Profit or public service: call in the "users"

I found some convergence in two very different blogs on the value of what-used-to-be-readers in the age of diminishing newspaper sales and trust in journalists.

Ted Leonsis – US sports team owner, former AOL executive, film producer and much else – offers a Ten Point Plan to Revinent The Newspaper Business.
He starts with 1. Get out of the newspaper business – saying you shouldn’t be defined by delivery mechanism: think content distributed by TV, mobile, Web 2.0, radio etc. He goes on to say give it away, team up with media businesses … and lots more to increase ad revenues. Get rid of senior editors … what you need is “algorith managers” who know how to get the best click through to ads.
However, if Ted doesn’t value old-style editors, he does like readers:

9. Embrace user generated content. Today a newspaper company looks at its readership with basic disdain. These organizations must learn how to turn their millions of readers into content generators by creating a national polling service; embracing message board posters as part of the network; finding ways to get consumers to become uploaders of information; and creating local real time YouTube-like applications. Everyone has a cell phone with a camera. Everyone has a cell phone with a video camera. Embrace this audience with services and even a way to get money back for their contributions. Make them a part of your network. Don’t preach to them. Activate them to add to the knowledge base.

T-shirtOver in the UK Charlie Beckett is reviewing Nick Davies’ book Flat Earth News, which blames commercial pressure for an erosion of ethical and effective original investigative journalism … but doesn’t, in Charlie’s opinion, have enough useful to say about what’s to be done. Nick pretty much ignores the positive potential of the Internet, unless savings by using new technology allows employment of more journalists.

Charlie is concerned to increase the contribution journalism can make to more than the bottom line. He

I believe that the solution lies in a mix of market and public service journalism. We need to protect the BBC and invest as societies in other forms of media that address market failure. News media companies need to invest in the future – and they are. But above all we need to seize the opportunities offered by new technology to bring the public in to the process.

… adding:

Davies’ mistake is to think in terms of the numbers of hacks at desks when we should be thinking about flows of information and transparency. It is the public who have the data, the knowledge and the critical insights that can bridge the funding gap.

He adds a plug for Networked Journalism and his forthcoming book SuperMedia (Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World), which I’m really looking forward to. You can get a foretaste in Charlie’s article for the Press Gazette last year.

Two objectives and perspectives – one increased profits, the other saving the world, but a similar solution: support your reader-viewers. Fine so long as they stay contented.

Photo credit: Heather Powazek

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