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Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at Washingtonpost.com

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of WiredJournalists.com and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at washingtonpost.com is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide.

Journalism.co.uk keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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December 1, 2004

Mark Glaser: The Media Company I Want to Work For-- Not Someday, But Now

Guest writer Glaser is a columnist for OJR: "Time for someone to do it, to make the case for a new way of doing journalism, to stop talking about change in decades and start thinking about change in months and days. To stop complaining about the way things are, and the way things don't work, and to start doing it differently..."

(Also see my follow up post on the reactions, Notes and Comment on The Media Company I Want to Work For.)

Introduction: The Future of Common Sense in Journalism

When Mark Glaser publishes one of his scrupulously-reported pieces in Online Journalism Review (his latest, on Keith Olbermann, is a gem) he usually keeps himself out of it, or way in the background. But not today. Glaser, a San Francisco-based journalist who reports on developments in online media, is tired of waiting for glimmers of recognition among existing media companies, and fishing around for the two or three people in the newsroom who “get it.”

In the short essay below, he has tried to describe—in wish-list fashion—the kind of company he wants to join, the company that in its entirety “gets it,” and so can retire that obnoxious phrase. “I put out this call in the hope that someone who really does get it will finally get out from behind his or her keyboard and start the media company I want to write for,” he says.

It’s not that anything Glaser wants is so startling; that’s just the point. Many of these things (“a commitment to provide more transparency”) shouldn’t need explaining anymore. For they’re the future of common sense in journalism.

I’ll have some comments at the end of Mark’s statement.

Special to PressThink

The Media Company I Want to Work For

by Mark Glaser
Columnist, Online Journalism Review

I am usually a patient person, but not now. I am tired of waiting for media companies to change and figure out the way that the business is shifting right beneath their short-sighted eyes. When are they going to understand that their readers are more important than their stockholders? When are they going to understand their readers at all? When are they going to “get” the Internet, true interactivity, citizen journalism, blogging and the communities of thought that are rising up?

I put out this call in the hope that someone who really does get it will finally get out from behind his or her keyboard and start the media company I want to write for. I am now convinced that the movement by established media companies, or even by their online or digital divisions, is glacial at best when it comes to changing business-as-usual.

Iím an online journalist, and I write about online media. Here is what I’m looking for:

  • A news outlet that creates new content, aggregates the best outside content, and makes sense of everything, presenting it in a clear, simple format for the consumption of everyone.
  • A company founded on the values of serving the public and allowing the public to serve journalism by participating in all discussions of mission and direction.
  • A company that answers directly to its readers and consumers and doesn’t talk down to them from editorial ivory towers.
  • A company that is focused on the value of journalism, the practice, and not only of marketing and stock dividends.
  • A group of like-minded people who are willing to start from scratch and build a new way of doing smart, groundbreaking citizen journalism. Not too amateur, not too professional but something in between.
  • A company that is flexible and knowledgeable, with people who “get it” and understand how they can tap the latest technology to improve the craft of journalism — and help it survive. These new journalists would blend the research done online via search and databases, the production process of a content management system, the community involvement of bulletin boards and wikis, and the delivery mechanisms of RSS, blogs and mobile platforms. Rather than teach old dogs new tricks, employ techno-literate people from inception. The “everyone gets it” company.
  • A commitment to provide more transparency for all writers and editors, including political leanings, conflicts of interest and other details that will help readers know who they are. A balance of privacy for journalists with the public’s need to know who they are and where they come from.
  • A company where people realize that the Web audience is potentially global and therefore work together to create stories and packages that cross national and cultural boundaries.
  • A place where news will be a conversation and not a one-way lecture. Where the readers will also report, edit, fact-check and photograph the world around them.

Ah yes, grand in theory, but how will it work out practically? I would start small, and focus mainly on the Web site. A good site has parts and so it needs sections, like we find at Salon.com. These sections or micro-sites will each have a human “guide,” not unlike the About.com model. (See this.)

However, there will be one difference. My guides are not just summarizing everything online in pithy paragraphs and articles. Instead they are finding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and helping run a community of like-minded people who are also finding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and perhaps chatting online or creating stories in a community wiki space. The best of these readers/participants might eventually work for the company as staff or freelancers.

For income, there would be targeted advertising, and perhaps some paid content packages, along with syndication of the best content. The site would include photography, audio and video, and perhaps Flash animation or cartoons. Eventually, the best material could be spun out for print publications, radio or TV shows or even films.

If syndication takes off, then perhaps the service would morph into a giant news wire service, serving content into various media outlets as the Associated Press might do. The difference would be that this service would lack the overhead of the AP, relying on amateur and professional stringers to provide photos and news as it happens in front of them. Contributors would be paid for material as it gets used and reused, making for a nice freelance income if they are good.

The community itself would set the payment for contributors based on how good the work is, how it is received by the community, and whether it brings in syndicated income. It might operate like a content auction of sorts. For example, someone on the ground might take a photo of a plane crash, and submit it to the site. That person would be paid for the photo for use on the site, and then paid for each subsequent use of that photo by other news sources. Contributors might even be paid depending on how many unique visitors viewed the content or e-mailed it to friends.

There would be no registration or walls to content, archives, or old links.

I am not saying this will be easy, or that it won’t be copied by the mainstream media as soon as its successful. What I’m saying is that it’s time for someone to do it, to make the case for a new way of doing journalism, to stop talking about change in decades and start thinking about change in months and days. To stop complaining about the way things are, and the way things don’t work, and to start doing it differently — not gradually, not incrementally, but from whole cloth now.

This is my hope for the future of journalism, because the old way is in tatters and rotting by the side of the road. It’s time for the readers and enlightened journalists to take back their power, to set the media’s agenda, to rip out the reins from the graying media barons who have their blinders on.

If this appeals to you, then feel free to add on my basic skeleton of ideas in the comments section below. Go ahead, seek funding, build the company and hire me already. Or if you think my boat wonít float build your own.

You heard the man. Tell us what else should be included in the media company we’re missing. Hit the comment button and testify.



Jay Rosen comments: More than a few of the principles Glaser sets forth are already in motion at a site you should all examine (and pick apart): Pegasus News— Journalism 2.0, which Steve Rubel called a “stealth project” in his well-read weblog, Micro Persuasion, thereby undoing the stealth part. First here’s Steve on Nov. 29th:

A stealth project called Pegasus News plans to launch a beta test in Dallas in late 2005 to distribute local news content and advertising via the web, e-newsletters, RSS feeds, a daily print edition, SMS messaging and other mediums, according to an inside source who contacted me. The source currently runs a division of a major media company. Pegasus plans to follow this initial effort with local advertising-supported news sites in 25 major U.S. cities that have a monopoly newspaper.

Now here’s Pegasus News itself (run anonymously, at the moment) at its lively weblog, the Daily Peg, where you can watch the concept evolve:

While the incumbents realize their troubles, because of entrenched infrastructures and slavery to the public capital markets, they are incapable of enacting the revolution that is necessary to create and implement a new model.

Our model has five key differentiators:

  • Hyper-local (neighborhood-level) content updated continually and archived for long-term access
  • Journalism 2.0: A conversational method of reporting that engages the end user in the process, as opposed to the traditional monologue
  • Creation of textual and graphic content without regard to constraints of any specific medium to be delivered via as many mediums as possible
  • Subscription price is based on level of engagement, with more specialized content at a higher price; and users who allow us to gather data on their online reading and real-time purchase behaviors paying less (or even nothing)
  • Primarily pay-for-performance advertising across all mediums, including print

We will launch our suite of products and services in Dallas, Texas in late 2005.

This part I love. On the theory that competition spurs innovation: “Belo should be funding us. Our existence could be the trigger that finally turns around their circulation decline.” So far Belo hasn’t bitten. But there is something very shrewd about setting a target like that (the Dallas market for truly local news), and going directly at the competition— by giving a date you’ll be in the market by.

Glaser has “the community involvement of bulletin boards and wikis” as part of his new era company. This too is coming closer to a reality with the announcement of WikiNews (demo here), which has drawn a lot of sophisticated comment already. (Joi Ito and Rebecca MacKinnon, for example.) The latest to weigh in on the practicality of news edited-by-community is Mitch Ratcliffe. He discovers all sorts of practical problems with it, as others have. According to David Weinberger in Release 1.0, these include power struggles over the entry for George Bush in the Wiki Encyclopedia, which in theory anyone is supposed to be able to edit. (Fascinating in its implications for Bush news in WikiNews.)

But this is exactly how the future of common sense works itself out. You take ideas that sound great in principle, and try to do them. (Like she did.) It’s called walking the talk. But when you discover problems, that doesn’t mean you failed. It just means you walked.

The Pegasus project is still at the “sounds great” stage— the talk. But from looking in on it the last few months, one has the sense of people who a.) know what they’re talking about, and b.) are deeply frustrated with business-as-usual in the news biz. People, in fact, like Mark Glaser.

Finally, there’s an important ambiguity in the word “company” as Glaser uses it. It refers to a firm with capital and brand and CEO and employees. But there’s also company as in a theatre company, a collegial band of professionals who feed off each other’s achievements and ideas. I found it useful to keep both senses of “company” in mind as I read Glaser.



After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

Mark Glaser has promised to engage in the back and forth at comments so don’t hesitate to toss him a question.

Lots more at PressThink’s follow up post, Notes and Comment on The Media Company I Want to Work For. (Dec. 2)

Edward Wasserman in the Miami Herald: (Nov. 29) “But we don’t really get it, not the big picture. In fact, the entire media landscape is undergoing basic, fundamental, change. A decade from now, much of what we take for granted will be morphed beyond recognition. What’s vanishing is technical scarcity, and media franchises built on scarcity — as most are — will either remake themselves or die.”

“Great post,” writes blogging entreprenuer Jason Calacanis in the comments. “Reading it I was shocked by the fact that you’re thinking is exactly in line with what Brian Alvey and I were thinking when we launched www.weblogsinc.com.” Read the rest.

Andrew Cline at Rhetorica offers a point-by-point response to Glaser. Check it out: Build it, and they will come…

In Syndication Nation, the everyday philosopher disguised as a tech journalist, Doc Searls, says about this post: “Nice view of where journalism, and journals, are headed, given the nature of supply (writers) as well as demand (readers). Only quibble is with the word ‘consumers.’ Old fashioned, that. Along with ‘audience.’ The reciprocal of writers is readers. What makes the new world so new is that many readers are also writers. The demand side supplies itself, once again.”

Ian Landsman’s Weblog: “I want to work there too.”

Mark Tapscott, a media and public policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, and a blogger at Tapscott’s Copy Desk, reacts: “I think Glaser undervalues the skills of the new journalists. They won’t be ‘somewhere between’ the amateur and professional, but will instead redefine both of those terms, which are themselves relics of a bureacratic era. Today, ‘professionals’ work for MSM companies, amateurs don’t. The presumption, at least in the minds of the professionals, is that they alone are able to do journalism. This is credentialism at its worst.” He has other points on transparency that must be absorbed, so check into it— and keep up.

Vinnie Goldsmith: “A critical mass is being reached. The tide is changing.”

Voice of Experience: Mitch Ratcliffe (Bio) chimes in: “Mark Glaser wants to work for a media company that is open and collaborativeóan excellent complementary read to this piece. Question is, who wants to finance this? I know, having built ON24 to run on the smallest editorial budget imaginable for a 24/7 video news network, a lot of the ins and outs. There are clearly a ton of smart folks willing to participate. Who wants to put the money behind it?”

Mark Glaser in Online Journalism Review on the commodification of news: Reuters, AP Follow Different Paths in Search of Revenues. (May 4, 2004)

Pegasus credits this article from Reason magazine with a critical contribution to its own strategy: Declan McCullagh, Database Nation: The upside of “zero privacy.” (June 2004) McCullagh quotes Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

What McNealy didnít mention, and polls and politicians donít recognize, is the unsung benefits that have accompanied the databasification of American society. More precisely, theyíre unacknowledged or invisible benefits. Itís easy to complain about a subjective loss of privacy. Itís more difficult to appreciate how information swapping accelerates economic activity. Like many other aspects of modern society, benefits are dispersed, amounting to a penny saved here or a dollar discounted there. But those sums add up quickly.

Related PressThink: Matt Welch on Shifting Terms of Authority in the Newspaper Press.

“Good journalism is committed by brave people working hard, day in and day out, says Ryan Tate in the comments thread. “Always has been, always will be. And the work remains remarkably the same, year to year, decade to decade, century to century.”

Four weblogs you should be—oh alright, could—be reading:

  • Editors Weblog is international and its about the problems of the newspaper biz— worldwide. Always has interesting stuff, and ocasionally links to PressThink.
  • SimonWaldman.net is by Simon Waldman, the director of all things digital at The Guardian, one of the best news sites on the Web. It’s about “newspapers, new media and beyond…”
  • John Robinson is the editor—and boss—of the News Record in Greensboro, NC; and he has a weblog. But listen to this: he’s a good blogger. He, uh, gets it. Mostly local stuff, but Robinson also explains his newspaper when needed. It’s called The Editor’s Log (and needs an “about” page.) Good samaritin nod to Greensboro-based blogger Ed Cone, who helped perusade Robinson to try it.
  • newsBluntly promises the blunt news about broadcast journalism. We’ll see, I guess. For unlike most weblogs that I read this one is published for a company in the industry, The NewsMarket, by a public relations firm, Plesser Associates.

From American Journalism Review, here’s an extended examination of what journalists think about responding to credibility crises and ethical lapses: Jennifer Dorroh, Knocking Down the Stonewall. “The ill-fated ‘60 Minutes’ story on President Bushís National Guard service is the latest reminder that the defensive crouch doesnít cut it as a response to a serious ethical challenge. What should news organizations do when a story comes under fire?”

Like much of the stubbornly, even defiantly clueless newspaper industry, AJR will include links to its own articles, but not to anyone else in its pages online. Thus PressThink is mentioned (cheers!) but not linked to (boos.) Mystifying. And it makes you wonder: what’s the opposite of “link love?” Here, AJR: feel guilty yet? (Update, Dec. 3: AJR Editor Rem Rieder e-mails: “Jay: Good point about the links. We’ll start adding them to new stories we post and to stories in the archives.”)

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 1, 2004 3:18 AM   Print

Comments

I would suggest that the vision of a new media wonít be complete without comprehensively addressing the deficient nature of the current personal computing paradigm and how it detracts from the mass dissemination of useful and entertaining information.

Take the portability of print, for example. I can read a newspaper, book, or magazine on my couch, my bed, my toilet, or even in my car. Try that with your WinTel machine, which for the most part is only accessed from that one chair at that one desk.

Then there are the airwaves, which, when coupled with the television device, really comprise the essential facility from which most people get their news. Some news over the airwaves is free (from the networks or PBS), some you pay for via cable service or satellite. Itís easier and faster to absorb news this way, and itís less intrusive than hunkering down around the keyboard and running through boot-ups, logins, aggregators, and feeds. Iím not saying that those of us who are tapping the evolving blogosphere arenít getting a lot out of it. Iím saying the majority of Americans do not get their news this way and probably wonít for quite some time.

This is one of the risks of allowing MicroSoft to operate a monopoly. They have us stuck in an obsolete technological paradigm because itís much easier for them to make money charging millions for superficial upgrades to MS Word than it is to innovate and bring about real advancement. Can you believe that across America, we still pay millions upon millions for a commodity as utilitarian as typing software? This can only happen when a giant monopoly has control over the essential operating system facility. They hold things in place in order to milk the cow.

On this issue of interaction, bear in mind that we can have a very effective virtual, (i.e. non-human) problem-solving conversation with the phone service, or any number of other companies offering intelligent voice-recognition customer service, but you canít talk to a blog. Keyboarding is far inferior to voice-intelligence. The ramp-up time to have a simple blog interaction (logging in, processing virus control, hitting the aggregator, and so on) is much slower than the immediacy of opening a book or unfolding a newspaper. Again, the extremely deficient human interface that we know as the keyboard and monitor is an obstacle begging for a breakthrough.

So in the spirit of progress, I'll offer two major challenges that need to be addressed to complete the vision for a new way of doing mainstream media:

1. The competitive threat posed by the portability of print.

2. The deficiency of the ultra-clunky tethersome WinTel interface.

Posted by: poputonian at December 1, 2004 9:52 AM | Permalink

Some of this sounds like what I am working on with the ongoing Localfeeds resucitation:

http://localfeeds.com/docs/LocalfeedsManifesto

Posted by: Ross M Karchner at December 1, 2004 12:17 PM | Permalink

I love this idea. And great ideas can survive a little prodding:

"A group of like-minded people who are willing to start from scratch and build a new way of doing smart, groundbreaking citizen journalism. Not too amateur, not too professional but something in between."

Okay. I like this suggestion. But then:

"A staff and board of advisers of englightened media people and bloggers such as Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen, Elizabeth Osder, Susan Mernit, Matt Welch, Howard Owens, Robert Cox, Steve Rubel, John Battelle, James Lileks, Bob Somerby, Dan Gillmor, and many others who walk the talk."

Sounds an awful lot like it's already been decided who will be the new 500 club. I have to admit I like these people, but be careful of having a club that's too exclusive, or too difficult to gain entry into.

On another note, there are a number of former journalists now engaged in specialized types of knowledge, sometimes technical knowledge. I speak most authoritatively for educators, but I know others in medicine for example. We see gaping holes in specialized coverage of these areas in most newspapers, and broadcast.

There are exceptions. For example, the medical reporter at the NYT (whose name escapes me right now) is very good, but he's a physician-turned-journalist.

I think the media company offered by Mark Glaser would also need to redefine the skills and knowledge required to be a "media professional." Perhaps there should be more to it than being able to compose a cogent paragraph and takes quotes over the phone. Maybe even more than just getting "both sides" of a medical or education issue.

Considering the issues facing this nation--such as the potential failure of Social Security, the limitations and ethics of medicine, and the persistent academic achievement gap--it might be time to demand more from journalists than just the same old gumshoe-with-typewriter perspective.

Posted by: JennyD at December 1, 2004 1:03 PM | Permalink

Thanks for nominating me for the Board, Mark! I'll accept payment only in Euros....

I very much like 90% of this. My three cents:

1) There is nothing inherently Evil about responding to shareholders. (In fact, if this organization were to be a collective, that's precisely what you'd be doing anyway.) In the post-1960 era of big media, "responding to shareholders" has become synonymous with, or at least directly linked to, directing product and energy to the most lucrative chunk of a mass audience, which is one reason why that feels creepy to working journalists. However, if you can demonstrate with your model that a non-moneybags audience can *also* make you rich -- and look no further than Wal-Mart, the 99-Cent store chain, and the Magic Johnson empire for proof of that -- then those shareholders will be hi-fiving your populism, not reigning it in.

2) I'd focus like a laser beam on a specific underserved niche, either in subject matter, geography, or politics/style. I would place a friendly non-monetary wager that the most logical and fruitful arena for this type of news company to flourish would be in local news, which dominant newspapers tend to be indifferent toward.

3) Though there is definitely a market for a global news agency to compete with AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, AFP, DPA, and smaller outfits like the Inter Press Service, running it like a collective where members set prices could easily turn into a festival of fuzz. I've worked in situations where the proletariat set wages, and well, let's just say I understand a little better why communism collapsed.

Posted by: Matt Welch at December 1, 2004 1:17 PM | Permalink

Glad I've stoked your interest.

Poputonian:
I agree that the computer interface and the Web are not at all perfect for disseminating news, video and audio quite yet. Portability of print is very important now, until some form of electronic paper becomes a cheap reality. I don't see this new company as being tied to technology or the Web at all, but expect it will have print and broadcast spin-offs. I just figured that online would be a good place to start.

JennyD:
I definitely do NOT want to limit this company to the people I just mentioned off the top of my head. They were just examples of people I think who would "get" the concept. I would really welcome anyone into the company who might understand what I was hoping to do. In fact, I'm calling on other people to start the company, so they can really hire whoever they want. My hope is that they concentrate on the more enlightened media folk, whoever they may be...

I really like your idea for more specialized people within the organization. This goes well with what Matt is saying later about focusing on niches. I would imagine a "health guide" (or even "cancer guide") who does have some first-hand knowledge of medicine, can go out and find relevant health stories, make informed blog posts on the subject, do reporting, etc. These specialists or guides would be in charge of their page or section, and it could get more and more specialized as you dig down -- breast cancer, skin cancer, etc.

Matt W:
Glad to have you on board, Matt! So far I'm only playing with Monopoly money, but when the VCs start throwing real money, I'll get out my Euro converter...

1) I get your point about shareholders, and mostly agree. I don't want this "company" to lose sight of its business, but lately Big Media seems to have lost its sense of balance between serving the public/readers and shareholders. What I'm proposing is to bring that back into balance. It's a tricky area, but maybe by serving readers, the company will actually make more money. I would just hope to "bake in" the idea that the company really needs to serve customers first, make them satisfied, bring them into the business process to build a loyal audience.

2) YES, focus like a laser beam on niches and local content. See above, on drilling down to niches. This is a key.

3) Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my explanation of the news service, and payment. My understanding of current news services is that they employ stringers who are paid a flat fee for work done. What I'm proposing is that there would be a world of stringers -- professional and amateur -- who would be paid according to how well their work performed (hits, syndication, etc.). The only part that includes price-setting at a community level would be some sort of "rating" function, similar to Slashdot's, that would help bring the cream to the top. I'm pretty fuzzy myself on how this would work, and maybe this is something that would end up being jettisoned if it didn't work fairly.

Hey, 90% ain't bad! Keep your thoughts and suggestions coming. This is most definitely a work in progress...until someone actually builds it...

Posted by: Mark Glaser at December 1, 2004 1:47 PM | Permalink

Where do I apply?

Posted by: Lex at December 1, 2004 2:59 PM | Permalink

Sounds great. Working on some of it myself, but you need partners in these endeavers. Let me know if I can help, especially understanding and covering the South, deep red country.

I'm in the minority, but I "get it."

Glynn Wilson
Southerner Daily News
http://www.southerner.net/blog/

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at December 1, 2004 3:30 PM | Permalink

I think a lot of us are either working on an endeavor like this or are looking to join one.

Its the new economic model for media companies.

One change I'd make:

From:
"A company where people realize that the Web audience is potentially global"

To:
"A company where people realize that the Web audience IS global!"

Local, Regional, National and Global - at the same time!

Posted by: Vinny Goldsmith at December 1, 2004 3:59 PM | Permalink

Does blogging work?

UPDATE, 4:00 PM. Another Net era news company comes out of "stealth mode," partly because of today's PressThink: it's Backfence.com, going micro-local in the Wahington DC market and aiming for early 2005. Co-founder Mark Potts e-mails: "Our vision is for extremely local coverage, written almost entirely by the readers, using blogs, wikis and other formats to allow people to share community news and information with their neighbors in a friendly, ad-supported environment distributed via the Web, RSS and other online media."

Potts is a co-founder of the WashingtonPost.com site. He and his partner Susan DeFife read Glaser and read about Pegasus and decided "it's time to come out of the closet and show ourselves a bit."

Interesting development? You decide.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 1, 2004 4:19 PM | Permalink

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 13:10:26 -0800 (PST)
To: glaze@sprintmail.com
Subject: your new journalism

When you're done installing the wiki, firing the old people, designing the flash cartoons, putting your friends on the board of directors and hooking your reporters' checking accounts up to Web polls, you'll realize something:

Good journalism is committed by brave people working hard, day in and day out.

Always has been, always will be. And the work remains remarkably the same, year to year, decade to decade, century to century.

There is no "new way of doing journalism." There wasn't in 1900, whether by Randolph Hearst or Upton Sinclair. There wasn't in the 1960s, not from Tom Wolfe or Hunter Thompson. There wasn't in the 1980s, not from Mike Wallace or Geraldo Rivera. And there isn't now, from the blogger, the database surfer or the freelancer with a laptop and a digital camera.

The poor bloke trying to commit journalism in your newsroom will be so busy trying to put out a weblog, organize a directory of links and chat with his readers/paycheck signers that he'll scracely be able to make a phone call or two, much less trudge down to City Hall and have a look at volumes of public records. And even if he did, he'd be so worried about feeding his family on "freelance income," attracting hits and not pissing off the readers that he's not going to have much spine to write anything other than advertising copy.

Your article included some good ideas,like aggregating external sources, involving readers and working cooperatively with other news publications. And you're right that traditional media companies are barely moving at all to address the threat that is here, today, to their business models.

But in the end you make the same mistakes as a Gannett or a Fox News: thinking there is something fundamentally wrong with how journalism is practiced in this country, and that you've got just the silver bullett to fix it. You don't. What you've got is an ill conceived shortcut.

With all due respect,
RT


Posted by: Ryan at December 1, 2004 4:30 PM | Permalink

Cluetrain.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at December 1, 2004 5:12 PM | Permalink

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikinews

Wikinews strikes me as a high ambitious project on the net worth trying even if I'm a bit cynical. The wiki encyclopedia is quite good on many issues, but can it do news?

Posted by: Steve at December 1, 2004 5:19 PM | Permalink

Ryan's comments are understandable, and worth listening to. But what I think we are talking about here is how to run the media company of the future - not how to do journalism in a totally new way.

Someone still has to observe the scene, interview people, collate and order the facts, write a narrative people will enjoy reading, plus the photos, video, bells and whistles.

Since a good percentage of what blogs do is comment on what the press is doing, someone still has to be the press. What is being proposed here, it seems to me, is the model for supplanting or at least challenging the MSM for eyeballs and dollars.

Pay me enough and I can do it all, although it would be nice to have a copy editor, a programmer and a business manager, all partners of course. Readers will catch some things, but it would be nice to get it right before publication.

Since by some definitions blogs are unedited personal diaries, this may seem like anathema for some. By that definition, blogging is online gonzo journalism.

I wonder if Hunter Thompson has a blog? It would beat Drudge in the traffic ratings, if he had someone chasing headline links too.

So, Dr. Thompson, if you are listening, give us a shout.

Nothing new? Of course there are new things under the sun. Evolution may seem incremental, but then there's always the rapid change theory. As far as this southern boy is concerned, the sooner we stop killing the trees the better.

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at December 1, 2004 8:34 PM | Permalink

Wikinews strikes me as a high ambitious project on the net worth trying even if I'm a bit cynical. The wiki encyclopedia is quite good on many issues, but can it do news?

No, it can't. I'm a Wikipedia contributor, know its strengths and weaknesses, and it simply won't work. The wiki model is uniquely suited to some things, but not journalism.

A lot of the strength of Wikipedia comes because it has very low barriers to entry. Anybody who wants to can come in and edit--and editing doesn't take much work. Fixing a typo, for instance, costs almost nothing in terms of time and energy, and many, many edits are no more significant than this. My own habits don't include many launches of new articles; instead, I nibble on the edges, add a sentence here or there, and so on--small time stuff that nevertheless helps.

In Wikinews, this will be minimized. People will have to go out of their way to seek out and document news. There would be much less room for the "small edits only" editors, due to the demands of producing a story NOW, and more emphasis on those who are willing to put in the effort to make substantial contributions of material--few and far between. How to locate and encourage contributors willing to put the work in?

In addition, credibility would be an even larger problem than it is on other wikis. If, for example, Wikinews broke the story of the killing of the prisoner in Iraq, it would be automatically written off, because nobody could trust the source, or for that matter even identify him/her. Of course, reporting of events could be limited to certain classes of users (logged-in, approved by a committee, etc.), but this would negate many of the advantages of a wiki, and would exacerbate the problem of finding people willing to put in the effort.

In short, Wikinews would be unverifiable and unsustainable.

Posted by: Dan Miller at December 1, 2004 8:55 PM | Permalink

From the tooting-your-own-horn department...

We're doing something like this already at Lawrence.com -- our hyperlocal entertainment site for Lawrence, Kan., with deep databases of local events, musicians, venues, drink specials, restaurants, dynamically-created radio stations and a ton more.

User-generated content has been growing and growing on Lawrence.com for the past year and a half: All (except one) of our blogs are written by members of the community. Our food weblog is written by a local chef, for instance.

Most of the site's pages -- articles, blog entries, songs, bands, album discographies, restaurants -- have user-comment functionality, and we've recently been expanding (by popular demand) into friendster-esque territory by allowing people to post profiles, rank other people's comments, create playlists, etc.

The funny thing is: We're owned by a newspaper. But it's a family-owned newspaper, which, I think, is key.

Posted by: Adrian Holovaty at December 1, 2004 9:08 PM | Permalink

What I'd like to see:

A master list of hyperlocal journalism blogs, maybe with GeoURLs so you could also see them on a map

The Knight Foundation being proactive about funding stuff like this, taking the same approach as "venture capitalist" cancer funding ("...group required only a five-page application and cut checks within 90 days; government grants run on for scores of pages and can take up to a year to go through. One catch: normally secretive researchers were required to share their results at an annual conference.") - their upcoming "New Voices" Community News Ventures program might be a step in the right direction, but at this stage it's hard to tell - and the lack of a blog for it indicates that perhaps they don't "get it" yet.

A Knight Foundation blog with comments enabled, where suggestions for stuff to fund could be made and viewed and discussed - serving like Dave Winer's "what would you like to see in a blogging tool?" list from a year or so back.

I'd like to see them make source code for projects like greensboro101.com (hyperlocal blogger aggregator) freely available.

Online "open source" journalism classes, open to all - sign up, maybe pay a nominal amount, work through online lessons/exercises with the rest of your class (from all over planet) - again, the Knight Foundation already funds training, but at present the training is old fashioned and extant-newspaper-centric. (is this still true?)

(it sure is fun spending other people's money - even if only in thought...)

Posted by: Anna at December 1, 2004 9:13 PM | Permalink

Glynn -- I love the idea of a new sort of media company and of killing fewer trees. I still love the headline of this piece. Seeing the specifics -- and even some of the generals -- is where I parted ways with this piece. Sorry to be so negative. RT

Posted by: Ryan at December 1, 2004 9:42 PM | Permalink

Glynn, I hear you. People need to cover events. (People need also to see each other face to face on occassion and were you here, we'd talk about it.).

But what is an event? Let's say, for example, that fifty people show up at an event at the Umich Diag to support affirmative action. Is that an event? By what definition? Not by the size of the crowd. More than 50 students show up for biology lectures, concerts, and grad school tests from ETS. So why is this gathering different?

That's part of the question of bias, I think. How do you decide what is an event to be covered. And who to talk to at the coverage.

What if no one from the Press showed up at the Umich event? What if the organizers could rally supporters with pithy slogans, but had to lure "The Press" with compelling evidence?

What if everyone in the press stopped showing up for staged events?

Posted by: JennyD at December 1, 2004 9:57 PM | Permalink

it will have print and broadcast spin-offs

I think this is the key to outflanking the dinosaur, so to speak.

Posted by: poputonian at December 1, 2004 10:21 PM | Permalink

A lot of the press already doesn't show up at staged events. Ask the environmental movement. With Bush in the White House, a war and this past election, many events and important issues were missed.

Blogs could handle some of this, if they were inclined. Seems to be a bias to doing EVERYTHING online, in front of a computer. Most newsrooms now operate by and large on the phone, and have for a long time, with notable beat exceptions.

To beat them, you've got to somehow still do it all, and do it better. Day in and day out, the New York and L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and other daily newspapers, have the world wired already. There are certainly holes, and better, more open delivery systems, and it would be easy to beat a lot of local news Web sites. The chains are abominably bad.

I ain't giving away my whole shop of ideas down here, and not even beginning to employ them yet on my little headline blog. Remember, I'm still free-lancing and trying to sell to the big media monsters. Sorry.

Posted by: Glynn Wilson at December 1, 2004 11:09 PM | Permalink

John Robinson, the blogging editor of the Greensboro News Record, just wrote a reaction post to this one:

"I know this: it's precisely the sort of media company the News & Record intends to become. Creating new content. Serving the public and allowing the public to serve journalism. Building a new way of doing smart, citizen journalism. More transparency. News as a conversation. We've been having serious, detailed, how-to discussions about all of those things here. This blog is one result. All of the recent discussion about aggregated content -- what Greensboro 101 is doing -- is where we're going, too."

See Ed Cone on the Greensboro 101 project. He has the links.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 1, 2004 11:37 PM | Permalink

Regarding technology...

In my opinion, Microsoft's operating system business is a natural monopoly, like a power company. It has cleverly created another monopoly in office products. The company has rarely innovated but it also doesn't usually stop technological advances, just slows them down. If it were up to me, a conservative, Microsoft would be split up by the government.

The paper vs. computer dichotomy simply has to go away. In some technological areas, pushing for a breakthrough is like pushing a rope or herding cats. I don't think that is true in this case. Many folks are working on various electronic papers, tablets, etc. Besides, how can we know what is the shape of solution space? Innovation may produce something none of us has thought of that does the job well enough.

I think there is an almost insatiable demand for live video news. The boundary blurs between news and entertainment somewhere in there. However, increasing wireless bandwidth may allow a service that uses this space for collection of content. Of course, if its live, there's not much editorial function other than maybe a 5 second delay and a kill switch (virtual, of course).

The Lawrence, Kansas operation sounds interesting, but I'm a bit skeptical. The World Company was early into technology and I guess still is. But Lawrence is a unique market, with a big University in a Kansas City bedroom community, and virtually nothing else. Hence unusual customers, cheap labor, and lots of creativity.

Finally, I agree with other commenters - a lot of news gathering requires human processes involving phone calls, etc. If you want to see an example of the failure to replace human processes, look at all the businessmen flying when they could be teleconferencing. Personal contact is valued.

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at December 1, 2004 11:43 PM | Permalink

First, a big thank you to Jay and Mark for starting this conversation. While I'm gratified to see someone like Mark so in synch with out concept, I'm even happier to see everyone engaging in a conversation that's not a let's pretend about what we'll do when the incumbent media situation becomes absolutely untenable. It's about what we can do NOW.

I hope everyone does pick our concept apart and help us improve it. If we do nothing but advance this conversation beyond theory, we've done something worthwhile.

But we hope to do much more than that.

Posted by: Peg at December 1, 2004 11:47 PM | Permalink

Serioulsy -- doesn't this remind you of that old Monty Python bit about playing the flute -- "you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside."

There's plenty here about this dream company paying your merry band of adventurers, but where does the money come from? Hyper-local news? Have you ever worked for a small-town daily or weekly? They're hyper-local. They're not paying salaries that will get you over the poverty line -- the money just isn't there. And as for user-generated content sites -- isn't the point in large part that the content is not paid for?

It's good to see people thinking about these things, and discussing them, but if the idea is to eliminate the business side from consideration, the outcome will be entirely predictable.

cjf

Christopher J. Feola
An Imperfect Equilibrium
http://www.asksam.com/imperfect/index.asp

Posted by: chris feola at December 2, 2004 2:10 AM | Permalink

I must admit, I'm fairly sceptical.

I have every belief we'll see decentralized, community gathered and organized news appearing.

But it's not entirely obvious why we need any particular *company* to do this, nor that there's any role for professional journalists such as yourself.

And this is surely why you can't find such an organization to work for. It's not because media people "don't get it". It's just that they're being disrupted (in the Christiansen sense) by something their business logic *prevents* them from getting into. There simply isn't a viable business model here.

This world of wikis and blogs and syndication feeds and podcasts etc. is materializing quite nicely on it's own, thank you. Without the need for intermediaries to "help" organize it (or edit it) in return for a slice of advertising or subscription. In fact there's (almost) no need for advertising to fund it at all - or rather, if there is, the revenue is destined for Google (Blogger) etc. who will earn it by making the raw technology directly available to the public, and by brokering the advertising sales and payments.

My suggestion is that a media company that seriously understood the potential of wiki or RSS would be better off trying to buy FeedBurner or JotWiki or BlogStreet etc, rather than trying to create a chimera like the one proposed.

BTW : a one of the earliest (and smartest) descriptions of the kind of organization you're envisaging was floated in Wired back in 96. I have a link to it and comments here : http://www.nooranch.com/synaesmedia/wiki/wiki.cgi?BroadCatching

I suspect it's the structural problems, not the lack of intelligence of media thinkers, which have stopped it becoming reality over the last 8 years.

Posted by: phil jones at December 2, 2004 2:15 AM | Permalink

Thank you Mister Peg, and everyone who has contributed to this discussion, even those who are just reading and caring about the subject.

I'll admit I had some sense that the time was right for a piece like Mark's, but I did not know how much interest there was out there, awaiting objects to fix on. The response has been surprisingly immediate. I'm doing a follow up post for Thursday on the reactions to this one. So please stay tuned.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 2, 2004 2:21 AM | Permalink

If not news, wiki at least could be a reliable source of facts afterwards. A place where the memory hole could be filled so disinformation isn't so easily spouted. Right now, factcheck.org only works for election ads, but wiki could do far far more over time. Once again, reliability is a problem, but hey, it depends on the model wiki uses to present news. Perhaps they will develop a different set of guidelines than for the wiki encylopedia. Anyhow, I'm more interested in the experiment for the insights it could provide in journalism even if it fails. Also, I'm interested in seeing how fast it corrects itself. Can it become a new authoritative standard that regular MSM haven't become? Will wiki become a "reliable" history record that changes as facts are reported? Will they trace their sources? Part of the reason wiki fascinates me is the large number of people more informed in specific topics that can work on it, as opposed to the limited personnel in MSM. Can doctors fix errors in wiki that MSM misreports? We just had an election in which Dick Cheney tried to point to www.factcheck.org, and in which Kerry pointed out his website during a debate. Yes, I'm aware how flawed wiki can be, but I see the information we can gather from such an experiment to be invaluable to media models.

As for hyperlocal news, and someone's comment on creating a larger link site to this type of news, we see that happening to some extent in the blogosphere already. The need for "Carnivals," posts on Dailykos "What blogs do you read daily?," Instapundit's more recent habit of just posting more links and less commentary, Simonworld's Asian Blog roundup, political roundups in general, group blogs, have become more popular as time goes by. Who can organize information in a manner that allows for democracy to function properly? Will a majority of readers will stick their heads into the sand by listening to friendly sources, or will a majority force themselves to engage the opposition's arguments?

Thanks Jay for posting up Mark's article. Since I'd hazard that many of us are highly familiar with blogging and media criticism, you have hit upon an audience searching for a new model already.

Posted by: Steve at December 2, 2004 6:01 AM | Permalink

Hyper-local news? Have you ever worked for a small-town daily or weekly? They're hyper-local.

I agree with this insight. I would like the see the new media as much about integrating world and national news for local consumption than just being a neighborhood echo-chamber. That said, I would like to see all my local restaurant menus and prices on-line, for the sheer convenience, but local news can be really slow and gossipy. The disintermediation that needs to occur is to break the monolithic message that comes from the administration at the pinnacle, to the current (and compliant) MSM just below, and then to the entertainment drivel, such as Fox, following lock-step.

Posted by: poputonian at December 2, 2004 8:38 AM | Permalink

See my follow up post, Notes and Comment on The Media Company I Want to Work For.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 2, 2004 10:24 AM | Permalink

In trying to explain my blog addiction to my wife, I was forced to examine why it is I spend so much time reading and writing online (and why I think a news outlet that adopts blogging methodology would product superior content and attract a healthy readership). Here's a couple of reasons I came up with:

ē Tone: The more I read blogs, the harder it is to slog through the studied blandness and forced balance of traditional newspaper stories. While some bloggers are unreadably uncivil, cynical snark is often a good way to weed out the spin. It also just plain fun to read, if it's well-written.

ē Healthy skepticism: The bloggers generally leave no stone unturned on a story, and certainly don't hesitate to call a spade a spade. Frequently I'll be come across an assertion in a news report (sometimes again and again) that the bloggers have already picked apart, making me question the rest of the article's facts. It's made me a much better news consumer. Thanks to the bloggers, I've also built up a fair-sized database in my head of many media figures' conflicts of interest and, in some cases, dubious history.

ē Understanding: That's probably not the right word, but I've found that reading blogs helps me get my mind around complex stories like no other medium. Perhaps it's the repetition of the basic outlines of a story as I bounce around the net. I also think it's because bloggers usually build their posts around a unique, personal insight based on their own knowledge, experience and reactions to other bloggers and commenters. Stitch those insights together, and you get a much better image of the whole "elephant" than you can in reading one or two media accounts.

There are many other reasons I like blogs, including the unfettered access to expert opinion from excellent academics ;). There are also a number of drawbacks, including the blogosphere's schizophrenic nature, pettiness and short attention span. Nor is it a very efficient means of gaining knowledge (as my wife will attest).

The challenge is to channel all that talent into a format that's accessible to non-junkies without strangling it. I've wracked my brain trying to think of a format that would present a unified, coherent and compelling central narrative yet allow numerous independent voices. There should also be a way to keep attention and discussion focused on an issue for more than a news cycle (maybe that's going against the grain of human nature, I don't know).

I can visualize the process in my head; it's the same one I go through in comprehending a story through the blogs. People bring pieces of the "puzzle" to the table. Those interested get a crack at figuring out where each piece fits. Eventually it all comes together to form the big picture, "The Story."

Posted by: Sven at December 2, 2004 11:01 AM | Permalink

Why "work for" "a company?"

Why all the overhead?

Isn't disaggregation -- not just of content but of bodies -- the trend?

The blogosphere is far more powerful than any top-down distribution mechanisms schemed up by corporate media. Blog swarms are smarter than any editorial board. Blogging tools are cheaper than a six-pack of beer. Bandwidth is sold at pennies per supertanker-full. And advertisers are waking up to the fact that it's more fun to pay writers directly rather than shareholders & publishers & flunkies & flunkies of flunkies, aka writers.

Isn't the playing field leveling now... or even tilted toward the individual?

Why leave the party and go home to Mom just as the keg is being tapped?

Posted by: henrycopeland at December 2, 2004 12:51 PM | Permalink

Henry: I think that's right on. That's why I said we have to keep alive the notion of "company" as in a theatre company, a production company, or what the philosopher and social critic Michael Walzer calls a "company of critics." Maybe all the company we need is right there. I don't know.

There are many kinds of company, the most basic of which is: "you're not alone, you have company in that..." Maybe the media company we need is the one that can sustain a company of journalists who are figuring all of this out.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 2, 2004 2:14 PM | Permalink

This was a good read. Thanks for About mention. Based on what you say and the general response, I think we're on the right track.

You said "My guides are not just summarizing everything online in pithy paragraphs and articles. Instead they are finding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and helping run a community of like-minded people who are also finding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and perhaps chatting online or creating stories in a community wiki space. The best of these readers/participants might eventually work for the company as staff or freelancers."

Sure, we have pithy paragraphs and articles, but our Guides do a fair amount of this now ("inding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and helping run a community of like-minded people") and I think we will have much of this ("who are also finding links to stories, writing a blog and news reports, and perhaps chatting online or creating stories in a community wiki space")on the Network in 2005.

We've always found that our best readers make our best Guides.

Posted by: Matt Law, About.com Se. Ed at December 2, 2004 3:12 PM | Permalink

Jay - if the Dave Winer rule is in effect then please delete this comment.

I see a number of terrific ideas here and more than a few current and potential members of the Media Bloggers Association which was launched last month at BloggerCon in Palo Alto. The primary mission of the MBA is to promote its "media blogger" members but if it serves to catalyze discussion of some common interests in a reformed media all the better.

Posted by: Robert Cox at December 2, 2004 4:19 PM | Permalink

Wow. I'm really impressed that my little rant has brought up so much intelligent thought by so many great and informed people. At the very least, I flushed out a few "stealth" companies. ;-]

I'm glad that I left my general skeleton wishlist broad enough that a lot of people seem to have fastened on to it as theirs. I don't see why Pegasus and Backfence can't consider themselves as this very company. However, the idea that journalism and journalists are completely out of the equation was not really what I had in mind.

What I envision is some sort of collaboration between journalists and readers, and not the removal of editors or reporters completely, a la aggregators such as Google News. I think automation, combined with the work of editors and reporters, is bound to be the future of journalism.

I don't believe the people and ideas of Big Media companies should be totally discarded, as much as the idea of Big Media. I think investigative journalism, service journalism, and public journalism are intensely valuable and should not at all go away. But if they can be improved in some way via new technologies and a new way of conceiving them and interacting with the subjects and readers, all the better.

I don't know if I buy the notion that we don't need media companies at all, and that a million blogs and micro-sites will replace the status quo -- as much as it might fatten your wallet, Henry. I think there's a value to having a real company with products and services and customers and shareholders that would legitimize and extend this new media company into the mainstream of American thought. I'm OK with a somewhat virtual company with low or no overhead, but I think the entity of a company should exist in some manner.

That doesn't mean that I would want it to eventually emulate the News Corps and Time Warners of the world -- but maybe rethink the way a media company would operate in an enlightened interactive landscape. I think Google is redefining what an American company can be.

Personally, I find the hyperlocal news trend fascinating and illustrative, but my vision was for something much further beyond that, covering national, international, local, niche. I keep coming back to About.com, and thanks for your note, Matt. It would be great if About could really morph into this company, and perhaps lose its baggage as a pop-up monster for readers.

I'll keep coming back for more helpings of your comments -- so keep them coming.

Posted by: Mark Glaser at December 2, 2004 4:30 PM | Permalink

"What I envision is some sort of collaboration between journalists and readers, and not the removal of editors or reporters completely, a la aggregators such as Google News. I think automation, combined with the work of editors and reporters, is bound to be the future of journalism."

Mark. I think you've missed the point here. It's not that editors are replaced by automation like Google news. They are removed because they are replaced by the *community of readers* doing it's own distributed editing.

That's what's really going on in weblogs. Only about 10% of it is generating interesting and new writing (or reporting).

The other 90% is bloggers picking things up elsewhere and deciding if it's worth *amplifying* its importance by repeating it or linking to it. In doing so, sure they fuel Google and Technorati, but more importantly they *filter* it : add their interpretation, make new connections, explain it, come up with a pithy phrase, and otherwise polish and refine it.

This is why the BroadCatching model is actually a misguided (though understandable) hope. It's based on the idea that the community can and will create lots of good stuff, but somehow doesn't know how to sift through and identitfy and organize it. So there's a role for an elite of centralized expert curators who will be able to "make sense of it" for the masses.

That's a wet-dream for big media, of course. You still get to be central gatekeeper, *and* get paid but people out there just come up with your content for free.

Not gonna happen. People don't *want* keepers of any kind. The community are great at sifting and shifting material all by themselves. That's why more people make mix-tapes than play musical instrucments. And why more people write blogs that go "XYZ said blah. Brilliant! Yeah, me too, I agree with that" than actually write something original and worthwhile.

Real investigative reporters are, indeed, much more difficult to replace. We theoretically still need them.

But they face the economic problem. If there's no center to employ them, who'll pay? Reporters without media companies to employ them need a new business model

Some will go freelance and get donations from their blogs. Others will write (and sell) books. (Books are *not* being disrupted by online media anything like as much.) And others will possibly work as subcontractors for a more succesful book author.

Maybe some will work for political thinktanks or other institutions who's motivation is power or self-education rather than profit.

Posted by: phil jones at December 2, 2004 5:12 PM | Permalink

Great post.

Reading it I was shocked by the fact that you're thinking is exactly in line with what Brian Alvey and I were thinking when we launched www.weblogsinc.com.

We have 45 bloggers in our group now, and 65 blogs. Some are niche, some are broad. All of them are written by folks with passion for the subjects, and no one is filtered/censored.

All the bloggers talk to each other all day long on an email list, and the page growth has been stunning.

We're signing up advertisers like crazy, and we're actually paying thousands and thousands of dollar to bloggers every month. It's a great feeling to know that we are able to pay folks for writing about what they want, when they want, how they want, etc.

If you look at a 100 writers and ask them what they would most like to spend their time writing about only 10 would say they were actually doing that for a living. Most writers are writing to make a living, and the topic they really love is something they do on the side.

Our goal at weblogsinc.com is to have all 100 bloggers writing about the thing they are most passionate about... the thing that makes them want to investigate, share, research, and debate. The things that jazz them up.

When I had 70 people working at Silicon Alley Reporter I know that half the writers were there because they needed a job and we paid well. Many were writing freelance on the topics they really loved when they got home or on the weekends (truth be told they did it at work too... but who cares, people need to be happy first right?).

Anyway, I'm not sure if we are going to make this model work. The model your propose is very hard on a business level. It takes someone willing to put the business in the hands of the "worker bees," and most folks in publishing hate that idea.

Most CEOs/Publishers think that they know best, but the truth is that the writers on the front line know best. If you step back and just let the writers go nuts, writing whatever they want and then just sell the traffic you can actually get *further* then if you as the publisher try to take/push people somewhere.

It's been crazy, the first 11 months of this business... however, I can tell you that i've never seen a business grow so fast, and I watched Silion Alley Reporter grow from nothing to 12M in revenues over four short (and very hard) years.

This business is a dream come true... if anyone wants to join, email me... jason at calacanis dot com. we don't pay a lot, but we're paying, and every couple of months we pay more.

Soon, we will be able to have bloggers making a living off blogging... not just a 1/4 or a 1/2 a living. That is my goal... I want to be the company that helps people blog for a living.

Posted by: Jason at December 3, 2004 7:29 AM | Permalink

Amen, Mr. Glaser!

I'd like to work there too.

Posted by: Rob at December 3, 2004 10:27 AM | Permalink

I'm forwarding your post to the founder of a weekly email newsletter that I work for. I think we're well on the way to being this sort of media.

Posted by: George Nemeth at December 5, 2004 10:46 AM | Permalink

Mr. Glaser and Mr. Rosen-

You need to start thinking beyond blogs. The next generation is the Civ -- a way to organize content, and aggregate feedback, in a little more manageable way.

Jon

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at December 6, 2004 1:27 AM | Permalink

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