Steve Outing gives a hopeful roadmap for transforming a newspaper into a more relevant community connection, using micro-bloggers organized by community of interest with geo-tagged content to focus on local:
But there’s trouble with going deeper on local coverage. Most newspapers already do a good job with staff reporting of the most important and interesting local news. To dig down deeper is, for one thing, probably impossible using existing staff (which likely has been reduced in the last year or so). The obvious next step is to reach out to community members, local experts, students, teachers, community group leaders, retired journalists, etc. Yes, it’s the dreaded “citizen journalism” model.
For some reason, I thought of the blockers in a traditional media company trying to transform into a C3 as three separate big issues, or Gorillas, that stood in the way of progress – culture, organization and technology. All three are evident in Outings column, and this quote from Amy Gahran
Also, today’s journalists can — and probably should — consciously shift away from jobs that revolve around content creation (producing packaged “stories”) and toward providing layers of journalistic insight and context on top of content created by others (including public information).
Outing still focuses on reporting stories, even using expanded community resources, and even Amy melds content creation with product creation, which shows how deeply one of the main blockers is embedded in our organizations. We are organized to produce products on deadlines. Those products have changed from 5 broadcast and 2 print deadlines per day to numerous creation of online and mobile products, but we are still organized around products. We do not think first of communities of interest, affinity or micro-geography, then creating or collecting snippets, or tweets, of factual information of interest to that particular community, placing them into a contextual framework ( think wiki) and only later arranging them into the narrative of a print story, broadcast package or online update. We are focused from the first on our task of creating the product, perhaps online first and then print or broadcast, but still a packaged product.
Those products have sustained us, by providing vehicles for mass-distribution advertising. We don’t want to rock that boat, leading to our culture, developed over the last decades, of risk aversion. We still don’t want to rock that boat – we have to protect the core franchise. To see one of the most intense expositions of these issues, see this October 10 post on Xark. But if we only produce packaged products, we are limiting ourselves and not allowing users to define their information requests in only ways they can imagine, and targeting actionable advertising messages much closer to the point of purchase.
Even if we had the organization and culture to focus on information in context for multiple communities on multiple platforms, we are bound by our technology, which at its very core is designed for publishers or broadcasters to create and distribute packaged products. We think it is great to be able to take that packaged product and distribute it online or on a mobile device. What we need is the ability to create and collect, in the first instance, textual snippets, audio, video, and visual assets in native XML, tag them appropriately, and place them in a contextual framework that has meaning for the community or communities that have interest in that information. Several of us have been working on those technical issues under the NAA’s Integrated Content Management Framework initiative. e-Me Ventures in Oak Park has been an integral player in conceptualizing these issues, including the need for unique asset identifiers.
What can we, as traditional media companies do to tackle these three Gorillas?
1. Assure that top management understands the issues, and the magnitude of change necessary.
2. Define a community of interest or affinity to develop.
3. Dedicate experimental resources to using native XML digital assets to create a framework for that community to add its own assets. This will probably take cooperation among several media companies and selected vendors.
4. Develop a contextual framework (flexible wiki) to allow the community to place those assets in context, and for trusted members to modify the contextual framework. This will also take some tweaking of existing “wiki” platforms, best done in concert.
5. Use that information to “seed” packaged stories for mass distribution, referencing the community, to develop a “virtuous cycle” of strengthening the effort.
6. Develop a business model that shares revenue from actionable advertising messages with all content creators, or an organization for the benefit of the community (school booster club).
Is this possible?