What's next for news?

Journalism 2.0 is a conversation about the intersection of journalism and innovation. It's about the news industry adapting in the digital age, new business models for news and the startups and new projects that are flourishing around us, giving us a preview of what's next for news.

Mark Briggs is editor of this blog and author of Journalism 2.0 (2007), Journalism Next (2015) and Entrepreneurial Journalism (2011). He co-founded of Serra Media and was Ford Fellow of Entrepreneurial Journalism at The Poynter Institute from 2010-2012. Currently he is Vice President of Digital Media Insights and Innovation at SmithGeiger and teaches a graduate-level course called Leadership in Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Do we really need a ‘local newspaper for the social web’?

And we’re back! My apologies for the prolonged delay between posts here but now that I’m finished writing my latest book, I’m ready to resume at least semi-regular blogging. I will be combining excerpts from my upcoming book, Entrepreneurial Journalism (due out in Oct.-Nov.) along with observations and tidbits on interesting news startups.

Today’s topic is The Daily Dot, a site that launched yesterday with an aim of covering the social communities on YouTube, Reddit and the rest as if they were your hometown and The Daily Dot was your hometown newspaper. It is an innovative concept and the founders certainly have the chops to pull it off. Forbes writer Tomio Geron notes it may be a bit of stretch, but “it is true that most of these communities have not been covered much at all–outside of maybe academia.”

The Daily Dot is planning beat coverage of online communities such as Etsy, Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube and even 4chan. The site will also attempt to cover Twitter, Facebook and Google like communities which I think will be more difficult, especially the latter two. As ReadWriteWeb senior writer Marshall Kirkpatrick points out, the site is using some interesting data mining techniques to assist in its coverage. So maybe they will find a way to efficiently discover signal among the noise.

The Austin-based startup has a staff of 25 (about half work virtually) and is funded by less than $600,000 in friends and family financing. It appears to be aiming for a traditional advertising revenue as its business model. CEO Nick White, a former VP with Sandusky Newspapers, told Kirkpatrick that the goal is to master “the art of social web community data analysis” and use it to “build a leading, profitable media organization.” The Dotcould then offer it as a service for other companies.

A diversified revenue model is highly recommended, for The Daily Dot or any other news startup. The online advertising market has simply become too crowded. Considering the popularity of the sites the Dot plans to cover, it appears to have found an audience-attracting topic area. Executing the vision day in and day out is the next challenge, for building a sustainable audience is no easy task, even if you have launch articles on Mashable and GigaOm.


What can newsrooms learn from startups?

There are stark differences between the culture in a newsroom, especially one attached to a legacy news company, and the culture in a tech startup. Monica Guzman and I explored some of the many ways these two cultures are different and what newsrooms have to learn from the startups last night at an ONA-SPJ meetup in Seattle.

MonicaMonica (@moniguzman) went from a Seattle-Post Intelligencer newsroom staffed with more than 140 to an online only seattlepi.com newsroom with 20 and now works at Intersect, a social storytelling startup. She said some of the biggest differences in those cultures stem from how the people who work there view their audience – and each other. Internal competition for scoops at the newspaper-based P-I contrasted greatly with her incredibly team-based experience at the online-only P-I and even more so at Intersect.

She also talked about how much love Intersect has for its users. A new startup just getting its name out and hoping people will give it a try views the audience much differently than most traditional newsrooms, where a certain disdain for the “idiot readers” is accepted behavior (and occasionally warranted, of course).

I’ve spent 15-plus years in newsrooms and two years at a startup. I also have talked to dozens of news startups as part of my research for my upcoming book on entrepreneurial journalism. So I tried to add some of those insights to the discussion last night and a couple of quotes seemed to really resonate with the audience.

One was from Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith, speaking about the sense of urgency and lack of complacency at a startup.

“I feel like Indiana Jones outrunning the boulder. If I look away for a second, I’m gonna get run over.”

Another was from Techdirt founder Mike Masnick, who suggests the measure of a successful news startup should be directly related to the engagement of the audience.

“The really successful ones are the ones that have focused on building a loyal community.  Once you have that community in place, it enables so much more.”

And people really liked Pegasus News founder Mike Orren’s comment that, when his site was still finding its way, the employees exhibited a loyalty to “the cause” that made him feel like the whole operation was “a pirate ship.”

That level of dedication in a newsroom would make for some very different outcomes for legacy news companies in the digital age. As UW student Lucas Anderson remarked on Twitter, “Gotta find myself a pirate ship.”

Note: For more on this topic, see Lauren Rabaino’s post on 10,000 Words.


MedCity News making moves, growing up

MedCity News, the Cleveland-based journalism startup focused on coverage of the health and medical industry and the best health tips like 10naturalhomeremedies.com/, made a number of important announcements last week that illustrate how the company is “growing up” quickly.

Added were two prominent board members and an innovative compensation plan for contributing writers. The company’s top leaders also joined boards, proving their credibility as new media entrepreneurs.

MedCityAuthors contributing articles to MedCity News can make money two ways: by receiving all revenue from an online advertisement accompanying their content and by letting MedCity Media resell their material to its customers. Authors then receive a share in the revenue from those sales, though the press release does not specify the amount of that share.

“This is a model created to find new ways to reward writers for quality content,” said Chris Seper, president and founder of MedCity Media. “Many sites have achieved short-term success through collecting unpaid content or low-cost, low-quality content. I don’t think that is a long-term, sustainable model in media — particularly when it comes to higher-quality healthcare content.”

Joining the MedCity Media board will be Merrill Brown, founding editor of MSNBC.com and one of the founders of Court TV, and Andie Rhyins, the former publisher of VentureBeat. (Press release here.)

Meanwhile, Chris Seper, president and founder of MedCity Media, joins the board for Civic Commons, a regional northeast Ohio nonprofit social enterprise that is building a fee-based engagement utility. Also, Amanda Todorovich, MedCity’s vice president of business development and marketing, has joined the advisory board of ShareWIK Media, a health and wellness site that also relies heavily on social engagement by means of interviewing specialists in health care mainly (last interview was with Flagstaff general dentist, Press release here.)

All told, this collection of moves and announcements, combined with the make Med City News illustrate the momentum MedCity News has created. I look forward to watching it continue to grow.

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Video of my talk from SXSW

Here is a video from my talk at SXSW, courtesy of Dale Blasingame (@normalguyguide). Thanks, Dale!

SXSW presentation slides

Here is the Prezi I put together for my talk today at SXSW Interactive in Austin. Thanks to everyone for coming out so early on a Sunday (after daylight savings times.)

On newspapers and paywalls

I’m often asked whether newspapers will be able to successfully charge for news on their websites. Recently, the TV station where I work asked me to weigh in for a story.

To summarize, I think it could be a supplemental revenue source for newspapers that publish high-quality, niche content. And only if the paywall goes up in front of the high-quality content and not across the whole site because there is no business in charging for commodity news.

The bottom line from a business perspective is that there are a lot more content websites making money from advertising than paywalls. The proven business model is the one that grew up with the web and the experimental model is the one that grew up with newspapers. It will be interesting to watch these experiments play out.

SXSW: A guide for journalists

The country’s biggest digital media conference, SXSW Interactive, is this week in Austin. (If you’re on Twitter, you’ve certainly noticed.) It started as a small, niche offshoot of the more popular music conference but has grown exponentially over the past 10 years and, thankfully, so has the presence of journalism at the confab.

Many of you enjoyed my post on how to navigate the ONA conference in DC. So I thought I’d do a reprise for those journos heading to Austin this week. Last year was my first SXSWi, when I spoke about Journalism Next, but I think a learned a thing or two that might help you better navigate this intense but completely awesome experience.

DO: Take advantage of the fact that there will be a ton of great content for journalists interested in interactive. There’s an entire track focused on The Future of Journalism so you could fill up your schedule with nothing else. (Personally I liked last year’s track name, Journalism 2.0.)

In an attempt to capture some of the intimate feel of the earlier iterations of SXSWi, the conference will feature “campuses,” meaning similar programming will be scheduled in one location to gather those “birds of a feather.” This will be a great opportunity for like-minded digital journalists to network.

Mallary Tenore of Poynter wrote a great overview of 20 SXSW Interactive panels that journalists should attend and was nice enough to mention my presentation of my next book on entrepreneurial journalism on Sunday.

Limit yourself to just the journalism content. Expand your horizons and drink from the firehose of SXSWi by attending sessions that have nothing to do with journalism, too. Some of my favorite sessions last year were focused on seemingly obscure topics. The wealth of different perspectives on interactive at this conference means you will enrich your experience if you force yourself out of your comfort zone.

Some of the sessions I have pegged include Conference Startups: Grassroots Innovation Rocking the Event World, The 4-Hour Body: Hacking the Human Body
and Haters Gonna Hate: Lessons For Advertisers From 4chan.

DO: Get some fresh air. The forecast calls for temps in the mid to upper 70s so if you’re coming from a northern climate, you’ll do yourself a favor by getting some Vitamin D. The Lady Bird Lake Trail near the convention center is a great place for a walk or jog. You can also walk the grounds of the state capitol or University of Texas.

DON’T: Be a wallflower. The people attending this conference are interesting and willing to chat, so introduce yourself and start conversations. You’re a journalist, after all. This is what you do. The first person I introduced myself to last year worked for Google. The second person worked for Facebook. I also met people from Israel and Australia and found myself at breakfast the first day with Jeff Pulver and his crew.

DO: Attend the parties, whether that’s your thing or not. Austin is one of the best cities in the U.S. for nightlife. Plus, this is where some of the best “networking” happens and where you’ll meet even more interesting people (thanks to that great social lubricant: alcohol.) And unlike most of the journalism conferences we all attend, the parties are a part of the official schedule. This is Spring Break for Geeks, after all.

DON’T: Stress out over the fact that there are too many good sessions to attend and you can’t possibly be in all of them at the same time. The opening slot on Friday has at least six sessions I wish I could hit, but there’s only one of me. If you’re not 100% sure on a session, pick one that is near one of your second choices. The sessions area spread out all over Austin so if the one you pick is lame and you want to duck out (totally acceptable at SXSWi), you’ll want Plan B to be nearby or you’ll spend too much time walking back and forth between venues.

If you are not attending the conference, follow along on Twitter. You might actually be in a better position to sample from all the great content of the sessions from your desktop than those of us “stuck” in one session at a time. Of course, you’ll miss out on all the “networking,” but there’s always next year.

What do you call an ‘entrepreneurial journalist?’

Writing a book is easy. Compared to naming a book, that is.

In 2009 I asked you (and my LinkedIn colleagues) to vote for your favorite title among 4 options and many of you answered “none of the above.” Which was fine, because several of you offered great alternatives. One of them ended up as the title: Journalism Next.

I’m finishing my third book and this time the focus is on how to launch your own journalism or news-based startup. I’ve been looking for a catchy term for “entrepreneurial journalist” but haven’t found one. So I’m turning to the collective wisdom of my blog readers  for help. Please let me know which of the following three options you like best or, if you don’t like any of them, give me a suggestion for something better.

NOTE: A technical glitch prevented anyone from actually voting in this poll. I’m leaving it up so you can see what we were considering. Thanks to everyone who voted and voiced their feedback by email, Twitter and LinkedIn.

What should I title my new book?

  • Newstopia: 8 Launch Lessons for Journalism Entrepreneurs (0%, 0 Votes)
  • NewsLaunch: Turning trial balloons into shooting stars (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Starting up the news: How entrepreneurial journalists are creating the future today (0%, 0 Votes)
  • None of the above (100%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 0

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What you need to know if you’re going to ONA10 in DC

ONA10Ladies and gentleman, start your smartphones.

The Online News Association’s annual conference kicks off on Thursday in Washington, D.C. It’s the nation’s only sold-out journalism conference each year, meaning this is the place to be if you’re excited about news in the digital age.

If you are going and maybe this is your first time, I’ve thrown together some quick thoughts on how to get the most out of the conference.

DO: Bring a positive attitude and a willingness to share ideas. The people at this conference are excited and optimistic about the future and will do anything to help others make it happen.
DON’T: Whine and complain about how people in your newsroom “just don’t get it.” Most of the people at this conference are dealing with, or have dealt with, “traditional” journalists who failed to see the value in digital. This isn’t the time for that. It’s a time to celebrate the possibilities. In fact, I think we should rename this from “conference” to “festival.”

DO: Arrive at the sessions early. They often fill up and you’ll end up sitting on the floor if you get in at all.
DON’T: Watch the livestream from the conference if you are at the conference. This is pretty much a geekfest, meaning everyone is online all the time. Even the most robust wifi system is going to struggle a bit with this crowd.

DO: Try to network as much as possible. While the conference sessions are always good, it’s the people who make this conference special. Never dine alone and always introduce yourself to whomever is sitting near you. (Or you can “pull a Ken Sands” and never actually attend the sessions, preferring instead to work the hallways.)
DON’T: Forget business cards, or Bump on your iPhone or Droid, so you can exchange contact information with the new people you meet.

DO: Post helpful information to Twitter with the #ona10 hashtag. Save a search with this term so you can see what else is happening at the conference, too.
DON’T: Post personal tweets with this hashtag, unless it will be helpful for others to see. This stream will be flooded anyway, so use discretion.

DO: Use Foursquare or Gowalla to connect with others and figure out where your new friends are having lunch or a post-conference beer.
DON’T: Check in at every corner of the conference hotel. Being mayor of the escalator is really kind of pointless, don’t you think?

DO: Drink lots of water and squeeze in a nap if you can. Especially if you like “late-night networking.”
DON’T: Complain about traveling and time zones. Most of us traveled through time zones, too. Remember, no whining.

And lastly, DO play Webbmedia’s QR code game. If this doesn’t prove how different ONA is from other journalism conferences, nothing will.

See you in DC.

Appeared on a podcast, broke a little news

Screen shot 2010-10-24 at 8.09.47 PMI was invited to appear on the weekly podcast at Techflash.com last week and the timing couldn’t have been better. John Cook and Todd Bishop wanted me to discuss the hyperlocal news business and, it just so happened, I had a little news to break on the subject. My new employer, King 5 TV, was announcing a new partnership with The Seattle Times and launching a local ad network for hyperlocal and niche websites in and around Seattle.

You can listen the podcast here. My segment starts at around 12:00. (Unfortunately we didn’t have time to discuss other hyperlocal business developments.)

I’m excited to be part of this ground-breaking effort. The original idea goes back several years when Cory Bergman was at King. Its realization was made possible by the persistence of a bunch of great people from the TV station, Belo and the newspaper over the past several months.

There are two reasons it’s exciting to me: 1) if all goes as well, we will be giving hyperlocal bloggers and other independent publishers another piece of the business model pie; and 2) it’s a good collaboration between two competitive local media companies. It’s the kind of innovation that we’ve all been talking about and hoping for.