In the wake of the hugely depressing shutdown of the Rocky and the Seattle P.I., and with recent death threats to the SF Chronicle and what looks to be a savage year indeed for print newspapers everywhere, these big guns have all stepped away from their normal discussions of deep tech arcania and turned their attention to a 500-year-old technology undergoing its first epic, bloody revolution.
I know people who have been working and building the emerging web who have been trying to dialogue with those in the news industry for the last 9 years about what was happening and coming.
The grand upshot? They don’t really have any idea. But they have some curious, slippery, hopeful, but ultimately disappointing theories. Theories that, to my mind, consistently miss the mark, in at least one or two vital ways.
The dismissiveness tone of the article just sort of proves thew whole issue.
The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several. One was to partner with companies like America Online, a fast-growing subscription service that was less chaotic than the open internet. Another plan was to educate the public about the behaviors required of them by copyright law. New payment models such as micropayments were proposed. Alternatively, they could pursue the profit margins enjoyed by radio and TV, if they became purely ad-supported. Still another plan was to convince tech firms to make their hardware and software less capable of sharing, or to partner with the businesses running data networks to achieve the same goal. Then there was the nuclear option: sue copyright infringers directly, making an example of them.
It is as if when the web people say “i told you so” and “we tried to help” they plug their ears and continue to make noise so they just can’t “hear”.
continued from Clay’s essay…. The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!”
No technologists who are on the cutting edge of technology don’t know what is next – there are things people are working on in different corners – we are working on identity over here…Sem Web folks are working on their things. WE STILL DON’T KNOW but we do know it will arise out of the communities we are participating in and the emergent effect of the tools we use. The Newspaper people didn’t really roll up their sleeves and dive in to learn about the web and how to do what they do but in more interesting web ways (like linking in their articles that are online). Clay sites Craigs List as an example – of “we didn’t know” twitter is another more recent one.
Last year I worked with folks bringing the Journalism that Matters conference to Silicon Valley. I was hired specifically for my expertise in facilitating unconferences in geeky communities. They didn’t really want to hear what I had to say about what was needed in the event design to attract geeks (not that many came even though it was at Yahoo!). A month before the event happened they decided to just go ahead without further help/advice from me. I learned from this experience
- They don’t understand web architecture (the first thing I told them was to get their online digital presence in order. – they had a different blog for each event, a bad late ’90’s site, they didn’t get how to organize a wiki).
- Journalists work alone generally (making collaboartion with co-organizers on the conference a challenge).
- There is a higher normative level of conflict in the tech world compared to the journalism world.
- They are not experts in facilitating time/space for large groups of people (some how the agenda development was driven by the journalist’s need to “let certain people speak”)
- They are in deep morning and loss for the way of their profession and were unable to engage/look at the future – they would need a lot of “emotional clearing” before they could think in new ways about the future.
There is one asset that was developed that I am quite proud of it is a value network map of the newsroom and the new news ecology.
I think these says a lot about what is going on and how to think about things in new ways. One of the reasons these got developed is they kept talking about “the news room” and I challenged the assumption that eveyone would know what that was.