See earlier post on Investigative Journalism Needs More Than Curation Tools for context.
1. The reporter must be able to control the URL and the monetization. News that goes to closed social networks that monetize the free contributions cannot be sustainable. Journalism has to be paid for. We can use social media to listen (Twitter Lists are just the old “little black book” of sources) and to promote stories and get incoming links. But journalists who want to make a living cannot simply make the social media founders/investors rich.
2. The reporter must be able to contribute news using the lowest common denominator tools: mobile phones and email. Expensive, proprietary tools will be a barrier. Even a free app that has to be downloaded before one can contribute, will be a barrier. The person who happens to be “on the spot” where the news is breaking must be able to report what is happening.
3. The reporter must be be able to publish automatically on real time without asking anybody’s permission. This is the gift of the social media age. Yes, this same tool can be used by spammers, scammers and hacks paid directly by special interests. That is the price of openness and the reason why the next point is so important; but the alternative (control by a few media moguls) is worse.
4. The reporter must be able to proactively choose sources and ask them for specific contributions. Relying on curating existing flows on social networks is reactive and not the essence of journalism. This capability must be available to the single individual (the “person formerly known as blogger” and occasionally called citizen journalist) as well as media organizations large and small.
5. The reporter must be able to request payment in various forms. This won’t apply to salaried reporters working for large media organizations. But all forms of free agent reporter are likely to create the majority of news content in the future and they should be able to request payment in whatever means makes sense to them – non-monetary recognition, stringer type retainers, per item fees. For example, the person who records a key moment of history should be able to get paid by the highest bidder, unless they have contracted with another news organization before the event.
6. Text is not enough, we need millions of TV stations. Mobile video is a reality and consumers want the old lean back TV experience with an interactive twist. Everyman can be a TV anchor replaces the earlier blogging dream of everybody can be a published writer.
Investigative journalism is important to society, somebody needs to “speak truth to power”.
Historically the newspaper business was so profitable that it could fund long investigations. They could also take the risk of lawsuits that often resulted when the rich and powerful did not like the truth that was being reported. But today, those budgets are being cut to the bone and newspaper owners are too scared for their own survival to consider investigative projects.
Nor can the pure play online only blog-based businesses pick up the slack. They have to pander to page views and keep costs within the boundaries marked by ever-falling CPM and CTR ad rates. “Reporters” have to create 4 posts per day, usually around 500 words. Their best attempts at adding value to press releases are clearly no substitute for investigative journalism.
For a while, I thought that “citizen journalism” would be the answer. The idea was that any citizen can hit enter on their blog and the truth is revealed, they have no gatekeeper (who might be conflicted by their relationship with a special interest) who can say no.
The problem is that, for every honest citizen trying to do their best, there are way more spammers, scammers and paid hacks of the rich and powerful. So the consumer of news has to filter out the nuggets of truth from the mountains of rubbish. To do that they need well-trained and motivated journalists and editors. So we get back to square one.
Many techies dream of an automated answer, the perfect social curation filtering tool that will automagically assess every source’s credibility and only deliver the good stuff to your personalized online news service. Yep, and the high school student will find the cure for cancer in class and invent something that goes faster than the speed of sound.
I love how Andy Carvin at NPR is curating the news from the Arab revolutions using Twitter lists and other tools. The best tech bloggers, such as Marshall Kirkpatrick, have used these tools for a while, now we are seeing these tools used to report on matters that really matter to humanity. That is all great.
The danger is that we fall back into a naive view that technology will replace the need for people like Andy Carvin. Or that it is easy to get mainstream journalists to work the way he works. It maybe that this is something that is perfect for early adopters but won’t scale.
We need tools that empower trained journalists and editors, that help them to identify more credible sources and to efficiently get those sources to contribute. Those same tools can be used by citizen journalists. The tools must be very simple and very cheap, so that they are accessible to citizen journalists and local news operations. Exposing a $50,000 corruption at your local town hall matters just as much as the $500 million corruption at a national level when that $50,000 determines whether the school budget passes and your kids get art class.
I was initially sceptical about non-profit institutions getting involved. I thought that the answer had to come from the market. But I have been impressed by what ProPublica is doing and their model may be sustainable, as they get revenue from commercial news organizations. But we need more ProPublicas as well as purely commercial versions of ProPublica. For that to happen, we need a revolution in efficiency.
There needs to be something like a Moore’s Law of investigative journalism where the cost drops significantly every year.
Disclosure: this is the focus of ReportingLiveFrom, a new venture that I am co-founding. We are not yet ready to go live with our tools, I am writing about the issues to get our thinking clear and engage with other interested parties.
Why I Am Returning To My WordPress Blog May 4, 2011Posted by bernardlunn in B2B Media, Blogging, Journalism.
I was late to blogging, around 2007, but had written a lot in other media. I started with WordPress, then wrote for Read Write Web, SemanticWeb and SmallBizTrends.
I have no intention of monetizing via advertising, so I don’t care about page views (that is only a vanity stat). Nor do I have any single business objective, so I don’t feel the need to be disciplined about writing every day. I really do write for fun, I enjoy writing. It is a way to organize my thoughts. But it is also, hopefully, a conversation. I want to engage in a dialogue with people who are “thinking along the same lines”, even if they tell me I have got it totally wrong (I love changing my point of view).
So, the question is not whether I should blog. It is whether I should blog here, or on some high traffic site. A few years ago, it was different. Then it was obvious that you should blog as a guest author on a high traffic site. Four things have changed my mind on this:
- Google is indexing my blog posts within less than a minute. Yep, this no-name blog is being indexed almost in real time! I tested this myself. I assume this is because WordPress adopted RSSCloud.
- I tested on a blog network that lets guest authors post freely (SeekingAlpha) and on this blog and the number of page views was almost the same.
- I asked some blogs that have a restricted guest author policy and found that I had to write in a way that fit within their editorial guidelines. If I wanted to be a professional writer, that would have been a useful exercise. But I am determined to remain amateur in my writing and want the freedom to write what I want, when I want.
- New style aggregators such as Hacker News and Techmeme have a way to submit posts, so you can alert a specialized audience on a post by post basis. Hacker News found me about a year ago when my post on “punk manufacturing” was discovered and yesterday I submitted something that got a great conversation going. Methinks Techmeme is more news-driven and that’s not my game, but lets see.
This tells me that it might be possible to get the blogging magic quadrant – freedom on one axis and engaged audience on the other.
Curated List Of Curation Resources March 2, 2011Posted by bernardlunn in Blogging, Journalism.
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How nerdily recursive is that? Its a hot topic, so here is my index to the interesting stuff on curation (one man’s view of what is interesting is all, but that is what curation is all about, so no more apologies):
http://twitter.com/#!/saved-search/Curation Follow that search term and you have curation stuff in all it’s raw, noisy glory
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDPFtOCQVA&feature=player_embedded The way Andy Carvin curated the news flow from Middle East revolutions. This rang very true to me, I was doing the same – in a very haphazard way - as an amateur who was obsessed with what was happening.
http://curationchronicles.magnify.net/ Steven Rosenbaum wrote the book on curation – literally
http://vodpod.com/watch/1172451-clay-shirky-its-not-information-overload-its-filter-failure-web-2-0-expo-ny Shirky at his brilliantly incisive best
http://scobleizer.posterous.com/the-new-billion-dollar-opportunity-real-time Scoble gets a lot more people thinking about curation by mentioning a $ billion.
http://scobleizer.com/2010/03/27/the-seven-needs-of-real-time-curators/ Scoble gets a bit more specific