Monday, October 25, 2004

Lessons from Newsplex No. 4

The evolution from content production and distribution -- in other words, the assembly line that still characterizes most newsrooms -- to information services.

... news is a commodity, but value is placed on services that inform, explain and evaluate ... in whatever medium a customer favors.
In trying to outline the possible future of news work on my other project, the A J-school Year group blog, I came back again to that term rapid relevance. There is a lot of handwringing about how that translates to "me" media and what it will mean for democracy. I think what it means is simply that we must work that much harder to make the important stuff relevant.

That concept of relevance encompasses the dimensions of speed (I want to be able to make quick decisions about what is important at this moment), convenience (I want it when and how I want it, and that could include storing it so I can get to it at my leisure), focus (get to the point, but give me a good read when I want it), depth (let me drill down until I am satisfied), and breadth (show me how it connects to the other things around me). Five major dimensions and several sub-dimensions in each of those: That's what makes this evolution hard, scary and energizing.

Until now, we've pretty much operated in two dimensions (speedy and superficial - broadcast - or slower and more complete - print). More dimensions meant more stress and more uncertainty. But it also means more opportunity, and isn't that why we got into this business?

Kerry Northrup's corollary for managers who must work across media reflects what he sees as this "fundamental shift": Focusing more on content and information management than on traditional production management.

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