April 22, 2009

Who can "reboot the news" or create a supply store that will survive financially?

An earlier version of this post appeared on Wired Journalists

Can the geeks and the last remaining news organizations create something new?

It's a question that Robert Scoble asks in a blog post that lists 15 things newspapers gave away for free and another 12 that they probably will.

Geeks and journalists are not a new combination. Northwestern University's journalism program got a grant to train programmers to be journalists. Techies and journalists are propelling projects like Spot.us and Printcasting and everyblock.com

It's the tools of the net that let even those who can't travel to learn what's happening around the world and drop in on conversations like the "Rebooting the News" conversation between Jay Rosen and Dave Winer and follow some of the resulting discussion in the FriendFeed room Rebooting the News. The podcasts are much more satisfying then the 140-character limits of Twitter or even FriendFeed conversations between Jay and Dave.

Rosen has been a journalism professor since 1986 at New York University, involved in projects like NewsAssignment.Net and on the Wikipedia Advisory Board. He's written about civic journalism and blogs at PressThink.

Scoble describes Winer as "a geek that helped either birth or bootstrap all sorts of publishing technologies including blogging, RSS, OPML, XML-RPC." And Winer has had a long time interest in the news business, especially in how it develops online. Check Winer's post "how newspapers tried to invent the web or "blogs have a job" or check the reboot of journalism for a good catchup.

The series of Winer-Rosen conversations now has a name, Rebooting the News, "because it's got the technical side with rebooting, and boot is the first part of bootstrapping. And news is what it's all about," Winer says.

This week the two talk about the digital migration of journalists, and curmudgeons. Also Max Headroom and Oprah on Twitter. (Isn't everyone?)

Catch up on the previous podcasts:
"Just as modern professional journalism was optimized for low participation by the users, readers, viewers, modern professionalized politics was optimized for low participation by voters."
Scoble follows up his listening to the April 19 podcast with a list of what newspapers gave away:

Classified advertising to Craig’s List, photography to Flickr and the distribution of news and the ranking. Most of all, the industry gave away News. News of all types - local and business; front page and small-community information like births, deaths and birthdays; new like crowd-sourced and fun like astrology, comics and restaurant reviews. Oh, and traffic reports.

Scoble even links to what replaced the items newspapers gave away before sharing what they still have to lose: Distribution system, understanding of local community, journalists with time for long-term projects/stories; objectivity and accountability; sources and resources; relationships, and systems for archiving & aggregating.

He also suggests newspapers have:

Meal left #6 (partially eaten): they have brands that many people who are older, and therefore understand politics, business, sports, news, influence, wealth, and many other topics, love a lot more than Facebook or Twitter.

He even praises curators, known in some circles as editors:
"People who understand the news. Understand their communities. Who pick the top stories and who add understanding onto them with photos, graphics, headlines, etc. Believe me, I’ve been watching most bloggers and most of them suck at packaging their stories."
Unfortunately, Scoble does not think they will hang on to their resources long. He'd like to see the geeks and newsies get together to plan something better - and monetized - than Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Tim Windsor on the Nieman Lab also shares what he got from the latest recording.

Ignore Windsor's post title, though, as Winer says in the comments:

"I don’t want to save journalism, I want to reboot it. That’s why I got started blogging in 1994 and podcasting in 2004 and RSS somewhere in between.

As I said above, I don’t think the current system is functional, it lets too many things through the cracks and encourages a kind of footsy between the reporters and the people they cover and it exempts too many influential people from coverage (e.g. the employers of the reporters).

The people you serve want to save journalism , not me. I want a fresh start."

David Muir listened to the latest, liking the way Rosen described community and agreeing that change is needed, but disliking calling all of this the downfall of journalism. In Probate of the Fourth Estate, Muir says:
"Things do change, so roll with it."
His comments on community and even journalism are not surprising giving previous posts like "Local content means high touch" and "the news is dead; long live the news!" and "Comfort in media."

John Zhu listened to two podcasts and blogged about it, finding the discussion on suggested Twitter users amusing.

But back to Scoble, who has zeroed it on one of the challenges: How to make money online. In his post, he suggests looking at the buying process and how news business might effectively intersect with that.

He gives suggestions for what a good local search engine could do, why movie feedback in real time would work, how to really share news (actually archive it) and give product feedback in a meaningful way.

His post reminds me of a recent one from Chris Brogan who suggested supply stores I need right now. There was the Storyteller Farm, the Stat Hunters and Promotion Swarm. He was careful to point out he didn't need a particular person with those skills; he needed "
pirates who come complete with their own sailing ship, crew, and battle tactics. "

I'm off to listen to those Winer-Rosen podcasts again.


Post a Comment