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April 27, 2005

The Migration

"While people in the old press pack up, and tell stories about giants they knew in the era when... they are also asking each other: where headed? As in: How are your people planning to make it across?" Plus: Podcasted radio is here; Infinity goes open source in SF.

The instant literature on what Jeff Jarvis has been calling the tipping point continues to grow. Kevin Roderick at LA Observed headlined his post: Critical Mass.

It has been pointed out that tipping point talk is cheap. But Infinity Broadcasting actually tipped over today. It went from radio by professional broadcasters to radio by open source podcasters— at one station. Starting right away.

On May 16, Infinity Broadcasting’s KYCY-AM in San Francisco will drop its talk-radio format and switch to broadcasting its listeners’ own podcasts. It’ll also stream those podcasts from the domain Open Source Radio.

Beginning today, listeners will be able to upload their podcasts of varying lengths for free at, where podcasts will be chosen by the broadcaster. Infinity Broadcasting says that the pod programming will be determined by listener interests and feedback, and evaluated on a daily basis.

That’s according to Vin Crosbie in Poynter’s E-media blog. According to management at the “flipped” station:

KYOURADIO is the first radio station in the world to get all of its programming from podcasts. Everyday we’ll feature new, innovative and cutting edge programs produced by people like you. Your original thoughts and sounds will be broadcast in San Francisco on the revolutionary 1550 KYCY-AM and streamed worldwide at

If that can happen one day, anything can happen the next. People in journalism know this. They are packing their things for the big digital migration— metaphor by Murdoch. They’re recalling what they loved about the long newspaper era. And they’re telling each other stories about the new land and what life will be like.

“Working at a major metropolitan newspaper these days can feel a bit like working for the East German Politburo, circa 1988,” jokes Andrés Martinez, editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, in today’s pages. “It’s a good gig with great benefits, and people seek you out at cocktail parties, but you have this sense that your days are numbered.”

Yes, like days til departure are numbered. His colleague in the opinion section, Bob Sipchen, told last night’s forum on blogging in L.A. that he “always thought of the Times as a heavy battleship under steam, regarding its critics as no more important than swimmers in the water throwing dead fish at it.” (Via a report by Mack Reed in, a fomer Times guy himself.)

The politburo late in the game. The big battleship that daily journalism once was. Critics throwing dead fish. What images, these. Martinez points out how the more nimble bloggers are “eating our lunch, especially in my niche of opinion journalism.” True for a while, now in the L.A. Times true.

“Meanwhile, we say farewell to a great body of lore.” Richard Brookheiser’s mood in today’s New York Observer is elegiac.

Memorable headlines: “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” “HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR.” National Review, irked at the wall-to-wall coverage of the Pentagon Papers, writing its own and fooling The Washington Post. John Corry writing up the premiere of 42nd Street, at which David Merrick announced Gower Champion’s death at the curtain. Claudia Rosett, reporting from Tiananmen Square. Rewriting this column on Sept. 11, 2001. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, all their successors up to John F. Burns—good night, guys, good night.

See you on the other side? Well, maybe. Here’s a view from Austria of what it looks like for newspaper people (by Helge Fahrnberger.) Nothing revolutionary, but a plausible sketch of what newspapers could be migrating to.

The very possibility of an international solution to problems forcing digital migration in journalism hasn’t been aired in our press councils, as far as I know. But it’s a plausible thing.

Infinity taking KYCY-AM into open source is different. That’s a post-migration idea. And it could be a revolution in radio programming. It depends, in part, on how de-controlled Infinity is willing to be. (Scroll for Chris Lydon’s reactions in “After Matter.”)

“The new WSJ, NYT and WaPo will be interesting and useful, but they won’t be what they were,” suggests Brookheiser, projecting forward. “Other newspapers will dwindle to sheets of shopping coupons, with notices of weddings and school-board meetings.”

Martinez points out who the big players are today. “The L.A. Times’ owner, Tribune Co., can probably be had for about $15 billion, if anyone is interested. Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, is a steal these days, with a market capitalization below $3 billion. Google’s value often fluctuates by that amount in one day of trading.”

The mightiest daily of them all, the Wall Street Journal, where any number of J-gods live (Only Website Able to Charge) is just a blip in the finances of Google. Humbling.

So while people in the old press pack up, and tell stories about giants they knew in the era when… they are also asking each other: where headed? As in: How are your people planning to make it across? The more clear headed among them are starting to feel it: we’ll see each other on the other side. (A long way from: I’m not going anywhere, and you can’t make me.)

And as the preparations are made the headlines keep landing, where they have for years: “Newspapers struggle to avoid their own obit.” Christian Science Monitor two days ago.

I agree with those who say: it’s not the newspapers, it’s the journalism we need to guide across. Right now, a lot of our journalism is organized in the fossil form of newspaper production routines— trapped there, we might say.

As Tim Porter reminds us, the principal producers of journalism (blogging’s raw material) are the 55,000 journalists the newspaper industry employs in this country. PressThink is not about “newspaper” anything, but it is about those people, and where their discussion is at.

Here’s a snippet from my play, The Migration, based on all these events. It checks in with the big newspapers on their plans.

Wall Street Journal, how do you plan to make it over?

We have a pay model, we’re going to stick with it for now. Once we’re in the open ocean who knows. We’ll be doing other things too.

Man I wish we had that. Good luck. See you on the other side.

Washington Post, Washington Post, how are you going to make it over?

We’re going with free high-quality branded content; local, national and international reach; intelligent interactive features that work. We’ll add personalization. Washington is Washington and we have it covered. That means we can hold the influentials along with a larger online tide.

The influence model, great idea. But have you asked yourself: where do the politics come from? Hope it works. We’ll see ya over there, W.P.

New York Times, New York Times, how do you—

Look, we can’t tell you yet.

Okay, okay. It’s that people are asking about a high church in the new space. Well, I guess we’ll see ya over there, New York Times.

LA Times, LA Times, we have to ask: do you even plan to make the migration over to…

Our plans are in flux, but we have some, and you might be very surprised.

Okay, we’ll be watching.

Say, do you know about this stand alone journalism going on over there? And open source journalism— a buzzword, or is that real?

See ya over there, LA Times.

Tribune, Tribune…

Contemplating the migration, Brookheiser wrote today the words of a true conservative: “The new world will not be better, despite the chest-thumping of the blogosphere, only differently bad (and differently good).” His own plan for making it over: “I will keep doing what I have been trained to do, modified by what I must do.”

A lot of people in Big Journalism are feeling modified by a must; the “tipping” sensation comes in part from that. Meanwhile, in the younger ranks they are restless, and have every right to be. About The Mood of the Newsroom and other circulating calls Matt Thompson of Snarkmarket says: “I thought the pioneers of the media future had all settled on these points long ago and since moved on to more interesting things.”

Infinity just did that. It moved the ball.

After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

As was probably evident, I’m not really writing a play. That was blogger’s license.

Every day another sign of the Old Regime passing. Bob Benz, general manager of print web operations for E.W. Scripps, and Mike Phillips, editorial director for the company’s newspaper division, publish Time for a change: The Associated Press as Napsterized news, arguing for a new method of sharing content that would replace the AP at lower cost. The AP, the authors suggest, cannot make the digital migration. (Earlier: Phillips letter to PressThink on the sale.)

“Has Infinity found a way out into the open air?”

Chris Lydon, host of the soon-to-be-launched radio program, Open Source (press release) which aspires to be Net-savvy, blog-aware public radio, e-mails PressThink with his reaction to commercial radio’s open source news:

Well, the rush is on. The devil take the hindmost, and all that. But the Infinity deal sounds fishy to me— like these awful little features on network (and cable) news when they animate the clicking on a website and the reading-aloud of a blog post; not to mention the food-fight enactment of blog combat, which David Weinberger and others have gagged on.

So corporate media has caught on to blogging! And now they jump at the podcast idea. The big money seems to see the end of their own cul-de-sac of institutionalized news and information, but has Infinity found a way out into the open air? Only time will tell, as they love to sign off. You can see some of our thinking on our work-in-progress notepad. Back to you, Jay.

I love it: competition in citizens media. Who’s Chris Lydon and why am I supposed to care? See too: The Lydon Tapes.

Now this is my idea of a poetic argument.

Wired News account by Xeni Jardin: Podcasting Killed the Radio Star. “Podcasting will soon break out of the ‘pod’ and onto the public airwaves. The world’s first all-podcast radio station will be launched on May 16 by Infinity Broadcasting, the radio division of Viacom….”

For citizen journalists, this part seemed like the most critical part of the announcement:

The station’s producers will screen submitted content to ensure it meets quality standards and does not violate FCC broadcast guidelines. Approved podcasts will be simultaneously broadcast over the AM airwaves and streamed online at

In addition to the newfound reach promised by radio broadcast, podcasters may be free to include in their podcasts some music from major record labels, Infinity said.

The company said it plans to cover the cost of music-licensing fees, which are prohibitively high for most individuals.

From the Washington Post account:

The playlists of corporate-owned stations lack soul, formats bear a bewildering assortment of subcategorizations that reek of slavish devotion to focus group results, and more and more of each hour of radio is being taken up by ear-shattering commercials.

Contempt for the listener — disguised as catering to audience desires — is a loathsome-yet-expected hallmark of the radio industry. That’s why Infinity Broadcasting ‘s move to go “all-iPod” on one of its California stations is a surprising and hopeful sign of things to come.

Paid Content on the announcement: “This is big, at least in terms of intent.”

Rex Hammock is tracking reactions to the Infinity Move.

Jeff Jarvis has reactions: Your radio is big news, he says. But it will be bigger when it’s “our radio.”

At YOURadio, there are still executives picking what goes onto THEIR air.

At OURadio, WE the audience will pick what goes on OUR radio from what WE the producers make; there will be no difference between audience and producer, there will be no THEM: It’s all OURs.

That is where this road is going. And we’re still driving.

Still, I’m delighted by YOURadio.

Via Jeff, a young skeptic, MasterMaq: “This isn’t podcasting at all.”

Dave Slusher: “They are taking citizen media they get for free, airing it on an obscure AM station and getting paid for it. What an uncompelling proposition for me and any other podcaster.”

Infinity Brodcasting’s press release: New Radio Platform To Be Featured On San Francisco’s KYCY-AM And KYOURADIO.COM.

The Washington Post on political talk radio’s decline, post-election. Cyclical or…not?

Alan Mutter, Quit bellyaching and get to work. “Far from being one of those former journalists who is glad to be out of the business,” Mutter writes, “I envy each of you this extraordinary opportunity.” His post is a must for any twenty-something journalist hanging around PressThink.

If you subscribe to PressThink via RSS you may want to note that I am now sending out full text feeds. There are buttons for both summaries and full text at the bottom of the left rail.

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice has begun a special feature “excerpting bloggers who use solid journalistic techniques that live up to the form’s potential.” By potential he means original reporting, new information, interviews and the like.’s new executive editor Jim Brady tells Mark Glaser of Online Journalism Review about remaining a free service:

If you look at companies that are looking at a pay model right now and the viral nature of the Web today, charging for content takes you out of play in terms of blogs linking to you, takes you out of play in terms of search engines surfacing you. So once you decide to put that pay wall up, you’ve limited your audience not only to the people who directly will come to your site but your ability to get other people into your site sideways.

From my exchange with Matt Thompson at Snarkmarket:

I do care very much about the traditional news providers, and I want them to be involved in what’s happening. I work for what I’d say is the biggest, most sophisticated newsgathering operation in Fresno County, and I’m horrified by the thought of this poor, beaten-up region losing the best journalism it’s got. At the same time, I think we sometimes squander our energy on bringing our newsrooms along for the revolution at the expense of guiding that revolution along.

More from Andrés Martinez in the LA Times:

Like Murdoch, I remain optimistic that there is a great deal of opportunity in this migration, even if newspaper types in the long run lose direct control over the distribution of our product, much as movie studios did when they had to divest their theater chains. Our content, like the studios’, will remain valuable on other distribution channels… a company like Amazon could buy a prestigious newspaper publisher and reinvent itself as a portal, leapfrogging over those that treat news updates as a commodity.

Derek Rose of the New York Daily News at his blog:

Yeah, sure, declining circulation, bleah bleah bleah. Newspapers have been under pressure from TV for years — that’s nothing new. We’re still very profitable. And our entire product is available for online, for free — and yet people are willing to pay to have it delivered to their door! Or for a copy they can read on the subway. That’s pretty cool.

Mark on Media, A surly mood. “There is so much potential that is not just being unrealized, but unrecognized.”

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Posted by Jay Rosen at April 27, 2005 1:58 PM