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Scott Karp’s response to Clay Shirky on future of news syndication

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A very interesting riposte from Scott Karp to Clay Shirky‘s Nieman Journalism article What will 2011 bring for journalism? Clay Shirky predicts widespread disruptions for syndication. Karp’s response is contained in the following post also the Nieman blog: Scott Karp: Clay Shirky’s right that syndication’s getting disrupted — but not in the ways he thinks it is.

Below is my synopsis of Karp’s key messages.

News Consumption is moving away from the traditional “aggregated links” model to rich forms of interaction and packaging

Says Karp:

In 2011, we’ll see open acknowledgement of what has long been understood about the traditional desktop web as a platform for consuming news content — it sucks.

News consumption has begun a major shift from the traditional desktop web to apps for touch tablets for a simple reason — the user experience and user interface are so much better, as the recent RJI survey of iPad users reflects. Consumers are choosing tablet apps over the traditional desktop web based on the quality of the user experience and the overall content “package.”

The shift to rich, immersive news readers changes the role of syndication

Karp:

With the immersive, hands-on experience of a tablet news app, the value of syndication changes entirely. Apps that deliver nothing but one news organization’s content will not compare favorably with the content richness of the web, no matter how good the UI is. And apps that bounce users around from site to site with an in-app browser, mimicking the traditional desktop web model, will fail for precisely the reason why users chose the app in the first place.

But news apps that can deliver full content, curated from a wide range of sources, within a cohesive, optimized — even breakthrough — UI for news consumption, will win because users will have the best of both worlds. Syndication in news apps will not be about republishing news that everyone else has. It will be about combining curated news with original content in order to create consumer packages that are deeply engaging and in many cases worth paying for. With this shift, news organizations will stop ceding to aggregators the huge value creation of curating and packaging news. Instead, news organizations will start defining their editorial brands as curators as much as they define them as original content creators.

Syndication through social networks and affiliated content brands

First, the basics. Quoting Karp:

Traditional syndication is based on a hub-and-spoke model, where a newswire middleman takes in content from many sources, combines it with original content, and redistributes it. This is an inefficient, obsolete model and will be replaced by a model that has proven wildly successful in the consumer world — the social network.

This syndication strategy involves leveraging social graphs, typically associated with large social networking sites like Facebook. However, Karp also addresses syndication through affiliated brands across a content network – thereby leveraging the network effects of the network.

Quoting Karp:

News organizations will create a network of trusted sources, the equivalent of “friends,” but where the relationships are based on distribution and the affiliation of editorial brands. I call this the “Content Graph,” the analogue to Facebook’s “Social Graph.”

This is a powerful notion, and it dovetails very well into a Community Journalism strategy and ad network strategies. Karp makes the point – which was has been voiced often by Tim O’Reilly, Hal Varian, Jeff Jarvis, and others – that leveraging network effects is an essential strategy for a web-based world. Oh, and he provides a link to a Sean Parker talk from the Web 2.0 Summit 2009 to illustrate the point.

The role of Curation in important to News Media Brands

Karp makes the case that curation of content by the consumer’s social graph is becoming an increasingly important role of news curation, and that is poised to rival Google’s relevance algorithms for determining relevance for a new consumer. He then makes the point that “the value of human curation is actually becoming more important in defining the value of news brands”.

Hmm, that’s not really human curation though. That’s still algorithmic curation, but by a different relevance algorithm, now centered around a user’s social graph. While I agree curation is a valuable activity, I tend to agree with Shirky that news organizations will increasingly have to “add value” to content, or provide a unique perspective, and not just endlessly republish original source content.

Free syndicated content changes the business model of syndication

I’m not going to elaborate on this point. Please see Karp’s article.

In Summary

The most important point I took away from Karp’s article was around syndication through affiliated brands across a content network to leverage network effects. Definitely want to give this some more thought.

glenn

Hyperlocal – Core Dimensions (Part 1)

February 14, 2010 2 comments

This is the second in a series of posts on key dimensions of Hyperlocal. Other posts in this series are:

In the initial post in this series, I introduced the following core dimensions of Hyperlocal/Local:

  1. Local News/Journalism
  2. Local Business/Commerce
  3. Local Advertising
  4. Local Community
  5. HyperLocal Business Models

This post will briefly explore the first 2 dimensions – Local News and Local Business/Commerce.

Local/Hyperlocal News

An important service to the Local community is News about the Community, or Community perspectives and reactions to the News. A nice definition of HyperLocal News is provided by Christopher Wink here: Hyperlocal news: a definition.

Keeping Informed about HyperLocal News Media

Here are a few of the sites I regularly visit to keep track of happenings in the Local/Hyperlocal News media space:

Sites

There are many, many Hyperlocal blogs and websites currently servicing their local communities. Wink provides a nice overview of some of the major ones in his post Hyperlocal news sites worth following.

Platform Providers

This is a core area of innovation at present, and a slew of recent acquisitions by major media companies of hyperlocal news platform providers illustrates this point.

Some of the key innovators:

Citizen Journalism

Often Hyperlocal news sites leverage Citizen Journalists as contributors to their site. A very interesting example of this approach is Examiner.com, which I blogged about here.

Real-time News Feeds

Finally, with the rise of Twitter, real-time geotagged feeds are also breaking onto the scene. Pat Kitano‘s Hyperlocal Curation of Real Time News post from November 2009 provides some interesting examples. Kitano’s Breaking News Network is a powerful example of location-relevant breaking news.

And of course, Twitter has launched location-based Trending Topics, would should add additional impetus to this trend.

Local Business/Commerce

Here, we’re talking about the commercial aspect of HyperLocal. A profound insight into the potential de-coupling of “core” Local News from Local Business services was recently delivered by Clay Shirky at the Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy in September 2009. A must-listen-to presentation IMHO.

There are many, many players and platforms that service local business needs, with many more soon to come no doubt. Here are a smattering of players in a very competitive space:

Business Listings – General

Business Listings – Niche

Services – Niche

Shopping

As you can see, there are a number of different spaces by which software providers and hosting sites are seeking to provide services for local commerce. In the next post, we’ll look at two additional hyperlocal/local dimensions: Advertising and Community.

glenn

Algorithmic Journalism – a “deep trend”

January 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Thought I’d muse today about a topic I’m going to call Algorithmic Journalism. I’ve noticed a fair bit of discussion lately on the use of algorithms (typically machine-learning algorithms) to make sense of, understand the relevance of, aggregate, and distribute news.

First off, the use of machine-learning algorithms and collective intelligence to determine relevance of search and content are very common place today. They form the basis of Google’s search algorithms, and are heavily used by Amazon, Netflix, etc. However, machine-learning in Newsrooms is another matter. And it’s the discussion of machine learning in the context of the News Media business whose waves are starting to wash up against the shorelines of my personal information space (i.e. Twitter and the real-time Web!)

Here’s some of the articles/blog posts in the past few months that speak to this topic:

Note these articles were all written in the past few months. So the topic appears to be only recently breaking into the broader consciousness of the Journalism community.

I’d also point out that the evolution of Algorithimic Journalism is highly dependent on Semantic Web technologies. So look for the influence of the Semantic Web to continue to penetrate the Journalism industry.

Anyway, a topic to keep an eye on in 2010.

glenn

Clay Shirky on the future of Journalism – Shorenstein Center talk from Sept 09

January 2, 2010 4 comments

A really penetrating talk by Clay Shirky on the future of Journalism – specifically what he calls Accountability Journalism – delivered at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy in September 2009. Here’s the video:

Here’s a transcript of the video, which is absolutely worth reading in its entirety. Additionally, Shirky’s talk is largely an elaborate of a previously article he wrote in July 2009 titled Not an Upgrade – an Upheaval.

Accountability Journalism

First, a clarification of terms. Accountability Journalism, as I understand Shirky’s use of the term, refers to journalism that holds powerful interests accountable to in a democractic society. Most specifically, this refers to publically-elected officials, but I believe the term could easily be extended to include those that operate in private companies that also have some expectation of serving the public interest (which is pretty much any large company or organization).

Shirky refers to the book Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy, written by the session’s moderator Alex S. Jones, as a fine source of analysis on critical issues facing Accountability Journalism. A nice review of Jones’ book can be found here.

Key Insights from Shirky’s talk

Shirky’s talk touched on some really key insights for me that I hadn’t fully considered before. Following are, what for me, the key ones.

The marriage of Accountability Journalism and Advertising in Newspapers – an industrial artifact, not a deep truth

Shirky believes that Newspapers’ ability to provide accountability journalism is shrinking, and he is convinced these changes are secular and irreversible. Quoting Shirky:

The first observation — made wily and probably in the most depth by Paul Starr in Creation of the Media — is that, dated from some time between the rise of the penny press and the end of the Second World War, we had a very unusual circumstance — and I think especially in the United States — where we had commercial entities producing critical public goods. We had ad-supported newspapers producing accountability journalism.

Now, it’s unusual to have that degree of focus on essentially both missions — both making a profit and producing this kind of public value. But that was the historic circumstance, and it lasted for decades. But it was an accident. There was a set of forces that made that possible. And they weren’t deep truths — the commercial success of newspapers and their linking of that to accountability journalism wasn’t a deep truth about reality. Best Buy was not willing to support the Baghdad bureau because Best Buy cared about news from Baghdad. They just didn’t have any other good choices.

That’s a VERY provocative insight, and in many ways it reflects the very essence of the American view of capitalism – that a public good can be provisioned by private market forces so as to maximize (or at least tolerably service) the public interest. Now I personally think that’s a bit ludicrous, and the crisis in the U.S. Economy, Banking, Healthcare, Real Estate, etc. certainly provide fodder for questioning this assumption. Nonetheless, it is at the heart of many Republican and “free market” policies over the past several decades.

This marriage of convenience between Accountability Journalism and Advertising had several consequences. Again, quoting Shirky:

The first of them was that advertisers were forced to overpay for the services they received, because there weren’t many alternatives for reaching people with display ads — or especially things like coupons. And because they overpaid, the newspapers essentially had the kind of speculative investment capital to do long-range, high-risk work. …

The second characteristic of the happy state of the 20th-century newspapering was that the advertisers were not only overcharged, they were underserved.

Neither of those, neither the overpaying or the underserving, is true in the current market any longer, because media is now created by demand rather than supply — which is to say the next web page is printed when someone wants it to be printed, not printed and stored in a warehouse in advance if someone who may want it. Turned out that when you have an advertising market that balances supply and demand efficiently, the price plummets. And so for a long time, people could say analog dollars to digital dimes as if — well, when do we get the digital dimes? The answer may be never. The answer may be that we are seeing advertising priced at its real value for the first time in history, and that value is a tiny fraction of what we had gotten used to.

Decoupling Advertising from Journalistic Platforms

With the rise of (i) Digital Content Production, (ii) Digital Marketplaces and Platforms – for example: Craigslist, eBay, Monster, Amazon, and (iii) Search Engines, the economic and “attention” necessity of “tightly-coupling” commercial advertising to mass-produced newspapers quickly evaporates. As a result, says Shirky, advertisers are much-better and more economically served. Again, Shirky:

Underserving is even a bigger problem, right? The institutions harrying newspapers — Monster and Match and Craigslist — all have the logic that if you want to list a job or sell a bike, you don’t go to the place that’s printing news from Antananarivo and the crossword puzzle. You go to the place that’s good for listing jobs and selling bikes. And so if you had a good idea for a business, you wouldn’t launch it in order to give the profits to the newsroom. You’d launch it in order to give the profits to the shareholders. …

The coherence of newspapers is not intellectual, it’s industrial. Which is to say, if you’re running a website and somebody’s on your website and they just done a crossword puzzle and they seem to really like it, what’s the next thing you’re gonna show them? Is it news from Tegucigalpa? No. It’s another crossword puzzle, because that’s the only thing you can [inaudible]. The idea that someone who is doing a crossword puzzle may also want news about the coup in Honduras or how the Lakers are doing — it doesn’t make any sense. It’s never made any sense, in terms of what the user wants. It’s what — it’s what print is capable of as a bundle. What goes into a print newspaper is the content that, on the margins, produces commercial interest in the least interested user.

Wow. To me that really captures at its very essence the powerful trends in the decline of newspaper revenues. Fascinating.

*** January 5 2009 update ***
Jeff Jarvis has a post to this effect the day prior to this post, see Surrendering advertising … killing bundling.
*** End of update ***

Spreadable Media and other Insights

Shirky provides many additional insights in his talk, around the role of “spreadable” media, the wisdom (or lack thereof) in the “paywall” revenue model when applied to accountability journalism, and what the near-future is likely to hold for the revolution in how we produce and consume news in society.

I won’t delve into these topics, but please refer to Shirky’s talk for his thoughts on these issues.

In Summary …

Once again, powerful insights from Clay Shirky. It will definitely lead me to further re-think the traditional news organization, and how it will inevitably change to accomodate the new media and technological realities of our day.

glenn

Information Overload vs. Filter Failure – Clay Shirky

December 31, 2009 1 comment

Just watched this video of a Clay Shirky speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo NY conference in September 2008.


In the video, Shirky repositions the problem of information overload as one of “filter failure”. Shirky provides many interesting examples of how changing web-based social information flows are altering previous social contracts around sharing and processing information.

Shirky concludes his talk by saying:

When you feel yourself getting too much information, I think the discipline is not too say to youself “what is happening to the information?”, but rather “what filter just broke; what was I relying on before that just stopped functioning?”.

A powerful insight to contemplate IMO.

glenn

Insight into the Future of News Media – Looking forward to 2010

December 31, 2009 2 comments

So with the new year fast approaching (like 10 hours away), I thought I’d aggregate some of the best insight in 2009 into the future of News Media. As I work in the Publishing industry for a large Canadian media company, I’m going to exclude (for the most part) trends in the Broadcast (i.e. TV) industry, and focus specifically on online journalism.

Insights from a handful of Thought Leaders

So here it goes, links to posts from a handful of thought leaders that provide a good overview of the changing world of News Media as we enter 2010.

Jeff Jarvis

One could do worse than review the top Jeff Jarvis posts of the past year to get a feel for the future of news media. Here are some of my favorite Jarvis posts of the past 6 months or so:

Vadim Lavruiski at Mashable

Kevin Sablan had an interesting post a few days ago titled 2009, the year social media covered journalism. He makes the point that, in 2009, many social media blogs started to prominently cover the news media industry. No site did this better than Mashable, and no blogger at Mashable did this better than Vadim Lavruiski. Here are my favorite posts from Lavruiski over the past several months:

Clay Shirky

*** Updated January 2 2009 ***
The other news media visionary that looms large over the landscape (that does not work for Google!) is media socialogist Clay Shirky. For a wonderful exploration of the core challenges facing newspapers in the rapidly-changing media environment, please see my blog post Clay Shirky on the future of Journalism – Shorenstein Center talk from Sept 09.
*** End of update ***

Top Trends for 2010

There has also been many posts in recent days on top trends in both news media and the Web generally. Here’s a sampling.

Top News Media Trends for 2010 – Additional Posts

A collection of posts on top news media trends for 2010:

Top Web/Digital Media Trends for 2010

A collection of posts on top Web/Digital Media trends in 2010, and a review of Google’s 2009:

Technology/Spaces I’ll be watching in 2010

And finally, here’s some key technologies and spaces I’ll be watching closely and spending time learning about in 2010 (in the rough order that they occurred to me):

  1. Social Web and Social Media
  2. Online Identity
  3. Real-time Web
  4. Geo-location
  5. Web meets World
  6. Google, Facebook, and Twitter
  7. Machine Learning/Collective Intelligence
  8. Semantic Web
  9. HyperLocal and Community
  10. Mobile
  11. Image Recognition
  12. Augmented Reality
  13. Search
  14. Media Revenue Models
  15. Multimedia
  16. Business Innovation

In Summary …

Well, there you have it. A quick wrap-up of key insights and trends in the changing world of News Media and related Technology. Hope you found something of value to take away. :)

glenn

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