A special event at the Global Media Forum hosted by Germany’s global broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the symposium „Re-Inventing Journalism? Journalistic Training in the Social Media Age“. I will be discussing the topic of social media journalism on a panel with Kevin Anderson (Blog Editor of Guardian), Marcus Bösch of the DW and other experts.
I have submitted a paper called „10 Journalistic Strategies for Competing in the Web 2.0“ which I’m posting for discussion on my blog. I would most grateful for feedback. This is an experiment in which I am starting occasional crossposts in English. In my new blog design (coming soon!) I will find a more elegant way to publish the English posts in a separate blog section, but for now, this will have to do. (switch to the German version)
10 Strategies for a Journalism 2.0
1. Enable discussion
Journalism 1.0 prints a finished story or puts a finished story on the web. The readers may then – sometimes, but not always – comment on the story. The author or an editor is not actively present except to delete inappropriate comments. Journalism 2.0 is different. A story isn‘t ”finished“ once it‘s been published. Authors need to join the discussion. Comments by users need to become an equally recognized part of the story-development process. Comments need to be freed from their traditional ghettos and be placed prominently. Blogs, which have always been more open in allowing discussion, can be a role-model in this process.
The Canadian newspaper Toronto Globe & Mail is developing steadily into this direction. Communities Redakteur Matthew Ingram describes the strategy in his blog:
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be adding new community features as well, including forums and groups, which will allow you to have a focused discussion around a specific issue, rather than having to do that through comments on a particular news story. In some cases, we may close comments on a story but open a forum where readers can discuss a contentious issue in a more closely moderated environment.
I am also working hard to convince our writers of the benefits of responding to comments, and interacting with readers. I can assure you that we don’t see comments as simply a „ghetto that will drive page views.“ I will say that one of the easiest ways to convince writers that your comments are worth responding to is to say something intelligent (it doesn’t necessarily have to be in agreement).
2. Imperative of the link economy: Make yourself part of the discussion
Media platforms need to open up and be found where their readers, viewers and users are instead of locking in their content behind closed walls or pay walls. In the link economy, as outlined by Jeff Jarvis (director of the Graduate School of Journalism’s new-media program at the City University of New York and author of „What Would Google Do?“), journalism sites are the more valuable the more they are interconnected with the rest of the online world. Content that can‘t be searched and can‘t be found because it is hidden behind a pay-wall is less valuable in the link economy because it can only be discussed within small closed circles. The New York Times has recognized this principle and re-opened its subscription-based web platform („Times Select“) in 2007. Since then webtraffic has increased by more than 40 percent, and the additional revenue from advertising has by far increased the loss of subscription revenue.
The importantance of links from users to free content can’t be overestimated. According to the research company Hitwise, in the UK, ten percent of all links from Twitter point to traditional news websites. In absolute figures this is still only 0.3 percent of the total traffic to news websites, since Twitter – in spite of its tremendous growth rate – is still relatively small in Europe. But in the UK Facebook is already responsible for 3.3 percent of all traffic to journalistic sites – this is twice as much as from Google.
3. APIs: Journalism needs to be where the users are
The Guardian, the New York Times, National Public Radio , and the BBC enable other sites to embed their content (widgets) and enables the news organizations to be everywhere the user wants them to be. The NYT announced in February 2009 that it has released a new Application Programming Interface (API) offering every article the paper has written since 1981 – an amazing amount of 2.8 million articles. The API includes 28 searchable fields and updated content every hour. User can put an NYT widget on their blogs or a Guardian widget on their Facebook profiles and thus turn their web profiles into news sites with high-quality content.
This is a big deal. A strong press organ with open data is to the rest of the web what basic newspaper delivery was to otherwise remote communities in another period of history. It’s a transformation moment towards interconnectedness and away from isolation. A quality API could throw the doors wide open to a future where „newspapers“ are important again.
What does that mean? It means that sites around the web will be able to add dynamic links to New York Times articles, or excerpts from those articles, to pages on their own sites. The ability to enrich other content with high quality Times supplementary content is a powerful prospect.
4. Use multimedia forms of storytelling and enable users‘ creativity
The Guardian has visualized all the data in the MP expense scandal (who claimed what? who paid it back? who didn’t?) in a spreadsheet. The most amazing thing about this is not the brilliant presentation, but rather the openness and colloborative character of the project which is manifested by this question the Guardian asks on its homepage:
- Can you do something with this data? Please post us your visualisations and mash-ups below or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Do what you do best and link to the rest
For many years journalists have been taught not to link to competitors sites, but to keep the traffic on the media company’s own domain. They have to be retaught. According to Jeff Jarvis the „cultur of linking“ is creating „a new architecture of news“:
This leads to a new Golden Rule of Links in journalism — link unto others’ good stuff as you would have them link unto your good stuff. This emerges from blogging etiquette but is exactly contrary to the old, competitive ways of news organizations: wasting now-precious resources matching competitors’ stories so you could say you’d done it yourself. That must change.
News sites should concentrate on their core value and recognize this quality in other sites too. Another Jarvis‘ rules applies: ”Do what you do best and link to the rest.“ User, who are confronted with valuable links on a news site, will love to come back for more good links.
Again, blogs with culture of freely linking to valuable outside content and their recognition of other good blogs and sites in their blogrools can be viewed as a role model. But some first examples of more traditional media now recognizingg this principle are showing up on the web.
- ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest (publishing since June 2008), links to outside sites in its section „Breaking on the Web“. ProPublica is led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Engelberg, a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor of The New York Times as managing editor.
- The Washington Post also freely links outside in its sections „Required Reading“ and ”Staff Picks“.
6. Think Multimedia
Journalism training in the year 2009 needs to train print journalists to think in links, linear story tellers to think multilinear, radio journalists to take pictures and photographers to make use of a video camera. A few German journalism schools like the Axel Springer Akademie are setting exemples. But the vast majority of mid-career journalists in their forties or fifties will have to take it mainly into their own hands to learn and be proficient with social media and new technology. Otherwise many of them will find themselves without a job, because the skills they once learned are out of demand.
Attractive content on web pages that really stands out is often designed in multimedia packages. Again the New York Times has gone a long way to experiment with being much more than a printed paper.
Here are three examples of US-papers experimenting with multimedia content in visually and conceptionally bold ways:
- The New York Times photo blog Lens
- One in 8 Million (multimedia NYT portrait series)
- The Boston Globe photo blog
7. Make use of crowdsourcing
Media companies should not not train professional journalists to be proficient with multilinear and multimedia web reporting and using web 2.0 tools, but they should also teach new media enthusiasts to be more journalistic, i.e. use fact checking and quote correctly. Both groups shouldn’t view each other as competitors, but should work together (”crowdsourcing“).
Collaborative journalism has huge potential. According to eMarketer, more than 82 million people in the U.S. created content online in 2008, a number expected to grow to nearly 115 million by 2013. 71 million people created content on social networks last year, while 21 million posted blogs, 15 million uploaded videos. They are alle creators of media content in the broadest meaning. Until 2013 eMarketer predicts a rise to 115 million media creators.
Examples for the intelligent use of crowdsourcing:
- Help Me Investigate (in private beta) is a platform for crowdsourcing investigative journalism in the West Midlands (UK). It allows anyone to submit a question they want to investigate – “How much does my hospital make from parking charges?” “What happened to the money that was allocated to my local area?” “Why was that supermarket allowed to be built opposite another supermarket? It is funded by Screen West Midlands and 4ip (digital innovation project funding by Channel 4)Find more information on the Online Journalism Blog
- Chicago Now (early beta) ) is an effort to create a new kind of local site by aggregating and curating local bloggers, staff material and other content. It includes social features, and mobile options. The promotion-Video describes it as „HuffingtonPost meets Facebook for Chicago“. It is run be the Chicago Tribune.
- Buzzriders.com is a collaborative project by well-known German blogger Robert Basic. He calls it „a mixture of Twitter, blogs, Craigslist and social networks“ in which the user have as much editorial power as professional journalists. Right now he is on an introduction and fund-raising tour through Germany, visiting local communiteis who might be interested. More information in an interview mit Yeebase. (in German)
- MyHeimat.de a German collaborative citizen journalism project, predominantly up and running in small towns. Problem: it is often more public relations driven than driven by checked and balanced journalism. Partnering publishing companies include Augsburger Allgemeine, Hannoversche Allgemeine, Neue Presse, Oberhessische Presse and others.
8. Think hyperlokal
Crowdsourcing offers opportunities to scale down journalism to very small, targeted and dedicated hyperlocal groups. It is an opportunity to reconnect professional journalists, the neighborhood and local advertisers who have never advertised in ”big media“ before, because the scale was too large for them. Now it isn’t anymore.
- Are you being gouged? The New Yorker public radio station WNYC asked its listeners in October 2007 in one of several interactive ”crowdsourcing experiments“ to find out the price of a quart of milk, a six-pack of beer and a lettuce in their nieghborhood store. Within 24 hours more 800 people had submitted data for a interactive price map – this would have a massive research project, if it had been undertaken by journalists, but it was no big deal at all by enlisting the crowd.
- Everyblock – a project financed by the Knight Foundation
- Placeblogger – a local blog aggregation site.
- newsroom in an internet café – In the Czech Republic hyperlocal citizen journalism is now produced in coffeeshops (a project funded by investment firm PPF Group) Cities. Find more details in the New York Times.
9. Embrace the idea of citizen funding
Who pays for a story, gets to decide which story will be researched and published. Spot.Us is a project based on the idea to crowdsource not only journalism, but also its funding. an initiative started by 27-year-old US journalist David Cohn in San Francisco. At Spot.Us anyone can suggest a story. If it gets enough funding professional journalists will pursue it. After publication traditional media may reprint the story in which case the donors are reimbursed. Cohn’s project has some funding from the Knight foundation. During the first six months 23 stories have been published. The biggest donation has been collected for a fact-check on a local political campaign. Cohn journalistic training includes collaboration with Jay Rosen, media professor at New York University and founder of NewAssignment.Net , a collaborative project for professional and citizen journalists. English language video interview with Cohn on the DW academy blog lab.
10. Embrace new technology
• Shared bookmarks and Wikis facilititate collaborative research
• Mobile reporting: streaming video to a website directly from a mobile phone for live reports
• Inexpensive equipment like the Flip camera for video interviews. (The German tabloid Bild has made good use of them by selling a branded version to their citizen journalists. It has a special function for uploading videos directly to Bild.)
• Google Wave (available later this year) may have the potential to revolutionalize both real-time and collaborative reporting. Jeff Jarvis speculates how Google can influence journalism in this blog post.