Saturday, January 24, 2009

Newspaper Folks: Consider This Next

The very interesting discussion about the News continues at A recent thread was started with a post titled Does Following the News Work? 15 comments as of this morning.

In any case, here's what I said
In addition to the bad journalism there is a problem with the medium. Pride and Prejudice, the novel is not equivalent to the movie or the TV series or the Cliff Notes. Yet it is all the "same" story.

It becomes a little more clear if the medium is placed in the communication ecology in which it exists.

"Breaking news" became the newspaper's value with the rise of the telegraph and then the telephone. It was driven by war reporting which created the necessary focus for a large audience. The importance of speed was also fueled by financial speculation where an information advantage is not only power, it is money.

Before that the newspaper was not primarily driven by advertising, but by subscription. With mass industrialization there came mass marketing and here we are. But in the era when debates, lectures and religious revivals were a significant form of "entertainment", newspapers would routinely serialize what later became novels.

Today, newspapers are not read, they are viewed and scanned. Too much other distraction and too many other media to scan -cable TV, Google news,Search. Readers for any particular story are a small percentage of the people who scan the media. The value added of the great writer/journalist is to craft the 1000 words or less that gets to the crux of it for those few who have the time and interest to focus on that story.

The purpose of a wiki is a resource for the writer/journalist. It uses the "crowd" to investigate, the wiki to organize and store, and the writer to write for publication.

I've been on a soapbox for a while that newspapers should sell stuff, instead of trying to sell information. Given the latest advances in Print technology, it is practical to offer that "366 page book" to "scanners" who want to become readers for that story.

My bet is that every important story about education, health, government and local economic development would find fans who would willingly pay for a physical book that puts it all in one place. The price would depend on the story. The sales would depend on offering it when the focus is high. With that model the Print newspaper would be optimized for scanning and selling local ads.

Headlines + a lede and two paragraphs + a link to the website + 1 or 2 "feature stories" + lots of pages of local ads. When the time is right, use the wiki to write the book and sell it through the website
Designers: Someone has to design these books. Consider getting in touch with the ultra local niche newspaper in your area.

Printers: Someone has to print those books and/or other Print Products for those newspapers.

Technologists: How about a platform - in a Software As A Service that lives in the Cloud - to get the busy work done, so that writers could concentrate on writing, instead of cutting and pasting.

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