is the platform of the today. So feel free to set some rules — it’s only polite to attribute and link — but then open the doors and let people create more great stuff on not only your finished product but also your raw material (your quotes, your data, your cutting-room floor). Look at the great things people have built on top of Google, YouTube, and Firefox. You want to be part of that construction project. The BBC has started down this path. So should others.
* So be a platform for news. Enable people to use you to make connections to people and information. Provide the means for them to record those school-board meetings and share the fruits. Give people tools and training to accomplish what they want to accomplish. Create networked reporting tools that let the people join together in acts of journalism (see: NewAssignment.net).
* Experiment. Start labs for news and let the people in to create and criticize alongside you. Don’t be afraid of betas and don’t be afraid of failure. You can’t be perfect. You never could.
From this week’s Media Guardian podcast:
Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited: “In the next two to three to four years, community goes from the edges to the core. Otherwise, you’re not going to have a business.”
Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, at the Tory party conference in the UK: “We have 35 million blogs, doubling every six months. The average blog has exactly one reader: the blogger.”
Hmmm. Why own Blogger, then? Why place ads on them? Why diss them? Perhaps it’s because the core of Google remains not people but machines.