Monday, January 28, 2008

Quick Hits

Felix Salmon has an intriguing analysis over at the Seeking Alpha media blog about why he things the Wall Street Journal will eventually be all or almost all free, despite Rupert Murdoch's announcement last week that parts would remain subscription-only.

I like Salmon's last line: In the age of the internet, reading a newspaper has become a social activity. Murdoch, owner of MySpace, knows full well the value of that activity. Which is why I still think is going to be free, even if it might take a little bit longer than I first thought for that to happen.

"In the age of the internet, reading a newspaper has become a social activity" -- lots to chew on and think about there.

Fred Wilson, former chairman of, has a take on it too -- he's another free WSJ proponent, with this:
Here's the deal. Digital media is not about scarcity and never will be. That's the old media game. Online it's about ubiquity, about being part of the conversation, about links, authority, page rank, and if you are a news organization like the WSJ - its about anchoring the discussion.

Joe Michaud is stepping aside as president of in April to start his own consultancy. As a result, he's become more active on his blog. Some good reading there. Check out his take on the Kindle media reader that Amazon introduced late last year. And pay special attention to his call that in 2008, it's no longer enough to innovate -- it has to be innovation for results in this struggling business.

Dan Kennedy has a nice post on how Gatehouse and the editor at its Danvers, Mass., paper are doing multimedia. This is a good example of Howard Owens' "give them all cameras" philosophy that prompts quality vs. quantity disputes on video message boards and forums.

Watch the video. What do you think? Kennedy has an thoughtful take in the comments area:
My guess is that only a few people will watch it, but that it's the right few people. The people who were interviewed, their families and friends. And now they're all attuned to the fact that their hometown weekly is posting videos, so they'll be more likely to check in the future. This is about the slow work of community-building, not reaching masses of people.

Howard Owens and Howard Weaver have both linked to this post from Zac Echola about how
out how he discovered and consumed news from Saturday's South Carolina primary. Echola, a producer at Forum Communications, is one of those young consumers you drool over. The Howards have reproduced significant parts -- I'm going to make you go read it with this task: Identify when he first went to a mainstream media site.

Speaking of Owens, he has an interesting post from the weekend on the "Six roles, or job duties, of modern journalism" -- ethical, guide/filter, understanding and context, conversation leader, aggregator, straight news.

How many of those are you prepared for? Which ones scare you?

If you're picking up a theme here this morning -- that, as Kennedy says, news is becoming "about community building," you're right.

I did a presentation for the regional American Copy Editors Society meeting this weekend on community building and moderation from what we have learned at Hartsville Today and from what has been learned elsewhere. I'll do a longer post later, but I was struck by how different the "journalist mindset" is from those "out there." Sometimes it's almost counterintuitive.

Quick example from the Nashua, N.H., paper that came up on a discussion group. You have a city councilman who has created multiple pseudonyms on your forums and is making it seem (by posts and responses) that it is more than one person (known as "sock puppeting"). You can tell it is the same person from IP info, etc. Do you out him?

The journalists, of course, hardly missed a beat in saying "yes." And that would be the easy traditional answer -- person in position of trust abuses that trust, even so slightly -- and wham!

But is it possible your online community could read it differently, that instead of doing your job, you are just exhibiting your Zeus-like powers. "Well, if they can out him, they could out me," could be the thinking. And so you lose that member, too. Maybe others. Is is worth destroying the community?

We'll talk more about this later based on this weekend's gig. For now, I just leave you with that to think about.

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