Deprecated: Function mysql_list_tables() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/db/db.mysql.php on line 328

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/inc.lib.php on line 246

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/inc.lib.php on line 246

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/inc.lib.php on line 246
Hypergene MediaBlog<br /> <b>Deprecated</b>: Function eregi() is deprecated in <b>/nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/weblog.php</b> on line <b>9</b><br />

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 597

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Saturday, 20 May 2006

Buffett: Newspapers are "a business in permanent decline"

MediaBlog reader and Buffalo Rising co-founder George Johnson tipped us off to these interesting remarks by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger during the shareholder Q&A at the recent Berkshire Hathaway 2006 shareholders’ meeting. Here are the two relevant shareholder questions:

Do you think that the media business has become permanently less profitable due to new technology?

Warren Buffett WB: People will always want to be entertained and informed. But people just have two eyeballs, and there are only 24 hours in a day. Fifty or 60 years ago, media for most people consisted of the local movie theater, radio, and the local newspaper. Now people have a variety of ways of being informed faster (if not necessarily better), and have more entertainment options, too. But no one has figured out a way to increase the time available to watch entertainment.

Whenever more competitors enter a business, the economics of that business tends to deteriorate. Newspapers are still highly profitable, but returns are falling. The size of the audience for network TV is declining. For years, cable TV was thought to operate in its own world, but that’s changing. Few businesses get better with more competitors.

The outlook for newspapers is not great. In the TV business, a license from the government was essentially the right to a royalty stream. There were basically three highways to people’s eyeballs, and companies like P&G, Ford, Gillette, and GM would pay a significant amount of money to be get on those highways and advertise their products to a mass audience. But as the ways to get in front of people’s eyeballs increases, the value of those highways goes down.

World Book used to sell 300,000 sets per year in the mid-1980s, each for $600. Then the Internet cam along; it didn’t require printing or shipping, and people became less willing to pay for World Book sets. It doesn’t mean that it’s not worth $600. But competition has eroded returns.

CM: It’s a rare business that doesn’t have a way worse future than it has a past.

WB: The thing to do was to buy the NFL when it was first organized. There are now more ways than ever to transit events; value can be extracted from them in different ways.

If you were looking at newspaper publishers as possible investments, what would you use as a margin of safety?

WB: What multiple should you for a company that earns $100 million per year whose earnings are falling by 5% per year rather than rising by 5% per year? Newspapers face the prospect of seeing their earnings erode indefinitely. It’s unlikely that at most papers, circulation or ad pages will be larger in five years than they are now. That’s even true in cities that are growing.

But most owners don’t yet see this protracted decline for what it is. The multiples on newspaper stocks are unattractively high. They are not cheap enough to compensate for the companies’ earnings power. Sometimes there’s a perception lag between the actual erosion of a business and how that erosion is seen by investors. Certain newspaper executives are going out and investing on other newspapers. I don’t see it. It’s hard to make money buying a business that’s in permanent decline. If anything, the decline is accelerating. Newspaper readers are heading into the cemetery, while newspaper non-readers are just getting out of college. The old virtuous circle, where big readership draws a lot of ads, which in turn draw more readers, has broken down.

Charlie and I think newspapers are indispensable. I read four a day. He reads five. We couldn’t live without them. But a lot of people can now. This used to be the ultimate bulletproof franchise. It’s not anymore.

CM: I used to think that GM was a bulletproof franchise. Now I’d put GM and newspapers in the “Too Hard” pile. If something is too hard to do, we look for something that isn’t too hard. What could be more obvious?

WB: It may be that no one has followed the newspaper business as closely as we have for as long as we have—50 years or more. It’s been interesting to watch newspaper owners and investors resist seeing what’s going on right in front of them. It used to be you couldn’t make a mistake managing a newspaper. It took no management skill—like TV stations. Your nephew could run one.

Source: Matt Stichnoth notes from the annual meeting on Bankstocks.com. For more, see: Fat Pitch Financial’s Ultimate 2006 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting Guide

Also: Interesting discussion in the comments section of a Buffalo Rising post about Buffett’s remarks; Michael Urlocker says Newspapers: Disrupt This!

Posted on May 20, 2006 | 12:13 am EST
Permalink | Comment (7) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Wednesday, 26 Apr 2006

Newspaper's date with the butcher

Philip Meyer has predicted that the last American daily newspaper reader will stop reading during October 2044. That might be an optimistic estimate depending on whom you ask.

Today, Vin Crosbie, taking inspiration and analysis from a well-respected economics professor, Robert G. Picard, has put together an illustrated case for why 2044 might arrive sooner than you might expect and why growing efforts to create profitable web sites might fail to save an industry.

So, the newspaper industry is lucky to have its websites’ revenues. Yet, as print edition circulation declines, the average newspaper will need between 20 to 100 website users to replace the revenues lost from each former print edition user.

Unless ways can be found to increase the per user revenues generated from newspaper websites, newspapers need to gain fantastic numbers of Web site users just to replace the declines in print edition revenues. A 50,000 circulation daily would need to gain a million to 50 million Web site users to postpone the time when it’s no longer economically feasible to produce its printed edition!

It’s sad. Decades of declining circulation (long before people started getting their news from the Internet) and newspapers still do not understand why people aren’t reading them.

Posted on Apr 26, 2006 | 8:22 pm EST
Permalink | Comment (1) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Monday, 20 Mar 2006

Trust in Transition: An Interview with Karen Stephenson

image

Karen Stephenson is the kind of woman who can put you both at ease and at the edge of your seat at the same moment. What she studies is something deeply fundamental to the human experience - trust.

Trust is vital not just in our close relationships but in our numerous encounters with strangers (Think about it the next time you pass an oncoming car along a dark, divided highway).

For all of its importance, trust itself is an inherently insecure thing. It implies a deep faith and certainty but is often based, at best, on inconclusive evidence. It is a contradiction that is critical to understand as media becomes a product of greater collaboration in online communities.

Karen’s observations about this transition are unique, given her background as both anthropologist and physicist.

Karen’s latest book is “Quantum Theory of Trust: The Secret of Mapping and Managing Human Relationships.”

Last March, she graciously spent a few moments with us after the Whose News? Media, Technology and the Common Good Conference at Harvard. Here’s the transcript of that conversation and several follow-up emails:

Q: What is your new book about?
The Quantum Theory of Trust

"The Quantum Theory of Trust is about the ‘engine’ behind human networks - aka - trust. It is the fuel that drives the networks for good or for bad. 

I talk about networks in a way that competitors can’t or haven’t - competitors are simply connecting the dots with technology without a lot of measurement or theoretical understanding behind what they are measuring.  Even the competitors I have taught or transferred this to are more in the ‘sound-bite’ arena."

Q: Why did you write the book?

"I hope to teach people to think about how they invest their resources of time and personal knowledge in the networks they keep.  It’s important to store knowledge in your networks but no one person can control them and that is why the unexpected or disastrous can happen."

Q: What have you found in the new information economy and the open source movement that fits well with your ideas?

Once people find themselves in that space, they will collaborate.

But, here’s the dilemma: They call economics the dismal science for a reason and that’s because the pie is only so big. So, not only do I want to hold on to my piece, I want take yours away from you because I get bigger.

So there’s this whole notion that I can benefit at your demise, which can lead to zero sum games that can be really nasty and lot of people out there, no matter what they say, behave that way.

The new economy person says the pie gets bigger - it’s not fixed. It gets bigger and there’s more pieces for everyone. So, if you have a new economy person in the same room with an old economy person, the new economy person is going to loose their shirt. Because they’re going to give it all away and the old economy person is going to run off and say, “Sucker!”

To me the dilemma is everyone needs to be in the same room with the same mindset. Because otherwise you are going to have betrayal, which is the breaking of trust. And you can’t come back from betrayal.

Once the relationship is broken, it’s very hard to come back. It takes you 20 years to build a reputation, it takes 2 seconds to have it destroyed.

There are ways in which you can build it back. Reputation is one thing, relationships are another. I think you can build back reputations. But when there is real betrayal, that’s it. People won’t come back.

Q: What do journalists need to understand to engage and build trust with their online audience?

There are two issues: Trustworthiness is different from trust, and trust is different from (transactional) traffic.

Just because you have a lot of transactions on the Internet does not mean that people necessarily trust you. It just means that they’re transacting – taking information and wandering off. They’re being nomadic on the information super highway.

Trustworthiness - I like the eBay idea about building reputation and building criteria around the professionalization and the quality control on information or on evidence.

Evidenced-based reputation is fine. It’s a great mantra, it’s a great value, but (in a journalistic sense) how are you going to measure it?

There are protocols for information. When you look at banking transactions going back and forth from the ATM and the bank there’s all these protocols around how to measure the trustworthiness of the information.

You can do the same thing when it comes to human capital, which is me as an individual.

How do people learn to trust me? Well, because I write about things, I behave, I transact in certain ways that show I have integrity that I’m honorable, and I don’t take cheap shots, you know.

Things like that build a reputation. We can identify those criteria and institutionalize them - that would establish whether I’m trustworthy.

Then we could look at the way I conduct myself with my established colleagues and peer-to-peer communications - my trust-based relationships.

You need to be trustworthy to participate. But, the trust that exits between you and me is very different from whether or not either of us is trustworthy.

There is a thing that is connecting us and that is a relationship that’s based in our trust. And the metric around measuring that is new to people’s minds.

Everyone wants to feel all warm and fuzzy about trust. When you try monetizing trust or let it run amok, it can lead to a perverse outcome.

Q: You went to the University of Utah, which is deep in Mormon country. The Mormons cherish community and tight neighborhood relationships and yet it’s not uncommon for con artists to scam people there. Why is that?

Trustworthiness is objective. Behaviors can be measured.

People get into trouble when they start to trust because, “you think like me, you look like me, you walk and talk like I do.”

If I decide I’m going to trust you, I’ll do it the old way. And the old, primordial way of developing trust was based on a principle of similarity.

So that means that all you have to do to feign trust is be a wolf in sheep’s clothing - to walk and talk and dress and adopt the behaviors of the community or of the person you intend to scam.

For instance, if you look at professors in universities, you’ll notice their protegés will look a lot like they do.

I couldn’t believe it. When I went out to the University of California and Chuck Young was this, sort of, long, leathery, white guy who was chancellor of UCLA. And then I went to all of the other campuses to speak and they were all long, leathery, white guys.

And, I thought, “He’s been cloned! That’s what’s been going on here.”

Well, no, he wasn’t cloned. What he did was work very hard to find people that were like him. It wasn’t even conscious. I’m walking in, I’m seeing this with new eyes, I’m not of that tribe and I’m thinking, “My, God, they all look alike.”

And so, it’s so subconscious. It’s in our DNA, literally, because it goes right back to when we lived by cheek and jowl around the campfire.

So what we’ve got to watch against is that comfort zone of entering in to trust based on that familiarity.

I think that you need to distrust the familiarity and seek new criteria for why you are going to trust someone.

The trouble is that it’s so subconscious and it’s so subtle that you almost have to take people through training so that they learn to suspend belief.

Q: That’s similar to what Gladwell writes in ‘Blink.’

Malcom Gladwell wrote a feature on my work for The New Yorker called “Designs for Working”. It was such a lovely story. He told a beautiful story. I got to the end and it made me want to go to work. (Laughs)

Q: Is journalistic bias inevitable?

It is impossible not to have bias. Like it’s impossible to be independent. Who ever said that?

We are all interconnected. We are not an island. There is nobody who is an island unless you want to go buy yourself and island and live on it for a while.

Q: Why are we wired to be attracted to those similar to us?

When people were first organized they were formed around lineages and clans, coming out of a biological notion. That’s how they survived. But it’s also deceptive.

When the first anthropologists in the 1800s went to go interview native tribes, they thought they were all interconnected through biology.

But, of course, that’s the great myth. Yes, that’s probably how it all began at one point, but what happens if you get enough of these groups and clans, they switch loyalties.

Just like I would go from one division of a company to another. I can say that I’m making a job change but what they would do is say:

“Oh, well really my ancestor Aunt June over here was really related more to Joey.”

So people would switch and take a new ancestor. So people that weren’t born into the clan became a part of it.

And so, it was really confusing to anthropologists. They were getting it all wrong because they were trying to figure out the actual genealogy based on reproductive strategies when it had nothing - well, it had something to do with reproductive strategies – but half was reproductive strategies and half was just social lying.

People were just creating the rationale for why they wanted to join this group as opposed that group - or they were being stupid, being ostracized or involved in betrayal.

So in the early days, (Alfred) Radcliffe-Brown was famous for this, he was deceived. (W.H.R.) Rivers actually came up with this, “Look this is social calculation as well as biological reproductive strategy.”

The same thing goes on today. Look at the wealthy and the clans. They like to marry within the clans to hold the wealth inside. Hello?! We’re talking about the same thing.

We haven’t really descended too far. We have not moved to far off that trajectory. (Laughs)

Q: Can you describe the challenges of trust and blind collaboration such as Wikipedia? What factors help make them succeed?

This is one of my favorite topics. Actually IBM asked me to look into this for them when I was a business scholar for them for about a decade.

For three million years humans have really been doing things face-to-face. But, there’s a problem:

The greatest source of error in hiring is when people rely on the job interview. They feel most comfortable with it – but it’s still the greatest source of deception.

So fast forward to the present day:

We are now on a trajectory of human evolution that we did not have before. The earliest form of virtual communication was the smoke signal.

That goes back a long time, but there’s no comparison between the smoke signal and the Internet.

So we’re really on the cusp of something that, in my view, humans have never experienced before.

So consequently, when they are trying to create trust with one another they’re doing it with frequency of transactional exchanges - sharing lots of information.

I think that will produce a very thin strain of trust because people will want to seek to make it stronger. And the natural thing, the thing that’s in their DNA - even in the Gen Xers and Gen Yers - is that they will try to get together.

So, they’ll send pictures. They’ll want to see a face. They’ll try to meet. And they’ll pick up the phone and to talk to each other and hear the voice.

There is so much communication that comes through the voice that has nothing at all to do with the information exchange. It has something to do with the person.

So communication can be blind, but it better have sound - a step up from total blindness.

By the way, there are protocols where you can look at the number of transactions and gauge whether a person is going to be trustworthy or not. But they’re not well understood because we’re just developing this new kind of knowledge.

We have some prior experience. I think eBay is one of the most successful things going on when it comes to understanding reputation. The same thing is going on with Amazon.

But it’s really around reputation, they are not monitoring relationships - the collective network of the relationships. And if you’re talking about peer-to-peer community of practice amongst journalists, there’s nobody out there that’s doing that.

Let me give you an example, people are now entering in to these social networks like LinkedIn.

I can’t tell you how many invitations I get everyday. Now, I’m writing about trust but that is the last place I’d go to put my relationships and share them. I don’t know who to trust.

You might say, “Karen, you write about trust, therefore you are the most paranoid about it.” You might be right.

But, if I’m thinking this way there must be lots of other people thinking this way. Is it just my generation? I don’t think so. I’ve talked to some young kids who say the same thing, too.

Q: We talked to Reid Hoffman, shortly after LinkedIn was launched and told him we were fascinated by it. But we were not sure how to use it. Networking with people in the real world we have experience with. Making meaningful connections through LinkedIn seemed less clear.

It is a social networking tool. (Pause) As an anthropologist, you’re always on the outside looking in. If I got LinkedIn, I wouldn’t be on the outside anymore.

Q: You said our first form of virtual communication might have been the smoke signal. So have we evolved in any way to deal with issues of blind trust?

I don’t think we have. This is new territory for us this is new ground. We are on really new ground. We are on the Savannahs in a new way. I’m not saying it can’t be done - just that it’s not well understood.

But, I do know that the earliest forms for feeling more comfortable with it are to bring some of the older forms such as voice. Because, we first got knowledge through storytelling - not through writing. Humans have a finely developed sense of hearing, and they interpret through that sound.

The next is obviously meeting face-to-face.

But having said all that, it can be quite deceptive. Like I said, despite all the interviews for jobs, the interview, again, is the least predictive measure.

It’s the tasks that are actually more predictive than the interview.

Q: How can we measure trust?

Frequency of transaction and reliability, the timeliness of it, the expectations of it builds up a credibility that can be quantified. And you can build that on every transaction.

Every thing that comes could be logged that way a fit to a criteria. And it can be automated so that people don’t have to be like accountants tracking all this for themselves. It can all be automated.

We need a Morningstar when it comes to these kind of things - a rating of a person’s intellectual property.

I, David Bowie, am a star. I could be publicly traded. We don’t think about it like that, but we do it all the time. Sometimes my stock is high, sometimes it’s low. I could screw up on something and do great on another. It varies over the lifetime of my career.

We could do that for everybody.

David Bowie didn’t have to take himself public. We can all do that. In essence, we already are. We haven’t done it consciously, but it’s there already in the Internet, and we can track that.

That actually is what the TIA (Total Information Awareness) project was about. But people, because it was central government, were disgusted. I know John Poindexter. He actually asked me to come on board. It was a great idea. But it was ill-fated because people don’t trust the government.

Q: Overall people’s trust in the media is low and has dropped over the past 10 years. Why is that?

It’s because of the shift to infotainment and because of recent betrayals in the news media. Journalists were lying.

I think there are two things going on. You’ve got individual perpetrators of crime, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing - going in to the community and lying. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.

Then you have this digression from evidence-based reporting to infotainment. I think that can be reversed.

Q: How can newspapers rebuild trust?

I would say these newspapers you need to form very strategic relationships, just like Hollywood did with the digital post-production houses because the post-digital production was going to be their undoing.

So what they did was create a partnership.

If I were traditional print media, I would be reaching out and embracing the blogs and saying:

“Thank you for being our quality control. Would you consider this to be your job because we love this. We want to make sure you check this out. Maybe we can’t hire you but we consider this to be so important.”

They need to recognize the validity of people who are trying to do something right.

Blogging has gotten a bad wrap because there are vindictive people out there that just rant and rave. But there are those people everywhere.

We cannot immunize ourselves against the crazy folks mouthing off.

But for the most part, bloggers are trying to do a very good job of fact-checking, reporting and catching things.

If I were a traditional news business, I would be partnering with these folks.
You know you could do a map of the major papers and the major bloggers and predict where the most strategic relationships should occur.

We’re living in the middle of this change. We’re right in the middle of the stream. The waters are rushing past us. We know we’re going to get to the other side, but we don’t know what it’s going to look like.

Q In We Media, we suggest that the trust the public has in the institution is very different than the trust the public has for given individuals within the institution?

I totally agree with you. In fact, does anybody trust an institution? It’s an inanimate object.

Q: So, should reporters and editors have the autonomy to develop their own “trusted” communities?

Yes. But the institutions have got to get “it.”

Today, I trust no institutions. But institutions are made up of wonderful people. But often times those wonderful people aren’t the decision makers.

So, if you want me to pay attention to the institution, you let me see inside. Let me see the men and women behind the curtain. Give me their blogs. I want to know who they are. I’ll form my relationships with them thank you very much.

Then if I like what I see. I might trust your institution.

Q: But that’s a cultural thing that Big Media won’t do anytime soon. They’re not willing to let go of control.

No. They can’t.

Their (media executives) whole career trajectory was predicated on the opposite thing. So even though they intellectually will talk with you in a room their gut, their emotional reaction is telling them “flight or fight.”

Let me tell you, the thing that got them to where they are is exactly opposite of what we’re talking about today.

I know their IQ is high but is their EQ high, too? Can they emotionally let go?

Update (21 March 2006)

Q: We forgot to ask you the Million Dollar Question: How can trust be distributed?

Great question! Trust can be measured, managed and monetized - but can it be distributed?

It can by “seeding”. Trust takes time to grow - so you can’t turn it on and off like a light switch.

Instead, you redistribute key hubs and pulse-takers to catalyze future relationships and, as they congeal and trust stabilizes, then the information will flow as easily as turning on that light switch!

Update (20 Aprl 2006): Business 2.0 has published a profile of Karen ("How to tap your company’s hidden network"). Some of the interesting things that you’ll learn about her:

  • She’s a force of nature packed into a slight 5-foot-2 frame.
  • She’s 54.
  • She calls herself a “corporate anthropologist."
  • She claims to be immune to jet lag.

Technorati tags:, , , , ,

Posted on Mar 20, 2006 | 8:04 pm EST
Permalink | Comment (4) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Thursday, 09 Mar 2006

Not allowing conversations is immoral

Thankfully, Nat Torkington has posted his notes from Clay Shiky’s talk at ETech yesterday.

Clay echoed some earlier ideas and added some great new insights. One line especially caught our eye:


(Jean-Jacques) Rousseau wrote later that might is not right. Leader must support subjects, and subjects have right to agitate against leader if they’re not being well served.

This is the direction that the conversation around social software is taking. (Thomas) Hobbes would say that Dave (Winer) had the right and all was good. Rousseau would reply, “no he didn’t, software systems that don’t allow the users to fight back are immoral.”

We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters… But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right.

It sounds like an ethic that hits the bullseye for a news site. Yet, in recent years, many major news sites have been reluctant to incorporate comments or message boards. Some, like CNN, have removed them altogether.

Trying to actively engage an audience into conversations should be a primary goal for news organizations. It’s what a democracy needs and what news organizations are meant to support.

Newsvine has put conversations and user-contributed content at the center of its news experience. It hasn’t been without a few problems, but that’s OK. We’re all experimenting here trying to figure out what works.

The reality is that social applications will always tend to be messy and chaotic because they’re, well, social.

Posted on Mar 09, 2006 | 5:55 pm EST
Permalink | Comment (1) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Friday, 24 Feb 2006

iBrattleboro: Citizens can be good reporters despite a lack of qualifications

We did and email interview with Christopher Grotke and Lise LePage of the Vermont community web site, iBrattleboro.com last November in preparation for our Harvard Nieman Reports article:

iBrattleboro Q: What prompted you to start iBrattleboro.com?

A few things. When we moved to Brattleboro in 2001, we noticed that the town had no good web site with information about the town. We first thought we’d create a site that had stories about the history of the town, links to local businesses, etc. We were thinking of a static, informational site. Not interactive. We got distracted with other work (we’re web designers) and let it slide.

In late 2002, we thought about it again and realized we could do it differently. We had another “community” site relating to indie music that was open to everyone anywhere and wasn’t really doing what we wanted… but we were aware of open-source CMS (Content Management System) software and wondered if that might be something to use for a town site - maybe others would help us fill in the content.

Really old newspapers were an inspiration - extremely local news like “Mrs. Smith will be traveling to visit her sister for a week.”

Brattleboro had a community radio station, rfb (radio free brattleboro) that allowed anyone to become a DJ. There was also the cable access channels where anyone could produce a TV show.

We were also hearing rumblings about the FCC wanting to allow major media outlets to consolidate and take over more territory, and this bothered us. We have one paper in town and thought it was, well, a dangerous situation from the point of view of an informed public.

The proverbial light above our heads went off - ding - we could make a newspaper-like thingie that would allow anyone in town to become a reporter. We knew there were smart people with good ideas and if they used it the site could be quite good. We didn’t know if they would do it, though, but thought that with rfb and BCTV, it would be a natural addition to a town that seemed to like to make its own media.

We looked around, liked Geeklog, and got the site up and running by Feb 2003. Six months later or so we found out about OhMyNews in Korea and said, “Hey, that’s what we are doing. Citizen journalism! It has a name!"

Q: What have you learned?

Not sure yet. George Clinton says “give the people what they want and they want it all the time.” That comes to mind occasionally.

We’ve learned that our hunch was right and this is a great thing. It keeps impressing and delighting us - and occasionally driving us nuts.

We’ve learned that when people see the site they seem to like it and want it where they live. People covering citizen journalism seem very interested in figuring out the secret to success.

We’ve also learned that we really like the people around here, and they all have a lot to contribute. Citizens can be good reporters despite a lack of “qualifications” - a lot of news can be shared. Giving people freedom of speech can be hard, as some want to abuse it, and others aren’t yet used to it.

Now that iBrattleboro is there, people expect it to be there for them. If it goes down for even a moment, we hear about it. We have to check it multiple times a day, every day of the year. Holidays, vacations - maybe that’s something we’re missing - clones.

Q: What impact have you seen within your community?

Pretty amazing stuff. Almost too much to list.

One recent example: we did a story about the troubles at BCTV late last spring. Reporters at papers picked it up and came to meetings. They reported on the weirdness. That caused more citizens to come to meetings. This led to quite a few things, but the end result was that the people causing problems all resigned last week, and the station will soon be back to being a healthy organization.

During the war’s start and after the election last year, the site was a little spot of sanity and comfort for people watching mainstream media in disbelief. iBrattleboro talked about election fraud in Ohio when the MSM was saying “get over it.”

We’re able to cover things on weekends, when The Reformer stops their news (one weekend issue for Sat and Sunday). They miss stuff. So, news about the big fire downtown was completely reported, photographed, etc. on our site two days before the paper could get to it.

Election results published were within an hour or two of the polls closing rather than the next morning.

We’re also providing a community and voice to some shut-ins and shy people.

Q: What is missing from iBrattleboro (content, functionality, more members, training, etc)?

I’d like people to cover even more meetings, review movies and restaurants, recipes, book reviews… More of everything, and more reports on the same event would be fun. More! More good writers doing full stories would be nice. We have a few great writers doing great things. More!

Functionally, we plan to upgrade the site soon, add classified ads, ride boards. We don’t NEED more members, but they keep coming anyway and we like that the diversity keeps growing. Once we hit 12,000 registered users, we’ll be pretty much done, I think.

Training wouldn’t be bad at some point, but most people pick it up pretty quickly. We have teens and grandparents on the site, and everyone in between.

Linking up with the other local media - community radio and tv and the upcoming local paper. We could all get in sync with one another and get people using all these together.

Q: How has the local newspaper, Brattleboro Reformer, responded?

Reporters read the site and look for story ideas. They did a couple of stories on us, too, when we were just getting going. One reporter called to see if a site like this could be created in another town (they wanted to quit...).

We’re under their radar to some degree because we haven’t bit into their ad revenues. Yet. (We plan to be filled with local ads within 10 years. Only 7 to go!)

They are owned by MediaNews Group in Denver, so “management” doesn’t really care about the town at all. They have a high turnover rate for reporters. Their “senior” reporters are fresh out of college with no experience and little understand of the town or what happened here even a year ago. Really. It’s a pretty sad little paper, is losing revenue and respect, but it IS the town paper so people feel obligated to buy it. A new community paper is trying to start up, too, now.

I expect that someday, Denver will give them new web software that has a “citizen journalism” component - not because they care, but because it is trendy and others do it.

Q: iBrattleboro appears to be part of a growing phenomenon. Other people are experimenting with similar projects in communities around the country. Where, in your opinion, is all of this going? Why are citizens participating? What would get more of them to participate?


It’s great, isn’t it?

Where is it going? No idea. I don’t see authentic citizen journalism sites replacing newspapers, just as TV didn’t replace radio. It’s just another technology/tool in the mix. Our sites probably challenge and intrigue “real” reporters and editors, but they shouldn’t worry. And if they were smart they wouldn’t try to copy us. I don’t believe they can do it as well, and would be sacrificing what they DO do well… real, professional journalism. I would hope they’d use this as an opportunity to invest in even better professional journalism… to make a clearer distinction with sites like ours.

I think on the citizen journalism side, citizen journalists will get better. The more examples they see, the easier it is to “get it”, and the quality of everyone’s participation will rise.

People may begin to decide which town they want to live in based partly on if the town has something like this there for them. I know people here would feel pretty empty and alone without a site like this. They now take it for granted.

Why are they participating? Well, we asked them to, for one. It’s a place where a story can get out even if the paper won’t cover it. That was another reason we started the site - we would send press releases to the paper and they wouldn’t be published for whatever reason… maybe lack of space. Our site has space and encourages people to tell their story, however small.

This site also allows people to discuss things in detail, and people like to discuss things. We have no limits on length, so we get some very long, well-researched pieces. We also get paragraphs that barely qualify as a “story”. It’s all good, and who are we to judge what the town should read. We aren’t really like the Editor of a paper, deciding what to cover. It’s funny how often we are “covering” the same things, though.

We also scoop the papers and people are learning that they can get news on iBrattleboro before the morning paper comes out. (Our citizen journalists also have seniority over most of the newspaper staff now, too… an odd situation. Our stories can be more accurate, more in depth, and can be in a larger context than recent arrival from a journalism school can produce, even if they are great. They just don’t know the history of the stories they cover, or the people involved.

We have some features (Emma’s Maze, for example) that are unique to us, too. People like seeing the agendas of meetings, checking the calendar of events to see what’s going on, using the list of local links to find local web sites (we have more in our index that Google or Yahoo have in their Brattlebor directories) (We have over 330… they have about 40-50).

I think people also like the unpredictable nature of the site - anything can happen and it usually does - and they like sharing information and ideas with the people they know. Our site works so well, to some degree, because this is a small town (12,000) and people see each other on the street and talk, go to meetings and talk, and get online and keep going...

Getting more to participate? We just crossed 1,000 registered users, and that doesn’t count all the people who don’t “join” but read it.  Just about everyone in town who follows news and issues knows about and checks the site, based on who we run into and what they say. There are some luddites out there without computers, but the library provides free access. We like growing naturally, by word of mouth and by our reputation. We’ve never advertised, for example, other than word of mouth and a few tiny flyers when we first started.

We could probably do some media mentor programs to get underserved audiences, or kids, to get involved. Strangely, the activist crowd hasn’t really “got it” yet and we thought they’d be all over it from day one. And some ultra conservatives seem to want to avoid us because of the activists!

We’re happy with the way things are growing and have always had a 10 year plan to become a staple of the town. I think we’ll beat that, now, too.

Posted on Feb 24, 2006 | 1:19 pm EST
Permalink | Comment (0) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Thursday, 02 Feb 2006

MediaShift: Dan Gillmor finds his Center

Dan Gillmor is a brave man.

It takes conviction, guts and perhaps a moment of insanity to leave the position he had as technology journalist and columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and set out to nuture a grassroots journalism site from scratch.

Though his project, Bayosphere, never quite found its groove, Dan has regained his and has not given up on the idea that average citizens can become active contibutors to the news.

PBS’s Mark Glaser interviews him about his new role as founder and director of the non-profit Center for Citizen Media (created along with the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society).

Q: What are the biggest challenges for running a citizen media operation, either independently or within a news organization?

Gillmor: This is a long, long topic. My recent posting discusses how one independent site saw it. I still believe big news organizations could thrive in this environment, given their historical and current reach in their communities. For reasons that elude me they’re basically not trying.

The biggest challenge for everyone in this space is keeping our eye on something crucial: This is all about shifting from the lecture toward a conversation — and also remembering what I’ve been calling the first rule of conversations: You have to listen. We all have things to offer, but we all have more to learn.

And, again, we have to stress the bottom line on which everything else rests: It’s about the audience (even if they’re participants). If there’s not enough worthwhile to bring them in, the rest is relatively unimportant.

Posted on Feb 02, 2006 | 3:31 am EST
Permalink | Comment (2) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

De Nieuwe Reporter podcasts

A few weeks ago, Martin De Waal of De Nieuwe Reporter invited Chris to speak about the evolving media ecosystem and ways news media can still play an important, though different role than they traditionally have.

Martin has been actively recording and posting some excellent podcasts of his interviews. Here are a few you might want to catch:

Posted on Feb 02, 2006 | 2:40 am EST
Permalink | Comment (0) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Friday, 06 Jan 2006

Heard it on the Newsvine: First impressions

image

We’ve been waiting patiently to get to peek at Newsvine and tonight we got our chance.

Newsvine offers a refreshing philosophy that has been missing in online news sites: Let the story not be an end in itself but a starting point for conversation and aggregation of content and different perspectives.

It’s not just a slick looking news site. It’s a site that depends on your participation. On Newsvine, you can not only read stories but comment, vote for, suggest stories from the web (seeding) or, if sufficiently motivated, write your own.

It’s a similar idea that we wrote about in Amazoning the News in 2001. Though the idea has made the rounds to newsrooms around the globe, Mike Davidson and team are unique: They did something about it:

"Amazoning The News is something my boss at Disney showed me about three years ago maybe, and you could actually consider it the first seed for this idea… It was the first article I read which got me thinking along these lines.”
– Mike Davidson

To get the party started right, Newsvine is encouraging members to invite 20 of their friends. As an inviter, you are eligible to receive 10% of the ad earnings of any traffic they generate.

The idea is to quickly grow a community of quality news junkies. To do so, Newsvine assumes you’re a good egg who can vouch for your friends:

...by inviting someone into Newsvine, you are implicitly endorsing them as a potential positive member of the community.

The lively chat discussion that ensued shortly after the announcement provided a little more clarification (some comments removed for clarity):

Ben Bakhshi: what do you guys do when spam starts flowing through the chatrooms?

Newsvine Team: We don’t let spammers into the system in the first place.

Ben Bakhshi: I like the idea of having a trusted network of users that you can listen to in a
chatroom and ignore new users in the chat.

Ben Bakhshi: I could be a spammer though

Newsvine Team: And then your account would be deleted and that would be that.

Christopher Woods: :whipcrack:

Newsvine Team: Along with everyone you invited.

Brian Fox: Woah.....

Ben Bakhshi: So invite only forever then?

Newsvine Team: We’d sure like that.

Jeff W: Dont mess with newvine

Christopher Woods: Ouch, that’s punishment :D also a great idea, that means you have x amount of people hounding you if you misbehave… I like it

hartless: what about whoever invited you?

Brian Fox: that could work to prevent spam...what if one of my invites gets banned?

Ben Bakhshi: once ive invited like 50 people that doesn’t make sense to cut them just because i turned to the dark side

Newsvine Team: If you’re a known spammer inviter, your account would be at risk.

hartless: nice

Newsvine Team: You are not responsible for who your invitees invite… just who *you* invite.

This hopefully will prove a better deterrent to the ugliness commonly found on Yahoo News posts.

Designing for quality of participation

The invite-only model does not rely on manufactured scarcity of reputation, like karma found on Slashdot. Instead, it encourages community quality control right from the start.

It might also solve one of the nagging disincentives to joining a community like Slashdot, which is the need to gain enough reputation before you can contribute meaningfully.

Newsvine offers members different levels of involvement (usable exhaust). If you’re interested in doing more than readin’ and taggin’, you can write your own stories not only for fun - but profit (90% of ad revenues you generate go to you - but not during the beta period).

image

Another smart approach is the use of tagging to organize stories. Why online newsites continue to organize stories as if they could only be placed only in one of eight sections of the newspaper is beyond us.

image

So long, Daily Me. Hello, Daily We

To counter another annoying phenomenon of rating-based editorial decision making - aka the “Digg” effect - Newsvine is planning to filter stories based on the likes of your associated groups and implicitly based on preferences like Watch this story.

image

We think this is a vital feature for two reasons. First, in the real world people seek the opinions of those who matter most to them. Second, like Delicious, this turns Newsvine into a social engine of discovery.

Fears of a “Daily Me” have been unfounded. And if Newsvine and others can offer people the ability to easily plug into the interests and views of diverse “taste groups,” isn’t that a healthy thing?

Newsvine is News 2.0. It will change not only the kinds of news people will get but their relationship to it.

Related

Solution Watch has done an excellent first-take of Newsvine here.

Stowe Boyd shares his thoughts on Get Real:

A fully featured, web 2.0 era blogging community that includes reputation, ranking, real-time chat, tagging, and ‘seeding’, on top of a business model that encourages people to add their value to the swarm and to bring others in… looks like it is hitting many of the important buttons.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Posted on Jan 06, 2006 | 4:34 am EST
Permalink | Comment (6) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Thursday, 22 Dec 2005

Nieman Reports: The Future Is Here, But Do News Media Companies See It?

Traditional news media are not yet willing to adopt the principals of the environment in which they find themselves.

image

By Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis
This article first appeared in the Nieman Reports Volume 59 Number 4, Winter 2005, a publication by The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Downloads


The news industry is a resilient bunch. Newspapers, in particular, represent some of the United States’ oldest and most respected companies. So far they have weathered storms of significant social, economic and technological change by figuring out how to transform themselves and what they produce. The creation of the telegraph, for example, had doomsayers frothing, but instead newspapers turned a disruptive technology into a tool for better reporting.

During periods of massive change, the death of the newspapers has always been greatly exaggerated. So, given the industry’s survival skills, why worry now?  One reason might be that the burst of the dot-com bubble during the late 90s made many think they had overestimated the impact of the Internet. But in retrospect, the news media might have completely underestimated the influence of this new medium.

A Recipe for Radical Change


The Internet is a unique phenomenon that has delivered not just technological innovations but become a conduit for change, accelerating the rate, diversity and circulation of ideas. It affects nearly everything from culture to competition. It has also altered the economics of media in two important ways. First, it enables nearly limitless distribution of content for little or no cost. Second, it has potentially put everyone on the planet into the media business, including the sources, businesses, governments and communities newspapers cover.

Add other ingredients — easy-to-use, open-source publishing tools, a generation who finds it more natural to instant message someone than to call, a greater demand for niche information, and a rapidly growing shift of advertising dollars to online media — and you have a recipe for radical change in the news media landscape.

Likewise, the list of online competitors is seemingly ever-expanding. Search giants, such as Yahoo!, MSN and Google, continue their expansion and encroachment into the news business, siphoning ad dollars and eyeballs from traditional media Web sites. Craigslist, Monster, eBay and countless others have taken a more direct bite out of newspaper’s bread-and-butter, classifieds.

But the greater threat to the longevity of established news media might not be a future that’s already arrived; it might be their inability to do anything about it. Bureaucratic inertia, hierarchical organizational structure and a legacy mentality have paralyzed many news organizations from developing a meaningful strategy in this dynamic information age. And their real Achilles heel might be what made media companies a favorite of Wall Street until recent years - an ability to consistently garner operating profits double that of your average Fortune 500 company. As the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s State of the News Media 2005 observed, “If older media sectors focus on profit-taking and stock price, they may do so at the expense of building the new technologies that are vital to the future. There are signs that that may be occurring.”

Some have suggested that such behavior is a sign of an industry in a death spiral. Cost cutting with no investment for the future limits chances of an encore. Only a few exceedingly rare exceptions of online news operations are profitable, such as The Wall Street Journal, but most are still unwilling to engage in a different relationship with their audience.

In October, Bill Kovach, former New York Times editor, Nieman Foundation Curator, and journalist for 43 years, told the Society of Professional Journalists Convention and National Journalism Conference that “… too many journalists, especially journalists of my generation, remain in a state of confusion about the challenges of the new media environment and remain dangerously passive about the opportunities presented to traditional journalism by the new communications technology.”

Perhaps it’s this simple: Traditional news media are not yet willing to adopt the principals of the environment in which they find themselves. Consultant and media critic Jeff Jarvis frames it this way: “The No. 1 lesson of the Internet whether you’re Howard Dean or a media company or a marketer, is that you have to give up control to gain control.”

The Blogosphere and Shifting Authority


The Emerging Media EcosystemThe venerable profession of journalism finds itself at a rare moment in history where, for the first time, its hegemony as gatekeeper of the news is threatened by not just new technology and competitors but by the audience it serves. Citizens everywhere are getting together via the Internet in unprecedented ways to set the agenda for news, to inform each other about hyper-local and global issues, and to create new services in a connected, always-on society. The audience is now an active, important participant in the creation and dissemination of news and information, with or without the help of mainstream news media. [Graphic at right: The Emerging Media Ecosystem - GIF (53kb), PDF (340kb)]

In the last two years, citizen media has grown from a promise to a legitimate presence in today’s media sphere. Armed with easy-to-use Web publishing tools, always-on connections and increasingly powerful digital and mobile devices, citizen journalists are contributing many varieties of information and news: first-person, grassroots reporting, not-only in text but with photos, audio and video; commentary and analysis; fact-checking and watchdogging; and filtering and editing the ever-growing mass of information online.

Citizen media is a trend that mainstream news media clearly recognize. With great trepidation and reluctance, mainstream media are beginning to learn how to evolve their business from an authoritarian “top-down” approach to integrate and report on user-generated news, as well as establish ways to collaborate in meaningful ways with its audience. However, they still have trouble letting go of control.

During the Hurricane Katrina, many mainstream news sites like CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times made an effort to solicit stories, photos and video from citizens. But despite the tremendous amount of content generated by citizens, only a small fraction found its way onto large online news sites, where it was clearly segregated from the main coverage.

Major news events such as Hurricane Katrina continue to bring more citizens into the journalistic fray. And with them, a tangible indication that authority is shifting from once trusted institutions to communities or individuals who have discovered how to earn credibility and influence online. Some of the top Weblogs and citizen media Web sites have traffic and online reach that outpace mainstream news media destinations. They include:

  • The Daily Kos, a Weblog which offers political analysis on U.S. current events from a liberal perspective, averages more than 700,000 visits per day.
  • Technorati, the real-time search engine that tracks the blogosphere, measures linking behavior as a proxy for attention and influence. According to their August 2005 State of the Blogosphere report, Glenn Reynolds’ political and current events Weblog, Instapundit, has more authority in the blogosphere (based on inbound links) than the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio.
  • The Wikipedia phenomenon has taken off. Wikipedia is the international, free content, collaboratively written and edited encyclopedia launched in 2001. According to Alexa, Internet users are twice as likely to visit Wikipedia as The New York Times. Since 2003, it has grown from 200,000 articles to amass more than 740,000 articles in English as well as more than one million articles in 100 other languages. Overall, there approximately 55,000 Wikipedians are writing more than 4,500 articles per month. Wikipedia now has 4.5 times the number of articles and nearly 2.5 times as many words as Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Weblogs are now an established, though rapidly expanding, force in news and marketing. They will continue to disrupt, challenge with a staggering pace of growth and influence. According to Technorati, the number of Weblogs is doubling every five months. The blogosphere is now over 30 times as big as it was three years ago, with approximately 70,000 new Weblogs created daily. As of October 2005, Technorati was tracking 20.1 million Weblogs. However, some reports estimate the number of total number of Weblogs created worldwide as being between 50 and 100 million. According to Forrester Research, ten percent of online consumers are reading blogs once a week or more.

What has emerged in this new media ecosystem is a stark contrast between the entrenched forces of big media doing what it knows and the rest of the Internet informing itself — reporting, discussing and vetting the news.

Giving Voice to Overlooked Communities


In the ever-evolving citizen media world, new community Web sites designed to fill the gaps or augment the coverage of local and national media have begun to carve out a delicate but important niche in both rural and urban communities. These so-called “hyper-local” sites represent a fertile ground where citizens contribute to the unique and specific information needs of the community. These sites look to engage citizens not only as readers but as co-producers and see themselves as facilitators to the community.

Talking with publishers and readers of sites such as Baristanet, iBrattleboro, MyMissourian and The Northwest Voice, it is becoming clear that these efforts are giving a new identity to the communities they serve.

Here’s what the most successful citizen media efforts have learned:

  • Most citizens don’t want to be journalists but do want to contribute in small and meaningful ways. Citizens are interested in participating and contributing to subjects that traditional news outlets ignore or do not often cover. Clyde Bentley, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, notes, “The main difference between traditional journalism and citizen journalism is that traditional journalists are sent out to cover things they don’t really care about; in other words, the next city council meeting isn’t going to make or break their lives. But a citizen journalist is not out to cover something, but to share it. For them, they want to tell everybody about their passion.
  • It’s easy to underestimate what it takes to be successful in an online community. It requires more than Web sites and tools. Communities will not survive on the “Build it and they will come” ethos. They require constant attention, involved leadership and most important, nurturing.
  • Advertising revenues suggest that such ventures could become a small but viable business.
  • All are seeking to add greater interactivity. More powerful tools and platforms (i.e. Google Maps) will provide engines for citizen media innovation, such as “public service hacks” like those found on HousingMaps.com, ChicagoCrime.org, and the Katrina Information Map.


New Media Forms Emerge


The Rise of Citizen MediaThe democratization of media has leveled the competitive landscape and forced dramatic change in the news business. Collaboration is the driving force behind the explosion of citizen media, with new forms being regularly blazed by passionate, motivated individuals. [Graphic at right: The Rise of Citizen Media - GIF (32kb), PDF (225kb)]

The Wikipedia project has spawned more open-source, collaboratively written projects. Wikibooks is an attempt to create a comprehensive curriculum of free textbooks and manuals. It has more than 11,000 titles so far. Wikinews aims to “create a diverse environment where citizen journalists can independently report the news on a wide variety of current events.” In its first eight months, it has accumulated more than 2,000 articles. RSS, the XML-based technology used to syndicate headlines and other information, was the province of Weblogs in 2003. Now, it’s a fixture of mainstream media Web sites. As well, RSS gave birth to a new form of participatory media – podcasting.

Podcasting, the creation and distribution of audio recording online, went from the fringe to the mainstream in about 18 months. In it’s infancy, podcasts were produced by the same folks writing most Weblogs, the everyday citizen. Then Apple integrated podcasting into it’s popular iTunes software, with CEO Steve Jobs calling it “a TiVo for radio: you can download radio shows and listen to them on your computer or put them on your iPod anytime you want.” Now, everyone from major radio and TV news outlets (CNN, NPR, ABC), to newspapers (Denver Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Forbes) to book publishers such as Simon & Shuster are experimenting with podcasting.

Podcasts show that amateurs can gain mindshare in a new medium as or more effectively than pros. In less than a year, the popular comedy podcast, “The Dawn and Drew Show,” hosted by a husband and wife who describe themselves as “two ex-gutter punks, who fell in love, bought a farm in Wisconsin and share their dirty secrets,” have attracted an audience of more than 200,000 listeners. Their podcast is now simulcast on Sirius satellite radio.

Photo-sharing Web sites such as Flickr, acquired by Yahoo! in March 2005, are becoming hubs for citizen photo-journalists. In a June 2005 report by InternetNews.com, a Flickr spokesman said the service has 775,000 registered users and hosts 19.5 million photos, with growth of about 30 percent monthly in users, and 50 percent monthly in photos. Since the Hurricane Katrina, more than 11,500 images related to it were uploaded and shared. Even mainstream news sites such as the BBC have begun to use images from Flickr users to accompany their news stories.

The Future


The Value of Social MediaCitizen journalism continues to be an evolving and frustrating concept for mainstream media. It offers the tantalizing idea of an active and engaged democracy better informing itself. It also can represent an evolving and reckless endeavor that might result in just the opposite. Yet, citizen media is a world that is starting to mature and develop in interesting ways, with or without the involvement of the mainstream media. Proponents of citizen media point to the successful open source software movement, which is mature by comparison, saying it shows the promise of the kinds of innovation that communities can produce. [Graphic at right: The Value of Social Media - GIF (29kb), PDF (248kb)]

Like the early days of the Internet, there is a palpable optimism driving experimentation, and the idea that any effort could become the next big thing. Here are some emerging changes we see in the media landscape:

  • Successful news sites will discover the right mix of community, content, commerce and tools. There is tremendous opportunity to leverage the power of the many, and mainstream media will more tightly integrate citizen content with the core news offerings. Some media will begin to pay for the best citizen contributions.
  • The mobile Internet will proliferate (Nokia estimates two billion cell phone subscribers worldwide by 2006) and bring about more dramatic change in how news is covered.
  • Citizens will demand greater transparency in reporting. As a result, more professional journalists will begin to blog, providing them a means to find a more authentic voice with audience — a conversation.
  • Authority will continue to shift from once trusted institutions to communities or individuals who have earned credibility though hard-won public discourse and will directly impact news media.
  • Journalism education, like other institutions, has been slow to change. In the last year, this has begun to change and will continue to do so dramatically in the next five years. As well, expect media organizations to take a leadership role in educating it’s audience in becoming better news creators, such as the BCC has done with their free broadcast and new media online training and the forthcoming BBC College of Journalism.

Citizen media represents not the end of journalism or news media companies but a shift in where value is being created. In the traditional broadcast model, value was created solely by the newspaper or TV station. In the future, more of the value will come from creating an infrastructure for citizen participation and nurturing trusted communities.

Google understands how powerful and profitable building infrastructure but not the end product can be. Google Maps, for example, offers an easy way to add sophisticated maps customized with whatever data and designed for whatever purpose on any website. Google AdSense is another variation. Provide an easy means for people to make money from the traffic on their site without requiring too much control on how or where the ads must be placed. eBay earned $1.1 billion in Q3 2005, yet it builds no products or houses any inventory. Instead it has created value by enabling a trusted community to transact in a safe marketplace. Both eBay and Google show that there is great value to be created if you are willing to embrace a different role in the value creation process.

Media companies and those starting citizen journalism endeavors need to understand that media is becoming more of a social entity. As in any social environment, there are participants who serve different roles in the creation, consumption, sharing and transformation. This is giving rise to information ecosystems, such as the blogosphere, which we are just starting to recognize and understand.

“Any media organization only exists on the quality and depth of it’s relationship with the public,” says Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC Global News Division. “You’ve got to have a healthy and strong relationship for people to come to you. Technology is changing that relationship fundamentally.” Sambrook says the BBC’s role is shifting from broadcaster and mediator to facilitator, enabler and teacher. “We don’t own the news anymore. Our job is to make connections with and between different audiences,” he said.

With media companies still generating respectable returns on investment, the smart money will be on those organizations like the BBC that can integrate successful citizen journalism experiments supported by better staff training, equipment and practices that encourage reporters and editors to collaborate with their audience.

Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis are the co-authors of We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and information, a 2003 research report on the emergence of participatory journalism. An update to the report, commissioned by The Media Center and The American Press Institute, will be released online in January, 2006. The report can be downloaded in PDF (3.1mb).

Update

24 Dec: Jay Small sees a soft landing for big media in The future is here, the value is missing:

Newspaper execs can “get it” or not. Many more do than, I suspect, some “citizen journalism” pundits want to believe. And more than a few of the pundits really have no idea how “CitJ” self-sustains.
No matter. The boldest experiments in tools, methods, content, participation and transparency may not restore enough of the value that has been destroyed in the advertising economy surrounding information service providers...

The most likely scenario, in my mind, is that old-line news media will manage themselves slowly down to an economic floor where the sustainable value of Internet information services they can operate meets and beats the cost of operating them.

Posted on Dec 22, 2005 | 10:31 am EST
Permalink | Comment (4) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati

Deprecated: Function eregi() is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h07/mnt/28080/domains/hypergene.net/html/blog/pmSource/lib/weblog.fns.php on line 1027

Sampling of New Media Predictions for 2006

It’s that time of the year for, among other things, to take a guess at what the next 12 months will bring. Here is a sampling the future to come from some of the blogosphere’s more interesting prognosticators:

"It will be a long year of head scratching and simmering disputes in the “content creation” business as the major platforms shift strategy on RSS, in particular, and blogging, broadly. In other words, we won’t get nearly as much accomplished as we hoped. At issue is how content creators export their business model through RSS aggregation platforms. Near the end of the year, though, there will be a breakthrough deal that clarifies business model standards in the RSS space.”

from John Battelle

"So when Forrester Research predicts that Internet advertising will be 8% of the total by 2010,-- an average of almost 50% annually, then it is hard to buy in to Morgan Stanley’s prediction that traditional media will still grow an average of 4.3% unless the economy is on a real rip.”

from Ben Compaine

"Information filtering - newsmastering Information filtering, competitive intelligence, Newsmastering. These are fields that will see enormous growth for both the short and the long term. This is the area in which a huge number of business and social opportunities are available. The ability to filter, aggregate, monitor and tracks the information items you are interested in will increasingly become one of the most valued services of all.”

from Robin Good

"The theoretics of the Attention Economy begin to be commercially exploited. Google (and others) launch product(s) that measure how we spend our time online in order to improve their understanding of how to advertise to us. This is sweetened with incentives - free wifi, free bandwidth or maybe cash - but ultimately people begin to push back on Google for the first time.”

from Ben Metcalfe

Feeling the pressure to get out you’re own 2006 predictions for your blog? Try Matt McAllister’s Dotcom Prediction Generator.

Update

The natural ability of the Internet to distribute unbundled media is disrupting broadcasting’s basic business, and that will accelerate in 2006.

from 2006: The Unbundled Awakening by Terry Heaton via JD Lasica

Posted on Dec 22, 2005 | 12:49 am EST
Permalink | Comment (0) | Print | Del.icio.us | Technorati
Previous 10 posts Next 10 posts