Archive for November, 2008

Innovation in journalism: A startup in your future?

Today we’re looking at emerging business models for news. As David Cohn pointed out that other day, much to the chagrin of the curmudgeons (more on that class of journos here, here and here), we should all feel a little more bullish about the future of journalism. Not to sound too Obama-esque here, but the hope lies within us to effect real change in the industry’s mindset and skill set.

So, no time to waste. Grab a little bit of DigiDave’s energy here:

From VidSF and ReelChanges in San Francisco to Global Radio Newsand FeatureWell at the international level to Leapfrog News Technologies which is thinking way outside the box. Combine that with the New Business Models for News Summit at CUNY where people like Dave Chase, Scott Karp and Rachel Sterne explained their startups, the goals they have, the barriers they face, etc and you can understand why I’m optimistic.

There is a communion in commiserating and dreaming about the days to come when one of us (not all of us) find a way to support meaningful journalism.

I’m pumped, not just for myself, but for the potential that we collectively have. Yes, I know it is becoming cliche – but it is the truth: I have “hope” that change is coming – if we make it happen!

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times. (The NY Times is part of this game, I’m not making a big/small media divide here, just using them as a standard).

In essence, that’s why I’m asking you, dear class, to write a final paper that is a grant application for one of the J-Lab‘s funding opportunities—because journalism needs you to be thinking about innovative, entrepreneurial-minded, pathbreaking kind of ventures to finance good reporting in the future.

In groups today, let’s take a little tour of what’s happening in the field (take 15 minutes to investigate, discuss as a group, and prepare to teach the rest of us about it):

• (Group 1) Crowdfunding: Can Crowdfunding Help Save the Journalism Business? (MediaShift)

• (Group 2) Link Journalism: Publish2 is ground zero for this. Start here: What is link journalism? Much more via Scott Karp’s Publishing2.0 blog.

• (Group 3) Non-profit models: Start with this recent piece in the Times: Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs. Here are two overviews from CJR and AJR.

• (Group 4) Advertising-side innovations: Having local newspapers leverage the thing they know and do best—provide local content alongside local advertising. Hence, this MediaShift piece from yesterday: Should Newspapers Become Online Ad Brokers for Local Businesses?

To close, you might revisit Jeff Jarvis’ take on future business models for news.

Now, what’s your idea?

Covering the J-school lecture tonight

Our class is covering Michele Norris‘ lecture to University of Texas journalism students and staff. We have two CoveritLive groups going:

The Love/Hate Austin blog team is here.

The 144 Things to Do blog team is here.

Google Juice and SEO for the news industry

On Monday we’re going to talk about search engine optimization (or SEO) for blogs and news websites. Ahead of this discussion, make sure you’re familiar with different types of Web analytics (scroll down for “key definitions”).

In a stroke of good timing, MediaShift (consider this site essential reading) posted a nicely relevant piece just the other day: How Newspapers Can Increase Their Google Juice. (See also this MediaShift post from April: 9 Tips to Improve Search Engine Optimization.)

In it, Mark Van Patten looks at what newspapers large and small can do to help their work garner a greater presence in search results … and thus better traffic … and thus more money to finance good journalism. It’s still largely about the eyeballs, although the value of attention varies greatly by medium: Research estimates that it can take several dozen (or more) online readers to “offset” — in terms of advertising revenue — the loss of a single print subscriber. Wow.

But my point in sharing this is to mention that the MediaShift piece references online marketing guru Mitch Joel‘s 10 things every newspaper must do to enhance its Google Juice. I’d like to quote one of the key sections from the MediaShift piece:

Online Stories Should Not Mirror Print

Recently, 50 C-level newspaper executives met at a closed door summit held by theAmerican Press Institute to discuss “concrete steps the industry can take to reverse its declines in revenue, profit and shareholder value.” Joel said that tackling that issue was like “boiling the ocean.”

Joel suggests that, better than boiling the ocean, newspapers can solve those problems by making small, incremental changes to build their community. He lists ten such changes newspapers can make, including:

  • 1) Link Journalism — Newspapers get lots of links in, but rarely, if ever, link out. Search engines like sites that link out; it also provides a better user experience.
  • 2) Formatting — Break up large blocks of text with bold and /or italics, and use bullet points. 
  • 3) Tagging — Give the reader an idea of what the story is about before they read it.
  • 4) Blog Directory — Promote bloggers, make them feel an allegiance to the newspaper or at least an appreciation.
  • 5) Cross Promote Effectively — Be smart when using a URL in the newspaper. Don’t just point to the generic newspaper URL, be specific.
  • 6) Unique Web Address — See above, but keep the URL simple.
  • 7) Highlight Your Contributors — Let readers peek behind the curtain of the newspaper wizard. If local bloggers are proficient, link to them.
  • 8. Comments — Allow story commenting. Demand that reporters respond to readers.
  • 9) Correct Mistakes — The online newspaper should be an ever-changing record of the news.
  • 10) Collaborative Filtering – “If you liked this… then you might want to read this…”

Just for fun

You can’t watch this endearing tribute to unfettered fun without feeling good about the world. So watch, and smile, and enjoy this most resplendent afternoon in Austin.

Bonus points for the person who has visited or lived in the most places featured in this video.

By the way, here’s the backstory on how Matt Harding got people to dance with him. And I like the Times’ take on this Internet hit, from last July:

In many ways “Dancing” is an almost perfect piece of Internet art: it’s short, pleasingly weird and so minimal in its content that it’s open to a multitude of interpretations. It could be a little commercial for one-world feel-goodism. It could be an allegory of American foreign policy: a bumptious foreigner turning up all over the world and answering just to his own inner music. Or it could be about nothing at all — just a guy dancing.

However you interpret it, you can’t watch “Dancing” for very long without feeling a little happier. The music (by Gary Schyman, a friend of Mr. Harding’s, and set to a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, sung in Bengali by Palbasha Siddique, a 17-year-old native of Bangladesh now living in Minneapolis) is both catchy and haunting. The backgrounds are often quite beautiful. And there is something sweetly touching and uplifting about the spectacle of all these different nationalities, people of almost every age and color, dancing along with an uninhibited doofus.

Behold, the human satellite truck

This is a writing course, yes, but it’s really more about being fluid in storytelling across media platforms—and especially so when it comes to emerging tools and forms of journalism. So, between now and Sunday 11/16, I’d like you to do each of the following, making sure your videos are relevant to your group blog:

1. “Standard” web video

  • Create roughly 2 minutes of decent-quality video using a consumer camera.
  • Do some basic editing (e.g., using iMovie) to add some titles and/or voice-overs.
  • Upload to the Web (via YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
  • Embed the video HTML on group blog, along with explanatory text as needed.
2. Video micro-blogging
  • Use Seesmic or Mogulus to record your own reflections and make that your blog post for the day.
  • Note: You’ll need a webcam to do this; borrow a friend’s laptop if needed.
  • Embed the video HTML as your blog post for the day.
3. Livecasting (think of it as a satellite truck in your pocket!)
  • Broadcast a few minutes worth of live video from a cell phone (you’ll probably need to borrow a video-enabled phone from a friend).
  • Use Qik, Kyte, Flixwagon or another service out there.
  • Make it “journalistic”; try doing an interview with someone (quick example: see Craig Newmark—the “Craig” of Craigslist—interviewing citizen journalism thinker Dan Gillmor; more on being a mojo).
  • Embed the HTML on your blog; if there are issues with WordPress on this, we’ll work it out next week.

We’ll talk more about this Monday. Good luck!

Link journalism and the New York Times

We’ve talked a lot this semester about the “ethic of the link” and the good reasons for news organizations to stop treating their Web sites like walled gardens and start linking outside. It looks like the New York Times could be taking a “quantum leap forward” with a feature called Times Extra, according to this item from Fast Company:

Currently in internal beta, Times Extra will feature links to stories from other publications under every article. This includes pieces from competitors that take a different stance. “For many it was a radical move, but it’s very much of the web and we think it will engender loyalty,” a Times exec said.

As we consider the role of professional journalists and editors in a future of user-generated news and information, consider this observation made by Pam Horan, President of the Online Publishers Association (again, quoting from Fast Company):

Horan kicked things off by outlining what she believes are the three most important things for any publisher or advertiser to remember: deliver content that is relevant, deliver content that has a voice and that will resonate with the consumer, and deliver content that is real – in other words that radiates authority.

As user generated content becomes increasingly popular, it becomes proportionally difficult to verify the authenticity of this content or to exercise quality control. Horan claimed that studies show 76% of internet users would appreciate the assistance of an editor in vetting information available online.

Schiller then weighed in, offering her thoughts on the changing role of the editor from someone who is curating content created by journalists and columnists to now curating content from across the web.

The New York Times’s topics pages are now slowly beginning to curate more than just original content – they’re also aggregating and presenting related headlines from all over the web. “We’re professional editors – we’re going to send you wherever you need to be. If you go away that’s fine, but we’re sure you will come back. This will ultimately work to benefit of our traffic revenue.”

Publish2’s Scott Karp puts together a nice overview of how the Times already has experimented with link journalism in its Web evolution. As he notes, simply linking is not link journalism; it’s about become a go-to site for aggregation by providing context, critique and expert analysis. In this way, the Times’ blog The Lede is, well, leading the way in this domain, and making itself a major player precisely because it links out effectively:

… the Times has clearly gotten over the red herring fear of “sending people away.” The Lede has helped readers make sense of what they read elsewhere, helping to make the Lede more essential than those other source. In my case, the Lede actually helped me figure out what else to read on this issue — by sending me to high quality sources on a topic of interest, as Google does, the Lede has ensured that I’m going to come BACK for more.

p.s. We may look more at Publish2 in the coming weeks as we talk about new models for news in the future.

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