My degree is in journalism. I love newspapers. It is just AWESOME to me to read a Sunday paper and even the ads for (geek alert) Circuit City, Best Buy, CompUSA and others and drink a good cuppa Kona café while perusing the press.
Even better…do all that and I go downstairs into my basement home theatre dubbed the Ecenter and put on something ranging from classical to Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics, or the new tone poem from Norah Jones and read the paper and sip the java.
But I think its been pretty obvious that one of the domains most shaken up by the web 2.0 world has been media and particularly the print media which is ignored by the younger set for the far more visceral audio tunes of podcasts and iPod songs and the even more engaging visual delights of Web and soon to be ubiquitous mobile video from the likes of YouTube and ESPN.
Let me make this blatantly clear.
would you rather see?
I rest my case.
The fact is though, that we're not just viewing things from a visceral standpoint when it comes to reporting. Actually, with all the blasts at the media, and all their exaggerations, vagaries, overhype of stories that are meaningless; their pandering to the lowest levels of taste found this side of Twinkie and their clear and unadulterated claims of no-bias when that's absolutely impossible, the truth be told, most reporters in the print media or on TV are honest professionals - and I emphasize the words "honest" and most germane to this blog entry "professional."
That means that user-created content and collaboration with the customer and "citizen journalism" buzzwords aside, they know more as professionals than we do as amateurs - usually. Not always.
Long Live Heretics!
See, I'm gonna be a 2.0 heretic here. Meaning that despite my clear love of the entire Web 2.0/CRM 2.0 "thing", I'm gonna violate the temple of 2.0 culture and say something that (horrors) I know that people who love all things 2.0 don't want to hear.
All user-created content isn't good.
Yes. Once again.
All user created content isn't good.
The movement that is creating the onrush of user created content is good.
But a LARGE chunk of what is created by the users sucks big time. I mean, did you see those horrible user created commercials on the SuperBowl? That "Chevy Car Wash" winner of the College Ad where guys couldn't get their hands off a Chevy and stripped down as they stroked it. Not really funny. Professionally produced, amateur written.
That would be this one.
Okay, but enough. What I'm saying is that this isn't the era of "anti-professional" just the era of "self-expression," some of which indicates serious talent, some of which indicates serious vitamin deficiencies. So be discriminating. There is something important & valuable about people who are experts in their craft and love it perhaps too, and something important about customers' desire to collaborate and participate in activities that both enhance their own experience and benefit the companies that they are utilizing to enhance that experience.
All in all, the qualified meaning of co-creation of value. Not the unqualified adulation of user-created content.
All of which brings me to something I found very interesting in the world of the print media.
Gannet is a Bird; Its a Plane (well, no it isn't) Gannett is a Media Chain
Innovation springs from places that are often unexpected. While the major media like the Washington Post and the NY Times are making admirable efforts to digitize and be more "relevant" - their efforts tend to be more toward the purist social network side of the 2.0 electronic house. Oddly, the effort is springing from a source that I wouldn't have expected. The ownership of the newspaper that sits outside your hotel room door most every morning you're there - yes, USA Today and bigger YES, The Gannett News chain.
They are leading a charge that according to a Washington Post article last November that I just ran across, is radically transforming the way that they (and hopefully, other print media) do business:
They will be "incorporating elements of reader-created "citizen journalism," mining online community discussions for stories and creating Internet databases of calendar listings and other non-news utilities."
That is amazing when you realize that most of the other newspapers, even including the pretty surprisingly progressive NY Times are thinking that the new media is developing digital editions that can be read with digital readers. Even this slight move to the fore is considered a radical departure from the eras of Heywood Hale Broun, Walter Winchell and Arthur Sulzberger. So what Gannett is doing is beyond the journalists' pale.
The Gannett initiative is all encompassing and has created quite the fervor around the blogosphere. For a whole compendium of posts on the subject, there is a great blog called CrowdSourcing: Tracking the Rise of the Amateur that has a strong blanket thrown to cover this thing here worth looking at.
The initiatives involve transforming not just the structure and practices, but the culture of all the Gannett regional properties like the Indianapolis Star, the Des Moines Register and the Cincinnati Enquirer, among others. They don't even have newsrooms anymore but they are calling them "Information Centers." Here is the Gannett definition of that from a FAQ on it that you can read here:
"The Information Center is a new way of transforming the process of gathering and disseminating news and information. It is the evolution of the newsroom, focused on gathering the information our readers and viewers want using words, images and video and distributing it across multiple platforms: the daily newspaper, online, mobile, non-daily publications and any other media possible to meet our readers' needs. Creating an Information Center means retooling the newsroom, expanding into multimedia, embracing community interaction, shifting resources and rethinking the way a community is covered. Gannett's Newspaper Division, which has conducted a series of pilot programs to create and test the Information Center concept, organized the Center around seven key information gathering areas: digital; public service; community conversation; local; custom content; data; and multimedia. (More about each desk below). Information Centers can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual operations in each division. "
But that's not what I want to talk about. There is plenty out there on that. I'm focused, laser-like, dead-on, micro-directed at the "citizen journalist" part of this; the use of user-created content in this and what has been nicely called "crowdsourcing" by Springwise and many others in the biz. What biz that is, I'm not sure.
Crowdsourcing v. Pro-Am or Are They the Same?
Just to make one thing real clear. Crowdsourcing is NOT a term that applies to just the citizen journalist out there. Its a term for utilizing human resources outside the corporate firewall. So what I've written on Proctor and Gamble and their use of the scientist networks to help provide a significant percentage of their innovative ideas is crowdsourcing. The mod community in the PC and video games world is crowdsourcing. The use of the 400,community members to design, vote on and buy the teeshirts that Threadless sells is crowdsourcing. Expert doesn't have to be the operant term. Amateur sources who can be problem solving humans are perfectly acceptable with this approach.
One permutation or, really, justification, was James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds.
The book's premise was that the greater knowledge came from the vectored results of the totality of the crowd. I think there's some validity to that idea, but it does at least explain how to approach the sourcing of crowdsourcing.
What Gannett is doing is more interesting, really. They are utilizing the strength of their professionals to, as Michael Maness, the VP of Strategic Planning points out in BusinessWeek, " "The pros do the heavy lifting and build the framework and structure...And the audience can come in and fill in." An example of the successful use of this in a Gannett property that seems to be circulating a lot is the Ft. Myers News-Press found that home buyers were being hit with $30,000 bills for water and sewer line connections - WAY in excess of even the supernatural when it comes to this kind of plumbing effort. The news guys put a short item in the paper and online and asked for input from the citizens, providing the online tools for the input.
Blueprints showed up online, discussions back and forth between the journalists and citizens and between the citizens and other citizens. Then documents began to appear suggesting illegal activities. There was increased coverage. The scandal hit. The traffic on the site (micro-site actually) became huge and the $30K was no longer the price - apparently.
This is great and a new approach to journalism that isn't new in other fields. But there are two problems. One - general. The other - Gannett.
The quality of the material is still from amateurs and can be misleading potentially. But this is a really good thing that's going on here. Just be aware of the misstep.
This is a notoriously cheap bunch - penny pinchers. So the suspicion is that they aren't being pioneers in something new and exciting, but cost-cutters with the appearance of something new and exciting. So if it starts to cost something then the new and the exciting become the old and boring fast. But if they are truly trying to innovate so that they can engage the readers in a new more interactive/collaborative model of journalism, then its likely the harbinger of the CRM 2.0 approach to journalism - which is the the true citizen involvement in the stories that affect their destiny.
And that's a good thing. I just hope that it stays good.