When I was young the height of media sophistication was being one of the few houses where a kid on a bike delivered the Argus. Then somewhere in the 70s we paid the neighbour to watch the antics of forbidding white politicians on the box in his living room. These days the information network has changed so much that the purveyors of newspapers and the TV news bosses are at a complete loss.
I recall the first time I went overseas, sitting on the London tube and being amazed by how many people carelessly discarded their copies of the Times when they disembarked. Back at home half the street would read our Argus when and if we bought it. Fast forward to the early part of the 21st Century and the piles of papers in my local supermarket get smaller each week. But what is growing, in an exciting and innovative way, is personalised and digitised news consumption.
These days my friends and I are much more likely to learn about an event that matters to us from browsing the net on a PC, checking our mobiles or just scrolling through Facebook timelines.
Taking these trends into account there are a few innovations out there that put us less and less at the mercy of middle aged city slickers who used to be able to make news choices for everyone.
Marketplace of Minds
One that stands out above the rest is MindMarket (www.mindmarket.com ). Think of the old-fashioned copy tasters in newsrooms. Well MM has taken this outdated practice to the next level. Their ‘copy tasters’ are called Curators. And the fun is that anyone can be a Curator but these people who make the news choices for you are vetted and ‘certified’. Says the MM site:
This is serious, high quality and focused news, all in one place, compiled by a professional with superior news judgment.
The Curators are people who have to do an online application. But they are like agents and get paid for the work they do. Their remuneration is linked to the number of subscribers they bring in to MM. Curators can also sell subscriptions to MindMarket.
And the bottom line is that because the service is fully sustainable there are no ads. So delivered to your inbox is your personalised, tailor made content without anyone trying to sell you anything.
More and more smart media people are realising that if you have a collection of bright, talented people the emphasis shifts away from expensive information gathering towards a host of editorial products for which people will pay. While quantity mushrooms quality information is becoming harder and harder to locate quickly and easily.
The advantage that media people have in the digital age is that it’s not yet possible to replace completely writers and intelligent news gatherers.
In a recent article for the NiemanLab, writer Jonathan Stray does a quick rundown of the existing editorial products: Recording events, Locating information, filtering the ‘information tsunami’, providing background, exposing wrongdoing and debunking lies as well as rumours.
Then he speculates about editorial products that are not yet on offer but that would be snapped up if they were:
What Can I Do – Often a story leaves us wanting to become involved in finding a solution. What about “building a whole product around what the reader could do”, says the NiemanLab story. The African innovation called Ushahidi is a prime example. Ushahidi which means “testimony” in Swahili, was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. It has grown into a global non-profit technology company and its mission is to change the way information flows and to empower people to make an impact with open source technologies, cross-sector partnerships, and ground-breaking ventures
A Place for Difficult Discussions – Providing safe platforms where we could have moderated discussions. An aspect of our project that The Journalist will launch this year. Watch this space
An Online Town Hall – Models for conversations that include millions of people. At The Journalist we have started two sections that are moving in this direction. Kau Kauru (Our Voices) and Meqoqo (Conversations)
Interactive Story Creation – New York University’s Jay Rosen has developed an idea that could make journalism better by allowing more people to participate in the process… ExplainThis. It has two parts. One is an open system through which anyone can ask and answer questions and vote on them. The second part involves “journalists standing by.” Journalists would monitor questions from the public.
“The point is to put journalists and users in an interactive loop,” says Jonathan Stray, a fellow at the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism.
When journalists, usually notebook wielding technophobes, groan about the death of newspapers, I simply don’t understand. Where I come from there were far more people in the neighbour’s lounge than huddled around the common copy of the Argus anyway.
And I don’t see any significant dying happening. On the contrary, the digital revolution offers a myriad of opportunities for journalism to become more innovative, more exciting and very much more democratic.