What does a digital competitor to the Associated Press look like? Publish2, but legacy media haven’t really bought the idea. The solution is more complex than just the technology.
At TechCrunch Disrupt earlier today, Scott Karp announced Publish2 News Exchange, a product we hope will be an elegant way for news organizations to collaborate. Specifically, P2X offers scalable content-sharing networks for newspapers, and affords online-only publications the opportunity to have their content syndicated in print. This, in conjunction with a redesigned link journalism system and the seeds of a tool to maximize the production of high-quality journalism, makes the news industry full of significant opportunities if you know were to look.
We’re rolling out Publish2 News Exchange to existing Publish2 users this week and, as always, journalists can register for free accounts.
The link, or the ability to create a web of relationships between content, facts, and ideas, has fundamentally changed journalism. What follows is a recommended set of reading, I stand on the shoulders of giants, for those in Suzi Steffen’s Reporting 1 class I had the fortune to talk with this afternoon. I’ll try to add perspective when I can, but I’ve got to rush off shortly.
Jay Rosen, who you should follow on Twitter if you don’t already, lays an excellent foundation:
Ryan Sholin breaks down the argument for linking into five parts. Basically, journalists should be responsible citizens of the web. They have responsibility to their readers to provide as much information as they can bring together, responsibility to build bridges between the different parts of their online community, and responsibility to point readers in the direction of the right information when the journalists don’t immediately have the answer.
One point I touched on and want to reiterate is linking is a process of showing your work. This is fundamentally a Good Thing. Both Sean Sullivan and Paul Balcerak agree. In the age of newspapers, buggies, and clapboard houses, the reader was forced to make the assumption that the publication fact-checked and caught all of their errors. Hyperlinking text inherently means that the reader can then go and check out what you’re linking to. If you’re writing a piece with facts you want to substantiate, you can link to the source of every one of those facts. In fact, I agree that it’s “suspect for journos not to link whenever possible.” Making the reporting process transparent builds trust between the publication and the reader, and trust builds brand.
On Tuesday, I was quite pleased to announce the first formal release of the Publish2 WordPress plugin. With the 1.1 version, journalists on Publish2 can easily add their link journalism to the sidebar of their blog, add a reading list much like I have on my own website, or have simple, intuitive access to their curated links at the point when they’re most likely to need them the most: when writing a story.
Ok, enough with the public relations speak. That last bit is what I’m really excited about. We’re calling it Link Assist, and I’m itching to write about some of the the philosophy driving it.
I digress to set the scene. Link Assist is a widget-y bit of functionality that lives in the sidebar of your edit post page within WordPress (where you’d actually write a post). Getting it set up is a simple process of dropping your link journalism URL (this is mine) into “Your Profile” under “Users” and hitting the checkbox for Link Assist. Once you’ve done this, Link Assist will load automatically and in the background every time you set up to write a new post.
This is where the magic happens.
Tomorrow morning will find me headed to Philadelphia for Saturday’s BarCamp NewsInnovation Philly. Needless to say, I’m super stoked for this opportunity. Not only will I be able to finally meet my boss, my new colleagues, and the rest of the CoPress team I haven’t met, but I’ll get to spend an entire day, and probably much of the weekend, discussing the future of journalism with some of the smartest news folk in the country. If my flight doesn’t get laid over in Atlanta, I’d like to spend my time taking about at least a couple of different things:
Designing a News Startup From Scratch in 60 Minutes
The goal would be to rapidly prototype what a news organization of the future might look like by walking the hypothetical startup from concept to a year after launch and covering things such as:
Dharmishta Rood started a thread on Seesmic for a class at Harvard on the 9th of March asking, “What is the future of news?” I don’t feel as though my two minute response conveys everything I’d like it to, and want to clarify a few of the ideas.
The future of news isn’t newspapers. The newspaper is an inefficient, uneconomic, and environmentally-troubling method of moving data. In my opinion, Steve Rhodes laid out an epic laundry list of everything that’s broken in the newspaper industry a few days ago. There isn’t any need to repeat that, thanks to the internet. The key takeaway is that, instead of trying to figure out how to financially support newspaper-style journalism on the web, we should be active in conversation about what journalism is, and how the internet will enable us to do it better.
To me, journalism is the act of providing impartial, accurate information to empower a community to make decisions. I had “independent” in the definition earlier, but I don’t believe that independence is entirely necessary if you partake in the art of full disclosure. The process of journalism need not be limited to newspapers, and the format need not be tied to an article measured in column inches. As Suzanne Yada rightfully noted just over a month ago, “Twitter isn’t journalism, just like television isn’t journalism, but you can find journalism ON Twitter and ON television.” Our information needs have changed from a hundred years ago, and the internet lends news organizations greater ability to fulfill this responsibility.
Two premises for the near future (that you’re welcome to dispute):
- Newspaper journalism operated in the era of information scarcity, where “what is news” was determined by the amount of space available in the delivery mechanism. Online journalism operates in the era of information as a commodity. This means that “what is news” is defined by the quality of information.
- We’re also now in an indefinite era of format fragmentation, meaning that journalism can be implemented in a myriad of different ways. This is another paradigm shift from the newspaper age, but not for the worse: the internet allows us to do more with information. The internet is ultimately a more powerful platform for journalism because users can be exposed to information automatically based on context and the depth of information they need.
The “Future of News” is going to be a competition to see who can create the most innovative and engaging ways to deliver information which empowers communities to make decisions.
It’s because I make lofty claims, duh.
Actually, I have three reasons I outlined earlier today for Publish2’s December contest. They originally were born of an ad-hoc Qik livestream, but I felt I didn’t communicate myself as well as I had hoped. It drove me to explain myself further. I think there are three important components to the future of journalism:
First: innovation. Those who come before me were fortunate or unfortunate (depending on how you look at it) in that they were stuck with limited tools with which to be a journalist. Today, we’ve got a growing arsenal of technology to tell the important stories with, let it be livestreaming on Qik, microblogging with Twitter, or practicing link journalism with Facebook. Contrary to the popular paradigm that we’ll settle on one format, this is just the beginning of tool fragmentation. By playing and experimenting with the tools, I position myself to take advantage of what they offer.
Second: the untold stories. Using a combination of emerging tools and traditional formats, my goal is to cover the under reported, most troubling issues we face as a globally connected society. Examples include water access exploitation in India, deforestation and the climate in Haiti, and homelessness in the big cities of Latin America. Being a journalist of the future means using the tools to expand your capacity to tell the word’s most important stories.
Third: collaboration. I began this fall as the Online Editor for the Oregon Daily Emerald wanting to push the publication to innovate with technology. Given the limited resources at hand, I realised that the only way I could achieve anything significant would be to work collaboratively with my peers across the nation. From that vision, CoPress was formed. Contributing to the network is an increasingly successful method of innovation.
As much as I’m a futurist, I still think the core philosophies of journalism still play a significant role in how information is distributed across the net. The two continuing discussions will be what format news will take, let it be 140 characters, wiki article, or blog post, and how to monetize the abstract value it provides.