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Home » Social Media News

The evolution of news

Submitted by on November 19, 2008 – 11:30 amOne Comment

Though Blogging The Bloggers is about social media in all its forms, one of the principal areas of activity lately has been in the publishing sector, to which today’s edition is devoted. Normal coverage resumes tomorrow.

In case you’ve missed it, the publishing industry is in the middle of a meltdown; every day brings news of more layoffs as traditional publishers and broadcasters restructure their operations to ride out the recession. (Tim Holmes, journalism lecturer at Cardiff University and former magazine publisher, has somewhat morbidly started a blog to track this transformation in the UK media.)

But as in all industries, a breakdown in traditional models inspires innovation. Jeff Jarvis is full of praise for Richard Pérez-Peña’s New York Times article about the rise of web-based non-profit journalism. Jarvis comments: “What Pérez-Peña’s story makes clear is that there are new models for creating reporting, that there is a demand for that reporting, and that there are journalists who will do it.

“News will not come from one organization anymore. It will come from a collection of organizations, networks, individuals, companies, technologies, and collaborative projects each operating under different business models. What Perez-Pena profiles is a slice of the new news pie. It will take other slices from other players to add up to a whole. Still, the recognition by the Gray Lady of these new girls in town is an important moment in the evolution of news.”

TypePad Journalist Bailout
On the basis of the evolution of news, we can only see SixApart’s TypePad Journalist Bailout Program as another such watershed moment and a fine example of ‘social media’ marketing in action to boot. Anil Dash posted this slightly snarky page over the weekend, as he says: “…so a few old friends who recently lost their jobs as professional bloggers/journalists would understand what we could do at Six Apart to try to help them out.”

The program offers “recently-laid-off or fearful-of-layoffs journalists” a TypePad blog, a place in the Six Apart Media advertising program, promotion on Blogs.com, and support from SixApart to help interested hacks make the leap.

Writing on the Six Apart blog, Dash says the program has struck a nerve, as hundreds of journos signed up to participate in less than a day: “Overall, there’s an optimism which indicates that having a starting point to do something proactive and positive will be a great first step for many journalists to take control of their careers in an industry that is going through enormous upheaval.”

Can the independents survive?
Jarvis’ comment about the audience’s strong appetite for news sits uncomfortably alongside Dash’s caution that the TypePad Journalist Bailout Program is not a silver bullet and will by no means singlehandedly preserve the career and income of every working journalist who has a job today. Journos who participate in the bailout program will come nose-to-nose with the eternal dilemma facing independent news providers — where does the money come from to support that demand?

It’s a question that Michael van Poppet is trying to answer with his breaking news alert service, BreakingNewsOn. BNO delivers its alerts via Twitter to more than 9,000 followers, or it did until yesterday, when Van Poppet blogged the decision to halt delivery while the company tries to raise some cash to keep the service going. Van Poppet’s explanation of the difficulties facing the 2-man service is a fascinating insight into how and why services like BNO come into being.

The company’s aiming Wikipedia-style to raise funds online, a strategy which may work in the short term. As for long term viability, a commenter (none other than Engadget blogger Conrad Quilty-Harper) on Van Poppet’s post sums up the audience response to BNO’s position: “What you should do: 1) Abandon the idea that you’ll ever be able to support a business on donations alone. 2) Go commercial. Start selling ads. 3) Seek funding. Build a business plan and aim to get bought. Just don’t give up on this idea. There’s clearly something here. You just need to experiment a little more. To give up now would be a complete waste.”

Mashable deconstructs social media
Those trying to get their heads around the changing model of news online would do well to read Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins’ thoughtful answer to the question, Just What is Social Media, Exactly?

Taking his cue from issues raised at marketers Jeffrey and Brian Eisenberg’s blog GrokDotCom, who write that social media is not media and provide pointers in understanding and aligning social media, Hopkins mulls conundrums such as whether the ‘product’ in media is the message or the audience (answer: it depends whether you’re a marketer, a participant or a producer).

Hopkins reckons those who aim to profit from social media need to respect the audience’s values: “If you’re a marketer or entreprenuer, it’s important (I think) to approach aggregating and monetizing social media with at least a little bit of appreciation for its roots and culture.  Whether it’s the incidental tweet or a masterpiece uploaded to Flickr, a little bit of the user’s soul and identity goes into creating that content.”

“It isn’t that the user and content creator (no matter the scale) doesn’t want to be targeted and marketed to – it’s that they don’t want to feel like a mule for someone else’s message. They don’t want to have their work be a trojan horse for someone else’s ideas, be they marketing or ideological in nature. When designing systems and advertising schemes: that, I believe, is the most important factor to keep in mind.”

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