Category Archives: strategy

Participatory Journalism

The Economist recently published a special report on the news industry within which the Internet and social media are identified as the biggest factors influencing the rapid transformations occurring in journalism today.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post reiterates what many of us have already come to embrace —some sooner and more willingly than others:
“They don’t just consume news, they share it, develop it, add to it—it’s a very dynamic relationship with news”.
Perhaps Arianna Huffington is referring to her legion of 9,000 bloggers who regularly contribute to HuffPo’s incredibly diverse content which includes politics, media, business, and entertainment.

Yet it’s not just HuffPo’s (mostly) unpaid pro and aspiring bloggers reporting the news. Everyone it seems now participates in the spontaneous propagation of news online. As Tom Standage puts it, readers [you and I, granny down the street] are being woven into the increasingly complex news ecosystem as sources, participants and distributors.

Nowhere is this more evident than Twitter where daily news events seem to unfold with such immediacy, detail and raw candor, it’s no wonder established news agencies are searching for innovative ways to engage and maintain top of mind relevance with so-called ‘hyper-connected individuals’ —you and I, granny down the street.

We now live in an age with unparalleled access to information. The social Web, driven in part by our natural inclination to share, has completely redefined the existing concept of journalism and what it means to report the news. Yet with so many sources now at our disposal, the only real issue emerging becomes not timeliness or access, but the quality and credibility of news and information.

Granted, there’s a lot of junk out in cyberspace.

As the Web continues to grow it will arguably become much more difficult to filter out the seemingly dubious sources from the dwindling vestiges of authentic information.  And Twitter, for all its potential as a real-time news reporting platform, will likely continue to serve as both an incredible source of news and noise.

In essence I’m wondering, do sites like The Huffington Post and micro-blogging platforms like Twitter reflect a new form of participatory journalism? Does content aggregation and the very concept of ‘open’ contribution undermine or enhance journalism? Maybe the question is, what is journalism in 2011?

Sharing Evolved

google+ project tour screenshot

Sharing information on the Web has become one of the resonant tenets of social media. The latest iteration: the Google+project, seems very promising in part because it aims to make sharing easier and intuitive on what could best be described as a more open and granular level of control.
The idea behind Google+’s ‘sharing circles’ for instance (inspired by real-life circles of friends, I would gather) builds on the idea that people crave more sophisticated filtering tools over what and, more importantly, with whom we’re sharing our bits.

On some levels the Google+ project answers a few of the glaring deficiencies and limitations other social networks seem unable or unwilling to fill.

Twitter for example does not provide an effective means to filter precisely who among your follower list receives a Tweet. You can send individual DMs to followers, but when you Tweet it just gets broadcast out to everyone who follows you—and the entire Web for that matter. I’m willing to bet Kenneth Cole and more recently Jim Redner and his infamous Tweet responding to negative reviews of Duke Nukem Forever, wish they had a Tweet filter at their disposal.
Filtering really only comes into play when you create ‘follow lists’ for incoming Tweets (people you follow) which, if anything, becomes invaluable if the number of people you follow exceeds several hundred or more. But to my knowledge, there aren’t any 3rd party Twitter apps or tools that allow you to selectively filter outgoing Tweets.

On Tumblr the addictive ‘reblog’ feature, as its name implies, allows you to republish post(s) published by one person to your entire network of followers or whoever stumbles across your Tumblog. Yet try reblogging to a select few—say, a small group of work colleagues or strictly to your immediate circle of friends and you’re out of luck.
Tumblr’s reblog, just like many other forms of sharing on the Web, goes out en masse with little to no filtering controls in place.

Facebook of course has a rudimentary set of filtering tools that enable you to select individuals among your friends list receiving specific status updates you’ve posted. You can also block status updates appearing from certain people. Perhaps you’re interested in limiting your exposure to status updates of the nauseatingly trivial variety. These are great tools but unfortunately represent the extent of Facebook’s current vision for user/sharing empowerment. Not to mention Facebook requires you to accept every friend before the sharing can begin. Not the most “open” environment when you think about it.

In any case sharing on the Web seems poised to evolve over the next few years and will likely become much more personalized and natural requiring less effort. If the established social networks are any indication, we’re going to see greater emphasis on collaboration and personal security—or exactly the things Facebook and Twitter neglect to implement or do well.

The Digital Imperative, Again

Not Here, the latest spot in a series of ADs for Yellow Pages’ 360 Solutions advertising platform communicates a short and sweet message: if people can’t find your business online they’re going to find somebody else’s.

The Yellow Pages, once a fixture for small businesses looking to advertise their products and services at the local level, must now leverage digital technologies to remain relevant. Who in recent memory can remember flipping through that massive 25-pound printed version of the Yellow Pages showing up at your front door step? —I can’t, but sure works great as a repurposed doorstop or paper weight.

I wonder if New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger’s admittance at the recent IFRA Conference in London that his company would eventually stop printing physical copies was really met with all that much surprise.