The|Intangibles » Citizen Journalism http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil Selected posts from Boyd Neil's blog at http://www.boydneil.com Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:22:30 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Future of Newspapers – Debate Rages (?) http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/08/14/future-of-newspapers-debate-rages/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/08/14/future-of-newspapers-debate-rages/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2009 20:05:54 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-6a00d83451d94369e20120a4f5787c970b Debate about the future of newspapers won’t die for some time yet I think . . . at least among journalists, news media watchers, some bloggers and Clay Shirky.

Roy Greenslade on Greenslade Blog wrote this week on newspapers and magazines charging for their online content. Greenslade’s title alone raises the key question: "Paid content is all the rage with US publishers – but where’s the proof that anyone will pay?"

I chuckled over the comment from Steven Brill, founder of Journalism Online, in the piece that JO "has helped shift the debate over charging for online news from ‘if’ to ‘when and how’" because beleaguered publishers have moved past the "abstract debate" to agree that paid content is the way ahead." (JO’s goal is to help them get there.)

Now there’s a shock right? Publishers think the solution to declining print revenues is to charge people for accessing onlne content.

Megan McArdlein The Atlantic online framed the debate marvellously this way "The problem besetting newspapers is not that there are hordes of bloggers giving it away for free . . . Even if every newspaper and magazine in the country entered into a binding cartel agreement not to put more than a smidgen of free content on their websites, newspapers would still be losing money, and closing by the dozens.  It’s the economics, stupid . . . We’re witnessing the death of a business model."

So how exactly is pushing people to pay for online content recognizing, as people like Shirky and McArdle (and dozens of others) have been rightly trying to point out, that the paid online content model which has been tried many times before will not revive the fortunes of "old" media.

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Social Media and News Miscellany http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/06/12/social-media-and-news-miscellany/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/06/12/social-media-and-news-miscellany/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2009 14:10:34 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-68018891 Lots of juicy factoids and information today that add a little more to my thinking on new communication memes:

  • Twitter_logo_header Of the many striking statistics in a report called ‘Inside Twitter‘ out of Canada’s Sysomos people, this one stands out for evidence of the sheer stupidity of the hordes who now call themselves  ’social media consultants’: “Of people who identify themselves as social media marketers, 65.5% have never posted an update (on Twitter).” I guess they just can’t be bothered . . . or don’t have time?

  • To be filed under the tab ‘Public Relations Through the Rear View Mirror’, according to an article today in the Ottawa Citizen Canada’s National Defence HQ has a new ‘conduit’ approach to public relations (in which all media questions are funneled through public affairs staff, with the journalist never allowed to speak to a subject matter expert directly) that the writer calls the 24 DAY news cycle: “Into this brave new world of hyper-speed news gathering, NDHQ has rolled out what I’ve termed, the 24-day news cycle. Yes, 24 days…..That’s about the length of time I figure that it takes NDHQto answer a question from the news media…..if it is answered at all.”
  • Bear with me on this one. Those who follow me on Twitter will know that as a native ‘Geordie’ I am an ardent — and frustrated, some would say foolish — supporter of the Newcastle United football club, formerly of the English Premier League now relegated to tier two football as a result of an abysmal season this past year. Thankfully, the owner has put the club up for sale (at 0,,10278~3488677,00 about US$200 million). Before he did so, he published a statement in which he said “I’m sorry” about four or five times. Frankly, it sounded hollow given Ashley’s unwillingness to invest in the club and his lack of commitment to its success in spite of having one of the most loyal fan bases of any football club. The lesson here is simple . . . saying ‘Im sorry’ in a crisis is not enough. An apology has to be backed up by action to resolve the underlying problem. In this case, the owner getting out is the right move, although that is not counsel I would give to many CEOs.
  • Finally, this about philanthropic giving . . . “Today, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) shares a first-look at results from its annual philanthropy survey of nearly 140 leading companies, revealing that 53% of companies increased their total philanthropic donations in 2008, and 27% increased their giving by more than 10% year-over-year.” So things are not as bad as the CR critics would have us believe.

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WSJ Takes it on the Chin http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/15/wsj-takes-it-on-the-chin/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/04/15/wsj-takes-it-on-the-chin/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2009 21:07:24 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-65453759

I have no idea if this post from Molly Wood truly reflects Apple’s approach to public relations (“hammer and hammer and hammer and hammer”), or if it is just the usual journalistic hectoring of public relations people doing their job.

But the pull-out quotation from the Wall Street Journal that prompted the piece demonstrates why many business people (and the demos at large) occasionally — okay, often — question the devotion of journalists to seeking truth from facts. Since the WSJ article uses as its source “people familiar with the matter”, “these people say” and “they say” it is also fair game to conjecture, as The Molly does, whether the publication has been spun by a zealous public relations “machine”.

The blame, though isn’t with the public relations people, as Wood accedes, but with lame and now inadequately supported journalism:

 

“It’s not a crime for a company to have a good PR machine. It’s working for
Apple and it has for a long time. But this is a nation that is, at the moment,
finding itself in quite a pickle because we blindly believed everything that
companies were telling us. So, if we’re trying to be skeptical about, say, large
financial institutions and their outlandish and/or reassuring claims, shouldn’t
we also cast the same critical eye on a convenient flood of information that
does little other than improve Apple’s stock price a week before they have to
answer to angry and worried shareholders? Or, hey, maybe the Wall Street Journal
just trying to boost the Nasdaq on purpose. You know, to help the
economy.”

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Democracy is Safe http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/19/democracy-is-safe/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/boydneil/2009/03/19/democracy-is-safe/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2009 21:36:21 +0000 Boyd Neil tag:typepad.com,2003:post-64093799

An extensive analysis in Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper by Sinclair Stewart and Grant Robertson repeats a popular question: “(I)f print is a dinosaur, what will take up its traditional roles — informing the public, animating civic culture and holding government accountable?” Jon Slattery picks it up in the U.K.’s The Guardian in a piece with the earthy title ‘Where the hell do we go now?’ And Canadian blogger and former journalist Mark Evans chimes in with his worry about maintaining the quality of journalism in the face of dissection of the newsroom . . . . without, however, taking a stand on the future of news journalism and without drawing a picture of an alternative news cosmos.

The background to the soul-searching is the precipitous disappearance of major newspapers in print form (The Seattle Intelligencer most recently and The San Francisco Chronicle likely next). At the core of the discussion, other than the loss of jobs and the “decline” of quality (The quotation marks are purposeful since quality has been in retreat in broadcast and print journalism from before social media became a threat.) is the question of whether social discourse, investigative inquiry and democracy will suffer without an energetic and well-financed fourth estate playing the role of critical watchdog.

The model is changing. That much is self-evident. But there is an embryonic new model within the decline (which nearly always happens in transition periods) and it is based on an unprecedented ability to gather, share and act collectively. Clay Shirky in ‘Here Comes Everybody’ calls it a new communications “ecology”:

 

“The change isn’t a shift from one kind of news institution to another, but rather in the definition of news: from news as an institutional prerogative to news as part of a communications ecosystem, occupied by a mix of formal organizations, informal collectives, and individuals.”

Some of the critical pieces of the prototype are already in place.

The ability of people using social networks to form and act together in groups means that problems like corruption and malfeasance among legislators, clergy and citizens can be discovered and fought with even greater speed than when we depended on investigative journalism to root it out. Shirky again . . . “social tools don’t create collective action – they merely remove the obstacles to it.” Without the obstacles to discovery and action, the social criminals and demagogues won’t be able to hide for long.

With the ability of anyone to publish, for the time being we have lost the beauty of fine writing. But not the capacity to find and report significant events. In exchange, we’ve got speed in reporting news, depth, breadth and personality in what is understood as “news”, and often now quirky and energetic prose. The result may be hyper-local community reportage (and publications), but it can also become national and international news if warranted or needed. The disappearance of some print and broadcast outlets doesn’t mean that news is not being revealed, or that criticism isn’t being coalesced into opposition, only that the agent has changed.

As for print newspapers providing a sense of community and hence their disappearance leading to a decline in a sense of place, this is silly. Where we get a sense of community is simply shifting to social networks built around communities and communities of interest. I can learn as much (and find out more immediately) about Toronto from torontoist.com as from the Toronto Star or the Toronto Sun.

Newspapers as we know them won’t all disappear. We need journalistic models of quality, thoroughness and objectivity to learn from and against which to measure citizen journalism. And they’re wonderful to sit with on a Sunday morning while enjoying a cappuccino. Nevertheless, their influence will surely continue to decline. However, democracy is safe in the hands of all of us.

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