From my March 13 guest post on TechFlash: The best way to characterize Twitter is to use a cocktail party analogy. At a cocktail party you’re talking to a lot of people, usually in pretty short sentences, usually in a small group, back and forth. You segue from group to group, exchanging pleasantries.
If at the end of the evening all those comments were transcribed under their originators’ names, it would look something like Twitter.
Now you may be wondering where all this is headed. Why would someone want to post cocktail party conversation on the Web?
The answer is that, like many new social-networking vehicles on the Web, Twitter represents a potential ecosystem, with a potential business model. To see how this might happen requires an understanding of the Web’s (and social networking’s) evolution toward more of an oral, rather than print, tradition.
March 26, 2009
March 1, 2009
Today’s Guest Post on TechFlash has to do with the dis-integration of television content by the Web, and how a couple of $25 adapters can turn your Mac or PC into a somewhat inconvenient but generally serviceable TV. Many are doing it. Here’s how.
If the cable industry is smart, this will soon lead to better roll-your-own cafeteria and/or on-demand (micropay-per-view?) pricing — one might even hope for a paid content model that other content providers can emulate:
“If the TV industry can get people to pay for content, it hopefully will spread virally to other content on the Web. This is a nut all content providers have to crack — the news industry most urgently.”
Here in Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer is facing imminent demise and The Seattle Times‘ books suggest it will at minimum have to declare bankruptcy for a reorg. As John Cook asks, can a wiki come to the rescue? Uber-newsman Chuck Taylor has started one, Seattle Post-Post-Intelligencer, to explore life after newspapers — Read All About It!
February 24, 2009
I’ve posted another guest essay on TechFlash, this time on how all roads to paid Web content run through Google:
“Google’s role would start with the Web searches that have become as second-nature to the Web as flipping channels on a TV. The highest-ranked searches (Google determines that today, of course) would be tagged for pay-to-click. Metadata, either a balloon or pop-up window (similar to Netflix’s stellar browse system), would display a sentence or two related to the full content of the selected piece…”
The Stranger (Slog) is doing what looks to be a fascinating piece on the Seattle P-I’s future online plans (if indeed it has any). I posted on Horsesass.org on this with observations on what a local HuffPo would have to look like. The comment queue is high quality as well, including posts from Seattle Jew, and I added this in response to one of the comments:
@15 Ah yes, the archives…who owns ‘em and what happens to them? This is the question raised by the legacy “Northwest Source” URL that essentially buckets both newspaper archives into one destination/database. I’ve never been able to get a straight answer on why this is, and what it means in terms of the two papers’ future.
This is especially crucial because archives represent a real revenue stream if, make that when, paid content comes to the Web. For academics, researchers, historians, authors, journalists, activists and others, news archives are a crucial resource worth paying for (a reasonable amount, which the NYT’s $1.50 a pop was not before they dropped it).
I think The Times plan was always to buy out the P-I and absorb its archives, and the P-I went along because it figured Hearst would buy out The Times with the same deal. Then the news biz went south…but if the P-I folds and The Times declares bankruptcy to rid its debt and somehow survives — or vice versa! — the archives will exist in one big pot. If they both just plain cease to be — has this happened yet at a major paper? — then some online entity will surely purchase the archive database for standalone or synergy with other properties.
February 19, 2009
I’ve called for retirement of the term “micropayments” because it is so misunderstood, misused and at this point just plain stigmatized. But I still believe in a penny a click, and I wish The New York Times, when it assembles a panel on the topic, would come up with just one person who has spent a lot of time thinking about the ontology of a payment infrastructure for Web content and can respond compellingly to the many bogus arguments and misconceptions put forward by people who overcomplicate the problem and don’t get the solution.
February 17, 2009
LA Times: “On the website, visitors leave story tips and reporters pitch formal proposals, trying to persuade other folks to contribute $5, $100, whatever, to turn ideas into stories. Journalists on the site generally ask for $500 to $1,000. (And individuals can give a maximum of 20%, so no one person can have an undue stake in the story.)”
Worth a stab, for sure…
February 16, 2009
City Club luncheon, Friday Feb. 20: “The Newspaper Business: Sunset or a New Dawn?”
I’ll go with “sunset” for newspapers, “a new dawn” for journalism.
University of Washington, Wed. Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m.: “Journalism on the Brink: Can Digital Save It?”
Journalism isn’t on the brink. The news business is. The issue is whether digital can come up with a pay model to support journalism, which done well costs actual money.
I’ve blogged on this over the years. Here are some previous posts at Horsesass.org, and my original “Who Are Your Gatekeepers?” post nearly eight years ago.
February 15, 2009
TechFlash, started by John Cook and Todd Bishop, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters, is a rarity: Professional journalists who truly get the Web. I’ve admired John’s and Todd’s work for years of course and was intrigued and surprised when they launched, given that most projos have resisted throwing their fates (and healthy salaries) to the vast ether of online journalism. But they quickly established that they know what they’re doing. When Todd asked if I’d be interested in contributing a guest post, I jumped at the chance.
My ultimate hope remains a Seattle-based, locally focused version of Huffington Post. The technology slice of such a publication would look a lot like what TechFlash is already doing.
My guest post looks at where Microsoft is headed with its foray into retail stores.
January 1, 2009
Eight years ago I started blogging, becoming just the second full-time daily newspaper staffer (after Dan Gillmor) to write a blog. What motivated me, besides the prescience of Web agitator and uberblogger Dave Winer’s warning that print media were headed for the technological scrap heap, was the incipient presidency of George W. Bush. From the time he was elected, if that’s the right term given the Supreme Court’s circumvention of due process and its de facto anointment of King George, I had a terrible sinking feeling about the future. George Bush, as I wrote in my very first blog, would come to be known as the greatest president since Herbert Hoover.
My reference point was simply Hoover’s incompetence, his inability to process reality, his boneheaded allegiance to Republican dogma when creative alternatives were obviously in order. I was not even sure Bush would actually be worse than Hoover. But today I think of Bush as not just America’s worst president ever, but the biggest loser of all time. Think of it. As Molly Ivins and Michael Moore documented so well, everything George W. Bush has touched in his life has turned to clay. He’s just that kind of guy, and documenting how he managed to run a great and powerful country from wealth and stature so far into the ditch will provide historians a vast and endless quest of explication.
When I started blogging, the most frequently used term was “Web log,” and only Internet cognoscenti even knew what it meant. Blogging’s evolution roughly tracked that of email: First people asked what it was. Then they asked why they needed it. Then it became the primary way they communicated. You cannot really have a presence on the Web without a blog, although what that really means for most people is a kind of calling card rather than, say, a personal Huffington Post. Many of the early bloggers, in fact, including the coiner of the term and Winer and Gillmor, hardly blog at all compared with what they once did. There are too many other mechanisms for communicating on the Web — everything from social networks to YouTube to Twitter.
I blogged almost daily for nearly two years before cutting back, starting again, then stopping. Blogging well is harder than it looks (for one thing, you have to know how to edit your own copy). And time-consuming. Plus it was not going to pay any bills.
But I’m starting up again because I feel we’re getting close to some sort of economic viability (if not quite a business model). Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have to come up with some sort of economic viability. Because newspapers are indeed going down in flames, and something has to replace them if we’re to maintain a healthy democracy. I should not say “replace” because newspaper journalism does not translate to the Web, that is, the (purportedly) objective voice and truth delivered from Mount Olympus. We need the truth more than ever, but it has to be conveyed in a way that is compelling, meaningful, relevant and most of all unfiltered. Life in America is so entrenched with dishonesty that the primary function of news today is simply dismantling the dissemblance.
Newspapers may indeed be going down in flames. But the process will have to play out, it seems, like the fable of the Phoenix, where the pyre must be lit and the bird consumed before it can rise from the ashes.