The new watchword? Deconvergence — it’s time to separate digital from print

A couple of years ago, when the Seattle Post-Intelligence stopped publishing its newspaper, I suggested that the Seattle Times had a real opportunity to make a serious move into the emerging digital news ecosystem:

First, create geographic-based community sites: Put a pod of jurnos in each of the neighborhoods of Seattle that have a population of about 50,000 people, give or take a few thou. Each pod includes at least two reporters, an ad salesperson, and a community manager. Partner with strong sites that already cover neighborhoods well.  Today, I’d amend that to one jurno and one ad salesperson, and go for neighborhoods with smaller populations. The Times hasn’t done much in this arena except join J-Lab’s Networked Journalism project, in which it provides links to posts from 40 Seattle-area sites. But those links are not on the home page…you have to dip two layers down to find them. [CORRECTION: They ARE on the home page….I completely missed the five links out of the approximately 100 that are on the home page. See Kathy Best’s comment, below, that noted the error. My apologies. However, I stand by my next statement, because I believe that integration means that the content from the sites is integrated throughout the Seattle Times site, including the home page, i.e., treated as if they were part of a news organization  network.] That’s not really developing an integrated network; it’s patting them on the head.

Second, topic-based sites: Do a serious competitive analysis of topic-based beats. Abandon the beats that others own (How’s MaxPreps doing in the Seattle area?) Or partner with them, if you’ve got a strong piece of their action. Build out the beats you still own. Education? Transportation? Environment? Health? And create another pod of jurnos for each of those sites. Reporters, ad salesperson, community manager. Today, I’d add issue-based sites. E.g., in addition to a basic health site, a robust sub-section on health reform. When David Boardman, the Seattle Times’ executive editor, stopped by my office while he was in town last week, I showed him our local health site WellCommons. He commented that he thought that a health niche site wouldn’t work in Seattle, because there are hundreds of good health sites already. But I think it’s a perfect opportunity for the Seattle Times to serve as aggregator and curator, as well as begin the necessary transformation to social journalism. Even when we started WellCommons in Lawrence, KS, I thought developing a regional social journalism health site would be much easier in a larger metro area. (We’re above 100K page views a month now…not too shabby for a population base of 115,000 in Lawrence & Douglas County.)

Here's a rough graphic representation of the mini-metro network. Sumopaint's terrific online software, but it can't improve bad art skills. I'll ask my friend and graphics expert Val to fix it up, after folks send in some ideas on how to improve it.

Here’s a rough graphic representation of the mini-metro network.

Third, I envisioned the Times still putting out a newspaper, but suggested that, eventually, it might not appear every day.

Today, I say: Deconverge. Spin off print from digital. Separate management. Separate P&L. Separate buildings. Separate ad and content staff.

A year ago, you never would have heard me suggest that. Clinging to a fatal optimism, I still believed that newspaper culture could grow and change.

But I began heading in the deconvergence direction last year, when we began talking about developing a digital news network. The person to lead that network would need experience in digital ad networks, digital news, mobile and social media, we said. And nobody that person hired would need to come from a print background. We conceived of it as separate, because we didn’t want to “saddle” the organization with the print culture, we said. Hmmm. The word “saddle” should have been a big light in the sky.

My tipping point was on a particular frustrating day, when I watched, for the second time, Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media CEO Clark Gilbert’s presentation to Borrell Associates Local Mobile Advertising conference last September. At the end of the presentation, Gordon Borrell asked Gilbert if he was optimistic about the newspaper industry. “No,” he said. “Not at all.” He paused. “Am I optimistic that there is a path to doing it (making a transition)? Absolutely.”

Gilbert, who has studied companies and industries in transition at Harvard Business School, pointed out this fascinating and very scary fact: of the companies comprising any industry affected by disruptive technologies, only 9 percent survive. And 100 percent of those 9 percent follow a particular pattern. A key is investing in the future. “Do you want to ride this thing down? Or do you want to invest for the future?” he asked.
The cold reality is this: you can’t have  these two different cultures in the same organization anymore. They set up camps. They expend energy fighting each other for the same resources instead of toward creative efforts to improve their organizations. That’s what led to the demise of TBD.com.

Slide from Clark Gilbert presentation

Gilbert provided a list of what the 9 percent of surviving companies do. In case you can’t make out the text in the slide, the items are:

  • Separate physical location
  • Separate P&L
  • Separate direct sales
  • Separate content, product, and technology teams
  • Separate management structures

Does this mean that news organizations could have/should have spun off digital several years ago? Maybe. But it’s likely that approach would have resulted in a rapid disappearance and even more shrinkage of print-based journalism organizations that had served their communities for more than 100 years. Traditional newspaper culture — and tv culture for that matter — still had too strong a hold for organizations to invest as they should have in digital. And, as they started the first big downhill financial slide, the traditional culture would have been likely to set digital free as an entity that did not have the history with the community or the long-held trust, and settled for riding print down. Instead, here we are in 2011 where most traditional news organizations have laid off staff to preserve profits, merged digital and print newsrooms, and many are beginning to develop digital sales staff to capture appropriate ad revenues.

But now, if they don’t spin off the digital versions of themselves, invest in their future, and let print find its own level, they’ll die and take everyone in their organizations down with them.

So, following Gilbert’s list, they can separate the organizations’ P&L, sales staff, tech staff, management and put them in different physical locations. But the crux of the situation is: What to do about content? The tables have turned. For digital to thrive, and print to continue to be profitable while continuing to shrink and find its place in the new news ecosystem, we now have to repurpose web content to print. Print can’t afford the same compliment of writers and photographers parallel to those in the digital organization.

In the digital news organization, jurnos just focus on building and managing their communities, their web and mobile coverage. In the print organization, a distribution desk repurposes digital content for print. Maybe a couple of print-centric staff writers provide Sunday feature stories, but that depends on who the print audience is and what they want. Oh, yeah — it’s important to know who your print audience is, and who your online community is. Spend the money for good market analyses of newspaper and digital sites.

Also, make print a little more digital — more graphics, more photos, don’t force narrative into coverage that doesn’t need it (city council meetings, school closings, etc.) — so that the information that jurnos provide in their digital posts can appear the same in print.

btw, the opposite of converge is diverge. But I didn’t think that “diverge” encompasses the flavor of the situation traditional organizations find themselves in. Hence, deconvergence. Of course, unconvergence would work. Disconvergence could be a word that describes the current dissonant nature of convergence. Any other suggestions?

Talkin’ about….WellCommons

For the last year, I’ve been head-down in development. My (poor neglected) blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts have seen few words, photos, graphs or video. However, now my head’s finally up, and it’s time to talk about what much of that last year has been about: WellCommons, the new local health site that we at the Lawrence Journal-World recently launched.

OMG! It doesn't look like a news web site!

It combines social media and journalism. We think it’s what journalism looks like in a social media world. It’s a little WordPress, a little Ning, a little Facebook, a little Twitter, all embedded in a safe place and a trusted source, which is what journalism is supposed to be for a community (in addition to the watchdog role). It’s unlike anything in the digital news arena, as far as we know. We launched it in beta at the end of February, it went “official” in April, and we are now continuing to nurture it and watch it grow.

Several aspects of WellCommons and Ellington Community are unique:

The site resolves the “signal to noise” complaint about the web. In other words, its architecture helps people assess the reliability of content.

One ingredient of WellCommons’ secret sauce is that it is built around groups that all function the same way, whether started by a reporter or a community member. The other is that all participants use their real names.

This is how WellCommons works: Anyone can start a group (as long as it’s related to health). If you start a group, you put your content into “news” and “resources”. People who join your group put their content into the “commons” section. Participants are able to judge the quality of the information, depending on if it’s in a group’s news or resources section (content posted by the group “owner”) or the commons section (where anybody can post), and by knowing who posted the information.

Anyone who contributes to the site — reporter or member of the community alike — does so in the same way, through a public-facing web-based interface. Participants can also follow and message each other within the site, repost, and send posts to Facebook and Twitter.

WellCommons’ approach to health reporting is community-based and solution-oriented. Most health sites focus on personal health — what individuals can do to improve their own or their families’ health. But at a local level, health is a community issue. For example, we’re all supposed to get regular checkups. But does everyone in a community have access to good health care? Our kids are supposed to eat healthy food, but do school lunch programs provide that? We’re all supposed to exercise, but does a community have enough safe places to walk, jog, bike and play outdoors?

The site provides a new advertising model. We believe businesses that provide health products and services are a vital part of the community, and should be included. Businesses can start their own group pages; they pay to do so. They have direct access to and conversations with members of the community. They can buy display ads, which, at the moment, look like traditional display ads. Eventually, those ads themselves will become social media-enabled, with content that the business can change.

We put the site together with continual input from the local health community. About 40 people — from nonprofits and the local hospital, physicians, health advocates, people who were uninsured, locavores, etc. — met regularly with the news organization’s working group, and still meet quarterly.

That’s enough for the moment. In subsequent posts, I’ll cover more of the thinking and development that went into Ellington Community and WellCommons, including comments from folks who are using it, and will answer the burning questions: Why did this happen at the Lawrence Journal-World? and…How does the Reynolds Journalism Institute fit in?

I’ll also look at the long list of changes and additions we have planned. That list is long: adding databases and resources, a goals app, allowing people to post photos from their computers (right now they have to post a Flickr url), adding topics pages (yes, Web shells!), quizzes, letting people sign on with their Facebook or Twitter accounts, etc. We’ll also be adding another jurno (we have one amazing one now — Karrey Britt), so that we have the bandwidth to do indepth and investigative stories.

Making a Living with QuincyNews.org

When Bob Gough lost his job as news director at a Quincy, IL, TV station in October 2007, he had a choice: Move tquincynewso another city or figure out another way to stay in the journalism biz in Quincy. He didn’t want to move — Quincy was his home. He had a wife with a successful career there, and three kids who weren’t keen on pulling up roots.

So, he figured out another way: He found a couple of local investors and, on April 28, 2008, launched a local Web-based news organization: QuincyNews.org.

The good news: he’s making a living….$1,000/week. He loves what he’s doing. The site is growing. And so far there isn’t any bad news.

Check out all the details, from soup to nuts, in ReJurno’s latest case study. And if there’s anything else you want to know, just ask and we’ll be glad to provide more info.

A Modest Proposal, Part Two (for the Jurnos on the Sidewalk)

The Rocky Mountain News published for the last time today. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is next, with its last day likely to be sometime early in March. The Hearst Corporation is threatening closure of the San Francisco Chronicle if it can’t shrink that news organization to zombie status. rockymt(Definition of a zombie newspaper: a skeleton staff operating in an organization that provides them little support, no room to make a complete transition to the Web and holds a death-grip on the paper instead of modernizing it. There are a few out there already. Candidates, anyone?)

My previous post was a modest proposal for the Seattle Times. This one’s for the jurnos left standing on the sidewalk when a metro abruptly closes its doors.

Start your own geographic-based or topic-based Web organizations. Others have, and are making a living, or are closing in on that goal. Yesterday, David Westphal highlighted a few, including the Ann Arbor Chronicle, Baristanet, BlackWhiteRead’s group of community sites, Cornwall-on-Hudson, WestSeattleBlog, QuincyNews.org and New West. Around the country, a plethora of local ad-supported news annarbororganizations popping up. Journalists aren’t waiting; they’re keeping journalism alive in their communities and providing themselves a living.

Many folks have said that one small community news organization in a metropolitan area isn’t going to replace the heft of a large metropolitan daily, such as a San Francisco Chronicle or Seattle Times. That’s true. But many Web-centric news organizations in a regional network can and will. In the previous post, I used my puny artistic skills to produce a graphic of a mini-metro network. The network comprises two main parts: geographic-based sites and topic-based sites. Seattle’s growing both.

Besides WestSeattleBlog, there’s CapitolHillSeattle, run by Justin Carder, who’s part of a start-up that has spun off Ravenna Nation and The South Lake. There’s also MyBallard, myballardpart of Cory and Kate Bergman’s Next Door Media group that includes Fremont Universe, Queen Anne View, Magnolia Voice and Phinney Wood. I’m sure there are others that aren’t mentioned here, and I apologize for leaving you out.

Seattle also has ad-supported topic-based sites. There’s TechFlash (“Seattle’s technology news source”), co-founded by John Cook, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter. TechFlash partnered up with the Puget Sound Business Journal, which publishes a weekly business paper, and is owned by American City Business techflashJournals, which owns business journals (print and Web) in 42 cities. (As a resource for other jurnos who want to start Web-based news organizations, we’ll be doing detailed case studies on these and others, similar to the case study about WestSeattleBlog.)

Although local sites can operate independently, they’ll have more clout and more money if they develop their own smart network. A smart network shares trusted information on the fly, pings reporters in one site with relevant information from other sites, and enables targeted advertising. The jurnos within the network maintain control of their own sites, and share advertising across the network.

The extra revenue could help with the nuts and bolts of running a business: liability insurance, health benefits,  income to hire local freelancers to do special projects or to spell reporters when they want to take a vacation or must deal with medical issues.

So, all this is to say that if the Seattle Times (or San Francisco Chronicle or Chicago Tribune or Philadelphia Inquirer or Denver Post) doesn’t agree with Modest Proposal #1, and becomes a zombie paper or closes, there’s an opportunity for the jurnos on the sidewalk.

In David Westphal’s blog post, there was this from Tracy Record, editor of WestSeattleBlog::

I am adamant about the ‘hyper-local’ space being a place for local independents. I am sick to death of these national VC-funded operations (Patch, American Towns, whoever else) trying to swoop in and say, ‘Hey! We’re your plug-and-play hyperlocal news!’ No, you are NOT. Nor is a voiceless aggregator. Let’s not let this precious new type of coverage be poisoned the way the ‘big corporate media’ world evolved from local, independently owned tv/newspapers/whatever … It may happen eventually but don’t smother this industry from birth!

Every community has different needs, and must be served by someone who tailors the service based on what they learn in interaction with their community. I WISH that the people throwing money around would share some with those of us who are bootstrapping, rather than yet ANOTHER aggregator, or sharing site, or whatever. THIS is where the action is happening and the future is being paved. But I can’t get a Whatever Grant to so much as give me the time of day. Just not considered sexy enough to be busting your butt uncovering and/or sharing information and news in real-time re: your community.

I agree with Tracy. News, local or otherwise, has to be reported by someone who really knows their community…BEFORE they start reporting for it. A newcomer to doing news the Web way surprised me by understanding that instantly. Mallory Perryman, one of the Missouri School of Journalism students who’s part of a group that’s developing a local health site, was presenting the storyboard, or information architecture, for her section– affordable mental health. She’s spent the last couple of weeks mapping the mental health community in Boone County — identifying the communities, people and organizations that are involved or affected. In her storyboard, she included the basics — the beatblog, resources, data, etc. But there wasn’t a spot for traditional indepth storytelling. When I asked her about that, she said, “I’m not ready to do something big like that. Maybe after three years or so, after I get to really know the beat.”

In Webworld, How Do You Charge Money for a Flight 1549 Story?

Over the last couple of weeks, several articles have appeared about how to pay for journalism, mostly journalism in legacy media, mostly metropolitan newspapers. In Time Magazine, Walter Isaacson suggested micropayments were the answer. Steven timeBrill offered the New York Times a solution involving micropayments. David Swensen, Yale University’s chief investment officer, and Michael Schmidt, a financial analyst at Yale, suggested endowments for news organizations. (Here’s a thorough list of recent opinions about paying for content that Mathew Ingram put together.) Len Witt suggested a cooperative trust.

The back-and-forth between Len and Vin Crosbie in the comments is worth taking a look at, because Vin noted something important:

Newspapers shouldn’t be saved. Their staffs, practices and products need to change.

Case in point: Let’s take a look at what happened when US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River on Jan. 15 after a bird strike shut down the engines. The news hit Twitter first — a photo from a cell phone, and people who saw the plane hitting the water. People on the ferries who rescued passengers took photos and sent them to Flickr. TV news crews flew helicopters over the scene and transmitted live video, pieces of which appeared on YouTube. USAirways posted regular updates on its Web site. The FAA issued public statements. CNN and AP, among many others, issued alerts that were constantly updated. Blogs picked up the news and spread it.

So, how does a reader-paid content model for such news work? What individual story about Flight 1549 would you pay 10 or 20 cents for? Do newspapers really think they have a chance of charging even micropayments for their news in such a situation? (Here’s Michael Kinsley’s take on this in a NYTimes’ op-ed “You Can’t Sell News by the Slice”.) Everybody’s on that story, including non-journalists.  (And sending out a swarm of reporters and photographers for a little piece of exclusive detail is cost-prohibitive, as Newsweek has determined. The New York Times reports that the weekly magazine won’t do that anymore. It quoted Newsweek editor Jon Meacham as saying: “The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.”)

People who say that readers should pay for news still think in terms of an individual article, with a beginning, middle and end. Something that can stand alone and be packaged to sell alone. However, in a Webcentric world, the daily stand-alone story morphs into serial, collaborative beat blogs. Most reporting will be done WITH the community. Most blog posts won’t make sense if they stand alone — they can only be understood in context of what’s come before, or related linked information.

So, if it doesn’t make sense for news organizations to charge for news that everybody has, such as the amazing story of Flight 1549, or to charge for individual blog posts, because they don’t have enough context AND they’re collaboratively reported (does the community member who provided information get a cut?), what could news organizations charge for?

Even in a world where the blogging format dominates, there’s a place for iconic storytelling, investigative reporting, the status-of article that wraps everything up prior to a vote or public policy decision. But how much of a metro news organization’s content is this? Enough to support a 200-person news organization and keep it afloat in a sea of free content?

Probably not. The days of large metro newsrooms churning out general-interest, been-there-done-that, stand-alone, we-talk-you-listen reporting are waning. Communities were growing tired of that before the Web appeared on the scene.

It’s likely that large metros will be replaced by lots of small news organizations, as the explosion of (many ad-supported) niche-based organizations, geographic and topic-based, continues. In organizations that are making just enough money to support a staff that provides daily coverage, there may still be a need for extra funding for an investigative story or in-depth story. In those cases, perhaps a Spot.Us approach can work. Only, however, if that story relates to an issue about which the community’s already expressed concern, AND if the journalist stays with the issue until it’s been resolved.

Spot.Us sells itself is as people requesting journalists to do one-off stories, or journalists pitching one-off stories to the community for funding. In response to an LA Times column by James Rainey about the weakness of the stories done so far, David Cohn says that he’s creating code that any news organization can use as it sees fit — i.e., Spot.Us is not a product, it’s a platform.

My hunch is that a loose network of small news organizations within a metropolitan area will need more than a Spot.Us platform. They’ll need a way to share trusted information with each other, they’ll need a way to collaborate on issues, they’ll need a way to share ad revenue across the network, and they’ll need a way to raise extra funding for those indepth stories.

Who out there is putting that together?

NYT’s Carr Doesn’t Understand Webworld

In yesterday’s NYT, David Carr suggested that Steve Jobs’ iTunes model, in which many people pay a tiny amount for stories, might serve as a way of convincing people to pay for news.

Those of us who are in the newspaper business could not be blamed for hoping that someone like him comescarrstory1 along and ruins our business as well by pulling the same trick: convincing the millions of interested readers who get their news every day free on newspapers sites that it’s time to pay up.

I respectfully disagree with almost everything that Carr said, as well as his reasoning. It seems as if he doesn’t understand the newspaper business. More importantly, he doesn’t understand the new Web medium that is replacing print, radio and TV as the world’s principle principal communications medium.

In Webworld, stand-alone stories won’t be the norm; contextual beat-blogging will be. (On many sites, it already is.) In Webworld, news and information is collaborative. In Webworld, a jurno becomes a community manager of news and information. So, for much of news, it will become practically impossible to isolate an individual blog post to sell it. And the question arises: if news and information is a collaborative work, who owns the information?

A few words about the dilemma of metropolitan newspapers, and then I’ll yammer on a bit more about Webworld: Metros aren’t imploding because advertising can’t support them. What’s crushing them is mountains of debt; news corporations no longer have the 30 percent profit margins they hoped would pay off that debt. Thousands of other small dailies and weeklies are still doing fine with display ads, in print AND on their Web sites. (For now — eventually, they’ll have to make the transition, too.)

And a few more words…about convincing people to pay for news: They haven’t paid for news for decades; why should they start now? Newspapers have been 80 – 85 percent supported by advertising.

Back to Webworld. Here’s where Mr. Carr shows he doesn’t understand the Web medium:

Then again, a friend in the business sent me a link to an item in TechCrunch (yes, it was also free) that described a gadget that actually might work for newspapers.

“Expect a large screen iPod touch device to be released in the fall of ’09, with a 7 or 9 inch screen,” the item suggested.

The device would allow scanning of pages with a flick of the finger. It sounds promising for newspapers and magazines. Now all we need is a business model to go with it.

The basic nature of the Web medium is that it is participatory, interactive, contextual, solution-oriented, and uses a combo of photos, video, audio, graphics, and text (i.e., it is multimedia-oriented). People like this. Hundreds of millions of them enthusiastically use the Web this way. They converse; make and send photos, music, video; share info and news. Most will never want to scan a non-interactive page. They’re integrating the medium into their lives so completely that it’s like electricity — they use it without thinking about it. They expect journalism to adapt to the new medium, too.

Hence, to adapt to this medium, the way journalism works is changing.

As I mentioned above, in Webworld, stand-alone problem-oriented stories are replaced by beat-blogging — continuous, contextual, solution-oriented beat-blogging. (See the info in the tabs above for much more detail, and please add your own ideas — the info in the tabs is just a starting point.) Solution-oriented does NOT mean a jurno provides answers. It means the jurno follows the issue until it’s resolved to the satisfaction of the community, AND the jurno provides links and resources for people to become involved at many different levels. In beat-blogging, the jurno includes its community members as collaborators and supporters. Community includes business owners who sell products and services.

There are plenty of examples to show that many jurnos grok Webworld and are using most of its characteristics. WestSeattleBlog. Baristanet. MaxPreps. Marketwatch. There are many others. All these organizations are Web-based, and all are ad-supported.

As journalism moves into Webworld, it’s likely that many different forms of success will emerge. At the Reynolds Journalism Institute, we’re establishing the RJI Collaboratory — a Web-based news organization incubator — to provide some useful roadmaps for journalists who want to make the transition. We don’t know what all those forms will look like or how they will function. But it’s clear that all must embrace the nature of the medium if they want to thrive.

We’re hosting a Talkfest next week to start this process, and we’ll launch the RJI Collaboratory Network at the same time.

We have a few initial hypotheses about what may happen over the next five years. It’s very clear that the days of large metros employing 300 reporters is gone. There’s probably a place for the mile-wide, inch-deep approach that’s characterized most large metro (and local TV news, for that matter). (Aggregators like Huffington Post are an example.) But not until there’s enough inch-wide, mile-deep news and information to support it. Many of us believe that the first to fill the metro-newspaper vacuum will be hundreds of small news organizations, each operated by two, three or four jurnos. These jurnos will blog their beats. They will collaborate with their communities. they will serve their communities, whether they are geographic- or topic-based.

How many small news organizations will replace one metro is hard to say. Can an urban neighborhood of 100,000 people support one small news organization or four? How many businesses need to be in that community to support a news organization? What are they willing and able to pay? How much does it cost for jurnos to start such organizations? What do they need? What’s the financial progression? If a small news organization can be supported by display ads from small mom-and-pop businesses, how does the ad model change over time? There are a ton of other questions. We hope to have some answers by the end of this year.

Back to Mr. Carr. I can’t fault him for his beliefs. He’s probably seeing the world from the point of view of the New York Times. But the Times doesn’t represent the predominant model any more. It — with the Washington Post, NPR, Wall Street Journal and USA Today — are in their own class. They’re much larger, have a bigger financial cushion, and are able to move much more slowly. They’ve made significant progress toward Webworld, and they have many good people within their organizations pushing them. But they’ll end up immersed in Webworld, too, someday.

One telling example of the world in which Mr. Carr lives: although you can comment on some NYT articles, you can’t comment on Mr. Carr’s.

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It’s Not About The Business Plan

Business plan. Business model. Business plan. Business model. Jeez Louise it seems that’s all you hear about these days. To survive in Webworld, it’s going to take a lot more than developing a new business plan. To adapt to Webworld, the entire approach to news has to change. No business model will help. If you start a Web site, and it looks and functions just like the site that traditional news organizations are doing, it won’t survive.

Lots of folks blame the Internet for screwing up the newspaper business plan. But even without the Internet, newspapers would be in trouble. The dirty secret is that newspapers were losing readers LLOOONNNNGGGGG before the Internet started seeping into our lives. [Weekday newspaper readers had already dropped, from 77.6 percent of the U.S. population in 1970 to 58.6 in 1998]. As the shift to national ads, national reporting, the emphasis on prizes, and corporatizing — being beholden to shareholders — trumped listening and staying focused on serving their communities, journalists, especially in metro areas, had begun losing touch with their communities, which included their local advertisers.

No matter now. Onward.

Webworld demands context. So, Nujurno is an inch wide and a mile deep. (Oldjurno is a mile wide and an inch deep.) It’s not just about the stand-alone story anymore. It’s about never-ending stories in context, embedded in a matrix of really useful information (solution-oriented).

Why am I prattling on about this? Because in Webworld, the news structure — what’s covered and how news is presented — is completely different, which makes how reporters do their jobs very different, too. By focusing on that aspect first, we will figure out how to support and sustain it.

In Michael Hirschorn’s very interesting column about the transition facing the New York Times in the Jan-Feb 2009 Atlantic, there was this:

Like neighboring hospitals coordinating their purchases of expensive MRI equipment, journalistic outlets will discover that the Web allows (okay, forces) them to concentrate on developing expertise in a narrower set of issues and interests, while helping journalists from other places and publications find new audiences.

That’s a very good observation, and it’s been happening outside traditional news organizations for the last several years, as other folks (some abandoning the ranks of traditional journalism to do so) grokked the nature of the Web very quickly and created Web-based social/news/information networks. These include Marketwatch, MaxPreps, and Theknot.com. [Hirschorn may not be on target with some of his financial assessment, according to Rick Edmonds at Poynter, but that’s a separate issue.]

At the November 2008 New Business Models for News Summit at CUNY, many good ideas emerged. But they stopped short of Continue reading