Thursday, June 14, 2007

Is your newsroom a platform, or an application?

Marc Andreessen, in a recent post, has a great explanation of "platform" vs. "application" in today's digtal world.

Essentially, he explains in discussing Facebook's new platform (and keep in mind he's doing a promo job for Facebook here), a platform is open. It has application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow any and all to come up with new, customized parts. An application, on the other hand, is what it is, tweakable by the developer, perhaps, but essentially fixed in its original assumptions and design.

Andreessen uses the example of Wang, which made word processors but which also made the fatal decisions to concentrate only on that and on hardware. Once the PC came along, with its expandable, malleable word processing programs, Wang was toast.

So think of this in relation to your newsroom. Are you an application, maybe with some value to people's lives now, but not very customizable or able to evolve as their lives change? (That's not a new problem -- how many times when the crazies called on Saturday nights did someone mutter, "This would be a great business if it weren't for the readers"?)

Or are you becoming a platform, true to your news values, but "programmable" by your readers so that you listen, they listen and both of you evolve?

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