Links for today | Links para hoje

Imagine a news Web site that’s a portal to everything people used to read in newspapers plus a bunch of things that newspapers were never able to provide. A cool idea, I think, but first it requires newspapers to embrace two provocative ideas:

  1. The mass audience is dead.
  2. The product of newspaper Web sites is not news.

As Sun points out (15), right now the model lacks quantification — we don’t know the shape of the curve, or the scales of the axes, so this needs further research. He suggests a hypothetical way to set up payment tiers for various content packages (16).

If we look around in the real world of news publishing, we can find the beginnings of such a pricing strategy emerging, and perhaps this points to the possibility of a real-world application of Sun’s suggestion.  To examine this, I think it’s necessary to look at the entire spectrum of content publishing from print to online to mobile, as a single demand curve.

Near the high (left) end of the curve, certainly, there will be print.  Paul Gillin at Newspaper Death Watch comments on the recent print price increases by various publishers as representing a “sunsetting strategy” for their print products — milking them for whatever they may still be worth, and “winnowing out their low value customers.”  This may be true in the long run, but it’s also possible to see it as part of a shift toward print becoming a high-cost niche tier in the pricing scheme.  When a news organization decides to become a digital enterprise, that’s exactly how they should be viewing print.  The Times, at something close to $900 per year for a year of single copies, or $550 home-delivered (within the New York metro area), is certainly targeting the high-end readership niche with its pricing, but most other papers are still trying to hang on to market penetration in print with much lower pricing.

Once upon a time, being a newspaperman (or woman) was something to stand up and shout about. Journalism was a noble occupation. Reporters and critics worked for peanuts but fought the good fight. The public loved us, believed us, hung on to every word of our investigative stories and critical analyses. We were in the trenches, dodging threats and insults from criminals, corrupt politicians (and cranky rock stars), ferreting out Truth for the sake of Justice and the American Way.

That was a long time ago.

Hace unos meses leía, sin que me sonara extraño, en un post de Borja Ventura, el caso de un joven periodista que relataba su amarga experiencia en la búsqueda de trabajo. De su testimonio se podía intuir la falta de transparencia de muchos procesos de selección del mundo periodístico.

Personalmente siempre me he preguntado por qué tan pocas ofertas de trabajo para medios de comunicación son públicas, cuesta ver anuncios diciendo “Se busca periodista para medio de comunicación…”.

4. Even if pay walls are the future of newspapers, they aren’t the future of news. Newspapers face a very specific financial situation that’s driving their choice to charge for content or not. These companies are giant ships with dim prospects for quickly turning around in this economic tempest, so naturally they will turn to stopgap measures. It would be a mistake to read much more into it than that.

Check out Jigar Mehta’s documentary journalism piece, The Recession-Proof Artist at The New York Times. It reveals another example of how simplicity lends itself to a visually-powerful work when the a video journalist avoids the broadcast news style:

It’s not breaking-news, a political analysis, nor a unraveling of a crisis, but there are three reasons why I think this is a strong piece, reflecting three elements of strong documentary journalism: (…)

It’s OK to be sick and tired of Twitter rants by journalists who don’t understand it.

The same day I posted about Edward Wasserman writing about Twitter without really learning about it, I read another piece from another journalist I respect, Paul Farhi of the Washington Post, writing The Twitter Explosion in the American Journalism Review.

Farhi, to his credit, did a fairly thorough job of researching Twitter by reading about it online and by interviewing journalists who use it. He just didn’t bother, from what I can tell, to learn anything firsthand by actually using it. And his writing revealed his ignorance.

Never underestimate Google. That should have been my 41st WWGD? rule. Just as I was thinking they were behind the curve on the live web – and argued they should buy Twitter – Google attacked it from the left flank with Wave.

In Wave, I see more than a new generation of email cum wikis cum Twitter cum groupware. Because it can feed blog and web pages and Twitter, I see a new way to create content, collaborative and live. I see a new way to make news.

Imagine a team of reporters – together with witnesses on the scene – able to contribute photos and news to the same Wave (formerly known as a story or a page). One can write up what is known; a witness can add facts from the scene and photos; an editor or reader can ask questions. And it is all contained under a single address – a permalink for the story – that is constantly updated from a collaborative team.

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Junho 2009

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