Google to the Rescue! (And Other Recent Reads)
Like most everybody else concerned with digital journalism, I spent a good chunk of Tuesday morning reading James Fallows’ cover article in the Atlantic Monthly. (I read it very happily on the iPad’s browser — but that’s another column.)
I thought the big-picture appraisal of journalism’s prospects felt right — I agree that technology will continue to improve online display ads, and that more publishers will have success asking readers to subscribe. (I should disclose here that I recently began consulting for Journalism Online.) But at the same time, I wasn’t particularly convinced by Fallows’ thesis that a lot of journalism’s current business-model woes will be solved by Google because it’s in Google’s interests to solve them. Even granting the premise that Google wants to solve them, I think Fallows put too much faith in Google’s ability to do so through its own devices. I think he isn’t sufficiently worried about how uncertain publishers are about what path to take, or how much freedom they have to maneuver. It seems to me that this fragmentation and uncertainty will make finding and implementing a solution slow and difficult. (All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka dissects what he sees as Fallows’ leaps of faith in a brief commentary.)
Stowe Boyd offers an interesting take on the evolution of social media, from blogs (which he sees as more personal publishing than social media) to social networks and real-time streams. The idea that really grabbed me is that real-time streams such as Twitter appeal to use because they’re conversational, and use personal publishing — as well as the old-fashioned institutional kind — as raw material for the commentary and reactions that make up that conversation. I found that a new, intriguing way of thinking about social media and its symbiotic relationship with blogging and traditional content.
Finally, I found the startup Newsy interesting, as explored here by ReadWriteWeb. Newsy is basically a curator/aggregator that stitches video from different sources together (with careful attribution) into brief narratives about trending stories. It’s done on the cheap but still pretty slickly produced. Curation and aggregation isn’t new, of course, but extending it into video is a wrinkle that might yield good results for news organizations.
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