Digidave http://blog.digidave.org Journalism is a Process, Not a Product Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:08:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 The vocabulary of TV news doesn’t translate to the web http://blog.digidave.org/2015/02/the-vocabulary-of-tv-news-doesnt-translate-to-the-web http://blog.digidave.org/2015/02/the-vocabulary-of-tv-news-doesnt-translate-to-the-web#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 14:00:04 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4336 Continue reading The vocabulary of TV news doesn’t translate to the web ]]> Five months ago, I left Circa and joined AJ+. As I mentioned at the time, one of my interests was in TV news; more precisely, what TV news is when released from the constraints of television.

I’m not the first to point out that TV news sucks. Like Jeff Jarvis, I don’t want to dwell on it. Instead, I want to write a series of posts to explore what can change — and how — about our understanding of TV news. But to figure out how we move forward, I will need to analyze (but hopefully not dwell on) what elements of TV news don’t translate to the Web.

The sitcom moment that doesn’t translate

Ever watch an old TV show online? I don’t mean “Modern Family” on Hulu. I mean an OLD TV show. Last year, in order to up my nerd game, I watched all seven seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I’m not proud. But I also wasn’t tired (“Star Trek: Voyager” was pretty good, too).

Captain Pickard

The traditional TV show was beautifully crafted for its medium. Watching it outside that medium (the TV set) allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship, perhaps the way an archeologist appreciates ancient artisan bowls. It gives you meaningful insight into how the world worked at the time — but you sure as hell wouldn’t eat out of those ancient bowls now.

You can always tell where a commercial break once existed

If you watch an off-network show on Netflix, the script comes to a momentary emotional pause or small cliffhanger. Then, seemingly for no reason, an establishing shot is made (the Starship Enterprise circling a planet) and the “captain’s log” voice-over begins, reminding you what happened only seconds ago. Indeed, I’m convinced the captain’s log was invented by Star Trek writers as an aid to deal with the return after a commercial break.

Captain's log

In the world of TV, this made sense. The viewer had to watch commercials and be brought back into the story. In the world of online shows, this moment is artificial. It breaks the fourth wall. It sounds like a fake laugh track. What served a purpose then and fit the visual/story vocabulary needs of TV watchers doesn’t translate to the Web. With shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” or “Marco Polo,” the concept is taken even further — the breaks between episodes hardly exist. One can finish an episode and the next episode will pick up almost exactly where the last one left off. Enter the Netflix binge.

In TV news, the commercial break has been used as the teasing moment to the point of ridicule: “Stay tuned after the break when we play this segment about how there is a common household product that will kill you in your sleep.”

Nobody respects this. It’s a cheap trick but also one of the most successful — hence why it is so common. I’m not convinced this trick will work online. And that’s a good thing.

Why won’t it work? As Variety Senior TV Editor Brian Steinberg wrote in December, “Replenishing this crowd with younger viewers becomes tough when millennials and the generation behind them seem more comfortable with streaming video that does not require a subscription to a satellite or cable distributor.”

What moments like the commercial break currently exist in TV news?

Freed from the constraints of time and commercials, how should a programmed video news organization meet a customer’s needs? “Programmed” is a key element here. It’s the part of TV that I think should be preserved.

In a world where television is digital, the product isn’t “broadcast” news, but it’s still programmed. That’s the difference between Justin TV (reality TV born of the Web) and nonfiction storytelling (news): It’s the programming, stupid.

But the tropes of storytelling that broadcasters are so familiar with — the stand up, the walkie-talkie shot and the b-roll of people walking — don’t translate to the Web. All of these are very familiar. But they are anachronistic. The proof is in the satire.

TV journalists: You don’t work for a TV or broadcast news organization, you work for a video news organization. You always have. TV has just been the conduit. And a limited one at that.

TV is the No. 1 source of news in the United States. So the question arises — what changes and what doesn’t about how we understand TV news? What opportunities present themselves when we restructure “broadcast” programming for the Web?

Up next: Video without sound.

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I’ll say whatever I goddamned please. http://blog.digidave.org/2015/01/ill-say-whatever-i-goddamned-please http://blog.digidave.org/2015/01/ill-say-whatever-i-goddamned-please#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:00:45 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4350 Continue reading I’ll say whatever I goddamned please. ]]> If I am to be labeled any kind of extremist, it might be that I am a “free speech extremist.”

This does not mean I am a free speech “absolutist.” I recognize there needs to be limits on speech.

  • One should not be able to falsely yell “fire” in a crowd.
  • One should not be able to make  threats of violence.
  • Child pornography, no thank you.
  • Lying under oath. Bad form.
  • We can come up with more I’m sure……

This list, however, should be short and limited to moments when speech creates tangible victims based on the real world (including market impact ie: Copyright/Trademark) consequences of speech. The examples above cause real harm to real victims.

The current list of exceptions to the first amendment  is a pretty good list. Notably – many European countries have laws against hate speech. The U.S. does not. As despicable as I may  find a racist rant, complete with burning flag in the background, I won’t stop somebody from doing it. Even if I find it….. gasp…..  offensive.

Bottom line:  No idea is sacred to all. No idea is free of criticism. 

It’s freedom of speech as explained by Ghostbusters

Do I recognize that it’s ‘Dickish’ to go out of your way to offend. Sure. But nobody should be forced to “play nice” with an idea, especially if it’s one they think is stupid or want to criticize.

Just as they have the right to be critical of something you hold sacred, you can respond with your own speech. Point out how they are being an asshat. Or better yet – offer a rebuttal or critique their own speech/comment/criticism. In the open marketplace of ideas – may the best meme win.

Anyone who points out that Charlie Hebdo was being offensive is missing the point. Of course they were being offensive. There is and never should be a limit to how offensive one can be with speech. No idea is sacred to all. No idea is free of criticism.

As Jeff Jarvis put it:

Standing for free speech is not American. It is logical. If one allows a government to control—to censor—offensive speech, then no speech will be allowed, except that which government approves, for any speech can offend anyone and then all speech is controlled.

Speech is a human right.

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I have the Plague http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/i-have-the-plague http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/i-have-the-plague#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 15:00:06 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4340 Continue reading I have the Plague ]]> This weekend I caught the Plague.

I’m not sick – just using an app of the name. It’s a simple and somewhat addictive app and anyone interested in the dissemination of information (journalists) should pay attention to it. There is always talk about “gamification” of news and 9 out of 10 times we think that means there should be a game with a journalist as the main character and we follow them along on their investigation.

WRONG (only journalists think this is a fun game concept)

The Plague gets it right: The “game” isn’t about how you get information – it’s how you spread it. The app takes the meme concept and uses a virus as an analogy. You share information and it goes to 4 people close by.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.47.11 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They then choose to spread it further or not. Your meme can end up spreading all over the world, or just die in your backyard.

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 7.47.36 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the elements of the app I find enjoyable.

Simple “Tinder-like” swipe.

  • A “passive” user of the app can swipe up to squash a meme or down to spread it. Super quick and easy. A tap brings you to a detailed view to see comments. The comments are rather good because it’s focused on a single idea/photo/etc.

Elements of Secret/Whisper – without anonymity 

  • Everyone is connected to everyone. What you share will go to ‘local’ users first and you don’t necessarily know them, but it’s not anonymous. While there are no profiles to “follow,” you can click into a user profile. As a person who shares – you don’t run the risk of annoying your “followers” – you don’t need to overthink. There is no social media performance. Worst case scenario 4 people you share with will squash your content. But because it’s not purely anonymous the app isn’t filled with the same kind of content Whisper/Secret are – sex confessions/gossip/etc.

Level up

  • In addition to a transparent view of how things get shared (percentage of people who re-share your content, where they are in the world and total numbers) you are given an “infection index” score. The higher it is – the more initial people you get to ‘infect’ with your information.

unnamed3

Needs improvement on

  • Too much content is re-shared and the app isn’t smart enough to know whether I’ve already passed on(or not) information
  • Too many high-res photoshopped images from “top ten amazing things” blog lists are shared. There are only so many awesome mountain range photos I can stand in one sitting.
  • Minor UI/UX things – but overall the app is pretty sleek. I rather like the loading logo even though it reminds me how morbid the game concept is.

There is something here for journalists to ponder. 

  • What is ‘our’ role vs. the ‘amateur’ role of spreading information
  • The game mechanics of spreading information
  • What will/won’t work in The Plague or other future apps of the same nature
  • The simple intuitive force of the app. It’s not about news – it’s about information –  but each bit is quickly digested and passed on.
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Atomized news: As a music video http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/atomized-news-as-a-music-video http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/atomized-news-as-a-music-video#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:10:17 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4332 Continue reading Atomized news: As a music video ]]> Here’s a post that I’ll admit is a bit ephemeral.

Circa, Vox, AJ Plus, Timeline, Newsbound and others all play in a similar space with atomized news. It’s one that I helped pioneer at Circa but is spreading. They all do news snippets or news atoms that are threaded together to provide context. I distinguish this from, Inside.com or Techmeme (just snippets) because it’s the combining of these bits of information that provide meaning over time.

As noted in a recent Neiman piece: “If the now much-maligned inverted pyramid — the foundation of AP-like “new top” writing, ironically thrust on the news industry of the time by an earlier tech upheaval, the arrival of the telegraph — is being replaced here, we might call it a diverted pyramid.”

We are playing in a space where we are deconstructing the news in the hopes of putting it back together.

It’s a small but growing club. And I suspect we share a lot in common – including mutual respect for the editorial work that goes into this type of storytelling. Each “atom” is deceptively simple.  Yet it has to be enticing enough to keep your attention – so you continue watching. And in the end – somehow they have to combined to mean something.

And that brings me to the video below. It’s a beautiful song but the video – it feels somehow like the artistic/video equivalent of atomized news. Each snippet is intoxicating – hard to turn away from. And even without knowing it – they add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

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When truth and fact collide. Which side do you take? http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/when-truth-and-fact-collide-which-side-do-you-take http://blog.digidave.org/2014/12/when-truth-and-fact-collide-which-side-do-you-take#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 15:00:41 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4293 Continue reading When truth and fact collide. Which side do you take? ]]> There is a tension in journalism. It is not new – but it is is expressing itself in different ways. Like water to fish, the tension is so ever-present we forget it is there.

It is the tension between truths and facts. The two don’t always align.

A great example of this in recent years is the Mike Daisy incident with This American Life.

Mike Daisy had a great story about Foxconn, the company that manufactures Apple Inc. products in China. We learned about the exploitation of workers. Their horrid working conditions. Their low wages. Their struggles. It turned out – much of the story was a fabrication.

From the correction by Ira Glass (emphasis added)

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth.

Here’s the thing. This American Life probably could vouch for the truth of the FoxxConn story. I don’t think there is anybody who could earnestly deny the truth of worker exploitation in China. To dedicate a show about factory workers in China who suffer these working conditions is a good thing. But the specifics of Daisy’s story were all a mess. The facts. The accuracy. The details. They weren’t just wrong – they were lies. It was a tall tale Daisy spun. He did not do this to be evil, but to get the truth across. For him the purpose of the story was to share a truth, not the facts.

Again, this is nothing new. But the speed and quantity of stories with this tension (fact vs. truth) have increased. Marketers and meme makers have used this, I would argue, to their advantage.

Some of you may have recently seen a viral video of a woman pretending to be drunk to see how men would treat her. The video went viral with many appalled at how various men tried to take advantage of the girl.

The video was a hoax.  Everyone, including the men, were actors. The men were told to play along with a kind of practical joke. They didn’t realize it was going to be shared on the web in the same nature as the woman being cat-called while she walks in New York for 10 hours. They didn’t sign up to be the evil-doers in a culture war.

Certainly there is some “truth” to the scenario the viral video was portraying. It shocks us to our core to confront that aspect of humanity. The same can be said with the cat-calling video.

But the drunk-girl video does not accurately capture the aspect of humanity it claims to show. There is nothing factual about the original video. If you give it a bit of scrutiny it becomes painfully obvious the video is staged.

I can recall watching the video for the first time thinking: “this video looks like bullshit.” And yet, who was I to spit in the face of this truth while it was going viral? Would I be a patriarch if I called the facts of that video into question? It was only 24hrs later that one of the male actors came out on Facebook upset at the negative attention he was getting.

It’s easy to pass this off as just a viral mishap. But I think it goes deeper than that.

Where do we square the potential gap in truth/fact in the recent Buzzfeed/Ubergate scandal?

Sure, it might be true that Uber is a libertarian, even ‘cutthroat’ company. But what are the facts behind this story? Some of them seem legitimately in question.

Here’s the situation we find ourselves in.

  • Stories move fast. Faster than ever before.
  • The internet as a medium of information exchange is neutral on the tension between truth/facts.
  • Journalists, I would argue, should have a strong bias (if not an ultimatum) to fall into the ‘accuracy’ side of this tension.
  • Other actors will have a bias (if not ultimatum) to fall on the ‘truth’ side of this tension.

And we need to figure out how to think about players that want it both ways.

Buzzfeed, for example, does some serious and great reporting.

They also share platitudes like: “This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege.” This post draws out a lesson plan where students must try to shoot crumpled paper into a trash can. Students at the front of the room have an advantage over those in the back. This is how the teacher explains “privilege” to the students. It’s an excellent little platitude and it certainly has some truth to it.

But does this teacher really exist? Did this lesson really happen? Are the quotes really quotes or a general accounting of the incident? And, most importantly – for a post like this, does it really matter? We don’t fact-check stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul because their purpose is to convey truth, not fact. This story falls into that space. And that’s not a bad thing. These stories do indeed feed the soul. I’ve told my fair share of campy moral filled fables.

But I would never pass them off as journalism. And if they were being published by an organization I ran that does journalism – I’d want to clearly define when switching from fact to truth. As a dated analogy: If a newspaper’s satirical cartoons were difficult to distinguish from editorial copy – that paper would have a serious charge against it. 

Otherwise they could run the headline: Extra Extra: You’re Perfect The Way That You Are – and they’d sell tons of papers.

Speaking of “You’re Perfect in the way that you are” check out this awesome video of a guy doing 29 impersonations while singing a catchy original song.

 

OH CRAP! The video above is not a fact. But it is true!

p.s. Mashable was taken along for that ride and is a great example of another post: When we correct ourselves and turn that into an opportunity to write another post/article/etc. Something about it feels dirty, like double-dipping.

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Could the CNN joke ever turn on new media pushes? http://blog.digidave.org/2014/11/could-the-cnn-joke-ever-turn-on-new-media-pushes http://blog.digidave.org/2014/11/could-the-cnn-joke-ever-turn-on-new-media-pushes#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 04:12:55 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4313 On news days like today CNN seems like a parody of itself. While waiting for the Ferguson grand jury decision it was obviously stalling/wasting time and repeating itself.

Breaking news….. for real!

But I wonder if the script will ever flip? Could organizations that wait for that FINAL moment to do a wide push ever become the joke? Not for being “too slow” but for repeating news that is already echoing through a cacophony of social media RT’s and shares.

In the event of unforeseen breaking news — I can’t imagine a push being a parody/joke. Just as when CNN is at its best in ongoing breaking news coverage, we applaud their work (and I expect tonight they will do courageous reporting in Ferguson). But certainly there is theater leading up to the announcement. And the “Breaking” push will also be immensely important as we move forward into a digital future. But we do have to stop and wonder how it too can become part of theater. An expected act and almost appropriated for the news organization’s needs instead of the users.

Just as CNN has the problem of filling air, organizations that are increasingly relying on the push have other requirements built into their essence. And fulfilling these requirements could eventually turn into self-parody. Hence — deep conversations already taking place about pushes (often CNN remains the butt of the joke here). I look at Circa* and Breaking News and to me these organizations have the most sophisticated views on pushes (bias admitted). In addition to maintaining editorial cohesion about what merits a push, they allow the user to set parameters. This takes advantage of the personal nature of a push, rather than turn it into a shouting tool.

We are still on the upswing of exploration in this space and all signs are positive. News organizations are still thinking about how to use this tool powerful tool which pushes content to the most intimate of objects (the phone). I just wonder if it will ever begin to backfire.

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Letter to a young journalist http://blog.digidave.org/2014/11/letter-to-a-young-journalist http://blog.digidave.org/2014/11/letter-to-a-young-journalist#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:33:20 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4297 Continue reading Letter to a young journalist ]]> Occasionally I get contacted by young journalists. Sometimes it feels parasitic* (see comments below – I’m specifically talking about a type of contact  I get when somebody just wants to interview me for a school project they were assigned. They personally could care less) and sometimes, like the email below, it feels very genuine.  In either case I respond. For those that just want Q/A type answers for their report, I’ll often respond via video. But for those that reach out and are just looking to chat. I’ll hop on the phone, respond with a thoughtful email, whatever seems most appropriate. And in this case – I thought a blog post would be best because the issues this young journalist brought up felt palpable. Not to say I have all the answers – but I am happy to rant! (names in the email have been changed and noted with [BRACKETS].

Hey David,
We’ve never met, but [NAME REMOVED] speaks highly of you and I follow your work online. Congrats on the new gig. I’m rooting for you.

I’m emailing because I’m totally lost in this industry, and I think you’re one of the few people that might get it. (It’s a Hail Mary email.)

I spent last Friday in the newsroom of [METRO PAPER]. I’ve got some friends there, but I had never been there until last week. The visit absolutely terrified me.

I found it to be a bleak environment full of cubicles staffed by burnt-out folks and the publication’s digital strategy is as fragmented in the workplace as it appears online. [A PERSON] and the social media folks are pushed into a corner, like a leper colony. It felt like walking through a mausoleum.

What was absolutely terrifying is that the [PAPER] is considered “well-adjusted” for legacy media, and is one of the most highly sought-after landing spots for [MY SCHOOL] graduates. But I know, in my gut, I’d hate working there. I have no idea where I fit in anymore.

My technical skills are proficient, my grasp of the social web is above-average and my desire to do something beyond the ordinary runs deep. I harbor a deep-rooted fear that I cannot leverage my strengths in an industry unwilling to make the seismic shifts necessary to be healthy, competitive, but most importantly, more than words on a page.

Storytelling is great. But I want to be a part of storytelling that engages people, information that mobilizes people, platforms that change the paradigm–where are these opportunities, David?

It’s telling that from the [THIS PAPERS]’ reader representative, that the most common complaint from readers is not what the paper publishes, but what it doesn’t publish. I can’t find it a serviceable reason for its existence. To educate? To mobilize? To make money? It rarely accomplishes one out of three.

My peers at the [UNIVERSITY] seem to have this idea that I should hunker down, accept any opportunity upon graduation and just grind out copy until we are all made irrelevant by the boogeyman (“civic journalism”). Pardon my French, but holy shit, do I find this outcome absolutely terrifying.

TLDR: If you have any idea what path a journalism school student should walk separate from the well-trodden path, one that leads to something more forward-thinking (with the possibility of being an active participant in this paradigm shift), I’m all ears. Because the alternative is terrifying.

I figured if anyone has some sage (hopefully optimistic) words of advice, it might be you.

The next time you’re around, let me know and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. Cheers.

First off – I love the real talk. Let’s get it out of the way. The newsroom you visited has some real issues. There was a recent hire (you probably saw in the news) that does speak volumes. But overall there is an aspect of “status quo” that any paper of that size/caliber is going to have. They can and will move forward – but it will be at a slower pace and it will be bogged down in bureaucracy, spreadsheets, and other annoying hinderances.  That doesn’t mean it’s a hell-hole, you just need to know what you are getting into.

But let’s say you ultimately reject the idea of working at a place like that. There are other opportunities out there.  Keep in mind: Just because you got a degree in journalism doesn’t mean you need to be a big J “Journalist” to do the kind of storytelling you want to do. Journalism is a gateway degree into almost anything.

There are a growing number of startup news organizations that don’t suffer from the same feel/vibe of what you just described. They include  AJ+ and Circa (yes, I’m bias in listing those first) as well as Buzzfeed, Vice, BreakingNews, Vox, and those are just off the top of my head. I’d also include nonprofits like those that belong to INN. Although these are less “sexy” I find they often don’t suffer a lot of the problems you identified with the major metro paper because – they are so mission driven that you only get people who care. There is a willingness to try new things because they are always on the brink of defeat. For every boring metro paper there is an “ist” taking its place (Gothamist, LAist, SFist, etc). That’s not a 1-for-1 replacement, but I hope the point still comes across.

The main thing I’d stress from the above is – Don’t get hung up on the idea that working at a traditional paper is the sign of “making it.” You can work for a startup. Even one that doesn’t have BIG J Journalism at its core – and be doing amazing work. Look at The Skimm. It’s hardly a newsroom. I can even imagine some muggles debating whether or not it’s journalism. Who cares. I bet the two girls running it are having a ball (and working a ton – but that comes with the territory). Check out GoPop. Now think about the possibilities of designing a platform for communication itself. That’s some next level shitright?

Here’s the rub: What you gain in creative freedom you lose in stability. If I were 30-40 years older, at this time in my career I’d be middle management. Trying to win awards and impress my editor. It might be “dull” aside from the occasional big win – but I’d have a pension, a stable job, enough to feel secure with my 2.5 kids, dog and…. well, I probably wouldn’t make enough for the picket fence because journalism pay rates are never that great – but you get the idea.

As it is – I’ve had several jobs in the last 10 years. I’ve been lucky to have TONS of creative freedom, but I’ve also never truly had BIG S “Security.” Combine that with the emotional highs/lows of working on a startup (or in a startup-esque culture) and while exciting – you should keep in mind there is a “grass is always greener” element here.

So when you write: “I cannot leverage my strengths in an industry unwilling to make the seismic shifts necessary to be healthy,” that might be true. But the hinge word there is “industry.” Maybe you don’t want to work in the “industry” – but you do want to work in the “community.” That’s an important distinction (see the second question here). Increasingly – projects that I think would once be called part of the “community” are being embraced as part of the “industry” – but still at the outer edges. But that does bode well for somebody like you – to find a space at the fringes and push the boundaries allowing more space for the wider industry to understand/adopt/etc. At least – that’s how I like to think about some of the work I’ve done.

I’ll end with this: I appreciate you reaching out and flattered that you think I’d have some sage advice. But I’ll also confess – I am not sure if I have anything solid. It sounds like you are still young. You got plenty of time to figure out what you want to do. Just think about all the possibilities. Don’t be tied to any one thing. And while I would encourage you to take anything/everything I’ve said here with a grain of salt – do consider me an ally. Happy to help out if I can – just let me know.

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My next adventure: AJ+ http://blog.digidave.org/2014/10/my-next-adventure-aj http://blog.digidave.org/2014/10/my-next-adventure-aj#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:50:20 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4288 Continue reading My next adventure: AJ+ ]]> Before I go into the why, let’s not bury the lede. I am joining AJ+ as an Executive Producer. Specifically, I’ll be focusing on the app, engagement and social.

It was not easy leaving Circa where I was the Chief Content Officer. As the first non-technical hire I helped set the editorial tone for where Circa is today. I couldn’t be more proud or excited for its future. I am also thankful to Matt, Ben, Arsenio and the entire Circa editorial team. I learned an enormous amount during my time there. Where does one go after working on a project like Circa? As I’ve said before, “creating a news product is how you critique the press today at an institutional level. That’s how you make a statement on what you think the future will feel like.”

I’m always motivated by questions and challenges and part of the appeal of AJ+ is about tackling two big ones head on.

Traditional broadcast media, specifically television based operations, need to figure out their future.

Television is the main source of news for most Americans. Love it or hate it — that’s the situation. But the expertise and skills developed to package news for broadcast mediums don’t necessarily translate to the web and certainly not mobile. I’ve called it the Screenularity. It’s the moment when the functional distinction between the screen in your living room is no different than the screen in your hand or in your lap. When that happens — television news operations will need to compete against the rest of the web. And the question is — are they equipped? Right now, I think the answer is no. But that’s where projects like AJ+ come in.

Engagement, lost but not forgotten

I’ve also recently written about trends in conversations around engagement. From 2001 to roughly 2011 a big thrust in the conversations about how journalism was changing centered around the changing relationship between audience and producer. Jay Rosen calls them “the people formerly known as the audience.” Dan Gillmor wisely pointed out “my readers know more than I do.” These revelations brought on interesting experiments and a golden age in re-thinking the process of journalism to make it more transparent and participatory. Mobile news is now well into its second generation. Flipboard, Zite and Pulse were the first wave with Circa, BreakingNews, YahooNewsDigest and NowThisNews representing a second generation of mobile apps. This new wave is less about aggregation and has a stronger editorial sensibility. As AJ+ enters the fray, it is in position to carry the mantle of engagement that was so important to the journalism conversation on desktop but has not yet been championed in a mobile setting.

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Enough with the manifestos about the future of news, let your product do the talking http://blog.digidave.org/2014/10/enough-with-the-manifestos-about-the-future-of-news-let-your-product-do-the-talking http://blog.digidave.org/2014/10/enough-with-the-manifestos-about-the-future-of-news-let-your-product-do-the-talking#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 05:45:31 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4277 Continue reading Enough with the manifestos about the future of news, let your product do the talking ]]> Nikki Usher had a great Columbia Journalism Review article “Startup site manifestos are press criticism” where she notes that startup news orgs like PandoDaily, Vox, FiveThirtyEight and more have gotten into the habit of writing manifestos (much like the New York Times did when it launched in 1851). These manifestos are essentially their critique of the press in action.

The implication is that traditional journalism simply doesn’t offer readers this kind of news in the existing environment—that it’s not doing enough to give us what we need to know, and these sites are going to offer an alternative way to give us the public information that is the perceived obligation of journalism.

I think Nikki is right in her observation. These manifestos feel like the result of an organization sitting down on a psychologist’s couch, talking about its metaphorical parents and writing how it intends to deal with feelings of abandonment. “I WILL BE BETTER THAN THEM” the news organization shouts. Catharsis!

I found out about the post because of a tweet from my colleague Anthony DeRosa.

My response:

I’ve worked on several projects and endeavors over the years. Some of them are now shut down, some of them like Circa are currently kicking butt. But all of them were manifestos. They were all applied critiques of the news process. Emphasis on “applied.”

  • NewAssignment.net and Broowaha were critiques on the closed process of data collection/reporting
  • Spot.Us was a critique on the flow of money in journalism and sought to make it more transparent and participatory.
  • NewsTrust was a critique of accountability
  • Circa is a critique of the “article” as the most common/base unit of information (among other critiques).

Manifesto writing is important and helpful, and each of these projects spilled plenty of digital ink describing their goals, but it was the product that spoke loudest. It was the product-in-action that defined what these projects said to the larger industry.

Vox’s stacks are more poignant than the video where Ezra Klein talks about how the web can change things. Pando’s use of comics scream louder than the about page written by Sarah Lacy’sFiveThirtyEight’s drop-down menu tab says more about its values than any interview about it could. First Look’s future products will say more than any blog post explaining those products.

At the heart of the New York Times innovation report I don’t think the conclusion was the NYT needs to write a new manifesto. Instead, NYT recognized it needs to re-think product(s). That’s how you critique the press today. That’s how one shows what you offer that no other news organizations can.

Writing a long article is how you critique a specific act of journalism (think Ombudsmen) and is incredibly valuable. Just look at the wonderful work ofMargaret Sullivan for some of the best examples of recent memory. But a long manifesto won’t re-imagine what we do. Creating a news product is how you critique the press today at an institutional level. That’s how you make a statement on what you think the future will feel like.

lets-do-this-250There is so much talk about entrepreneurial journalism, it’s important to see the forest for the trees. Why is this a golden age of exploration in media? Why is it important to discuss the “future of journalism”? If you want to work on a new project or product ask yourself why. Is it because you can? Because you want to make money? Or because you have something to say and the best way to articulate it is by showing how things can work.

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2015 SXSW Accelerator: Entry Deadline Nov. 7 http://blog.digidave.org/2014/09/2015-sxsw-accelerator-entry-deadline-november-7 http://blog.digidave.org/2014/09/2015-sxsw-accelerator-entry-deadline-november-7#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4271 Continue reading 2015 SXSW Accelerator: Entry Deadline Nov. 7 ]]> Once again I am humbled to be a SXSW Accelerator advisor.

What is that? It’s the chance to showcase your startup  in front of industry leaders.

From the organizers:

“SXSW Accelerator returns for its seventh edition to showcase some of the web’s most exciting innovations – could your company be one?  This event provides an outlet for companies to present their new online entertainment or gaming products, social media / networking technologies, or mobile, news, music, or health technology to a panel of industry experts, early adopters, and representatives from the angel / VC community.

Past judges have included Tim Draper of DFJ, John Sculley of Apple/Pepsi, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, Paul Graham of Y Combinator, Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital, Chris Hughes of New Republic/Facebook, Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures, Albert Wenger of Union Square Venture, Scott Weiss of Andreessen Horowitz, and Bob Metcalfe of Ethernet/3Com.

We invite your company to join us for this incredible event, as we highlight the technology market’s most impressive new innovations.  The application deadline is Friday, November 7, and the event itself will beMarch 14 & 15th, 2015 in Austin, TX.   Please apply sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator

If you do apply – let me know!

Deadline to apply

Friday, November 7, 2014. 

Applicants must be within one of the six categories:

  • Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies
    The Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies category encompasses applications and technologies that facilitate comprehension and application of information. These startups seek to improve productivity and management of data, analytics, text, documents, and engagement for business and individual use.
  • Entertainment and Content Technologies
    The Entertainment and Content Technologies category highlights applications and technologies for gaming, music, film, television, video, news and publishing, streaming and digital storytelling, as well as new and hybrid forms of entertainment. These are reinventing the ways in which we learn, relax and enjoy our time. This category also contains technologies that focus on other cultural sectors such as sports, travel, mapping, publishing and food as they pertain to entertainment
  • Digital Health and Life Sciences Technologies
    The Digital Health and Life Science Technologies category involves patient-centric health applications and technologies that connect patients, families, physicians, pharmacists, care providers (hospitals, clinics) and benefit providers. These products and services enable people to collect and share timely, relevant health data and drive better outcomes at affordable and sustainable cost levels. These may include Internet of Things and wearable devices, but such devices may be more appropriate in the Wearable Technologies or Innovative World categories (see below).
  • Social Technologies
    The Social Technologies category includes applications and technologies that enable personal connections. With this category we’re looking for new and interesting uses, cases, products and services, as well as messaging that push the boundaries of how we find, follow and share our lives with others. If your business or service has a social component but is primarily focused on Entertainment, Health or Wearable Technologies, then you should enter one of these other categories instead.
  • Wearable Technologies
    The Wearable Technologies category focuses on technology worn on, in, or around the body. As this major technology cycle advances we are seeking all types of wearable products that advance human performance and wellness, as well as those involved in apparel, accessories, fashion and lifestyle. If your product is focused on patient/clinician information, please apply in the Digital Health and Life Sciences Technologies category.
  • Innovative World Technologies
    Any creative and innovative technology that does not fit in another category is encouraged to apply here. We are currently seeing lots of innovation in the Internet of Things, payments and virtual currencies, data security and privacy, transportation such as autonomous vehicles, energy, space, robotics, and artificial intelligence, If your business / service / application applies to one of these fields (or something not on this list that is even more ground-breaking), then this is your category.

 

Where can I get more information:

Visit the Accelerator website at sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator

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