Journalism Shifts that Need to Happen – Join a Natural Conversation

So jobs are being cut and news organizations are going bankrupt. Despite the mayhem, I still see potential for journalism pending a few shifts.

  • One shift will have to be in how "journalism" is perceived. Tech-geek is now chic, can journo-geek do the same? That will be a post later this week.
  • We need a severe shift in the business model. Mark my words on this one…I’ll come back to it in about a month in a big way.

Another shift, one I will talk about in this post, will be how the news is distributed.

In a great post yesterday boss Jarvis referred to the "press-sphere."

"When we put the public at the center of the universe â?? which is how
these charts should be drawn and how the world should be seen, as each
of us sees it â?? we see the choices we all call upon: the press still,
yes, but also our peers, media that are not the press (e.g., Jon
Stewart), search, links, original sources, companies, the government.
Itâ??s all information and we curate it and interact with it with the
tools available."

Bottom line, as Mathew Ingram sums up, "only an idiot would argue that journalism hasnâ??t changed, or that the
industry can continue to do things the way it has done for centuries.
It has, and it canâ??t."

The problem is that while all media is social we are so painfully aware of the shift that news organizations have become that awkward kid at the party that stutters before every sentence.

Let’s break it down.

A: All media is social
B: News organizations/people fall into one of two categories
         1. We don’t get it – and thus aren’t even invited to the party.
         2. We do get it – but we are so conscious of getting it that we are jumping up and down screaming "I get it, I get it" – and nobody likes that guy at the school dance. He may have a party trick or two – but magic tricks get old real quick.

I’m hoping we can come up with a third option above: "We get it and we play it cool – like Fonzie." News organizations need to be like the Fonz when it comes to playing in social media, specifically in terms of news distribution.

Here’s a good example.

Today Hearst Digital Media announced a partnership with Spleak (spelled correctly). Spleak is hard to pin down, but essentially it’s a dynamic chat room where people discuss important issues to them – it seems right now Spleak is limited to celebrity news, but I think they are leaving the platform open to new topics.

So on Spleak you have a natural conversation going – real people discussing something they are passionate about (there’s that Geek-chic thing again) and Hearst is working on a deal to insert their news into the chatroom. Everyone wins: Spleak users get good quality content from a news organization that is catering to their specific community. Hearst gets a new distribution platform to keep their content relevant and Spleak gets to be the champion who pairs the two together.

"Hearst editors will publish content
directly into the Spleak network where it will be viewed by the more
than 100,000 daily teen Spleak users on AIM, Facebook, MySpace, MSN
Messenger, and via SMS."

It’s similar to what we are seeing all over Twitter. Don’t try and force the conversation – find a place where the conversation is already happening, and assuming it isn’t a major faux pas – that’s where you shift your distribution. That’s exactly what Hearst is doing with Spleak. Now I ask: Do you think Hearst could re-create Spleak? The technology, perhaps – but the community…. no. And if media is social on the web the Hearst could either string up some balloons and try to host their own party (looking like the kid whose mom organized his 18th birthday) or put on a leather jacket and show up to Spleak’s party ready to rock.

Now, I’m not a celebrity gawker, so in truth the Hearst/Spleak thing falls off my radar a bit. But the potential to go beyond celebrity news should be apparent. Next could be sports. Then perhaps environment and finally politics. Spleak is just a tool, a conduit through which conversations and community can grow – and Hearst as a news organization has information that is of value to those communities.

Other natural community conduits are:

  • Digg, Newsvine, NewsTrust and other social news sites.
  • Facebook, Ning and other social networking sites.
  • Twitter, Spleak and other social messaging services.
  • Blog or content networks

Others exist – I’m sure. Journalism needs to shift its distribution model. I know it’s at the top of this freak’n blog – but it doesn’t hurt to repeat: "journalism is a process, not a product," we don’t need newspapers to do or sell journalism.

1 thought on “Journalism Shifts that Need to Happen – Join a Natural Conversation”

  1. Dave, I just started reading you regularly and I think you’re really writing interesting stuff. I love the Fonz analogy. I’m on the quote unquote other side of the fence working in PR but we’re working on the same issues — how to communicate stories, how to work in social media in a “cool” way, and how to figure out the best way to engage in discussions without being too self-serving. I for one have learned more in the last year or so about PR then I did in the 5 years before that combined. Biggest lesson to me is that we’re still just scratching the surface.

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