Talking Fantasy Newsroom

Posted on 09. Jul, 2009 by in New News Organization, News Ecosystem

Martin Langeveld over at the NiemanLab posted yesterday on the essentials he would build into a newsroom if he were starting one from scratch. His ideas include what should be obvious by now, like incorporating the url into branding and encouraging what Jarvis calls the link economy. Langeveld also suggests wikifying the news and thinking of it more as a free-flowing process rather than a product. He writes:

Stop thinking about posting stories. Instead, organize your content management as a cascade; let it flow from raw input into Tweets, social networks and blogs; distill it into a wiki; repurpose it into podcasts, print and niche products.

Down in the comments, however, Vin Crosbie, a media veteran and professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, suggested that the post put the cart before the horse. Better to start with how a news business can afford to pay the journalists before coming up with what they’ll be doing, he writes:

I suggest the initial effort be formulating a business model. To do anything else initially is just journalist daydreaming…Only if the spreadsheets showing your forecast revenues and expense over the next year show enough to live on, then you can decide what brand name or URL or Web site design to use, how many hyperlinks to embed in your stories, how to use Social Media, etc.

What Mr. Crosbie suggests perfectly describes the mission of the CUNY New Business Models for News project. We’re working on developing a number of business models that can support the work of journalists in that future newsroom, who will be called on to do everything that Langeveld lists and much more.¬†But coming up with a business plan does mean that we have to play fantasy newsroom to a certain degree. And in this new media landscape (especially in this economy), we think we’ll need to staff our newsroom with the best bloggers, reporters, researchers, aggregators and technologists that we can find. Oh, and we’ll also need journalists with strong curating skills to manage a host of outside bloggers and freelancers that will help provide coverage.¬†Essentially, we’re looking for an Albert Pujols for every beat.

Well, maybe we’re guilty of a little journalist daydreaming, too. But those future newsrooms, whether they’re fantasy or not, will have to stand the test of a rapidly evolving consumer and advertising marketplace. We’re going to take our best shot at getting it right. Stay tuned.

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One Response to “Talking Fantasy Newsroom”

  1. Jay Small

    09. Jul, 2009

    Matthew,

    Thanks for this post, and I look forward to this team’s work.

    For some time now, I have felt and expressed (most recently, see http://smallinitiatives.com/blog/jay-small/2009/07/08/innovation-at-newspapers-what-direction) that the businesses that will pay for journalism in the future will have progressively less to do with adjacency to and distribution with journalistic products.

    In other words, a business entity that wants to practice journalism in any form does so as a public service (or for any other abstract mission you can imagine), but runs mostly unrelated businesses that pay for it.

    The activities cross only when the practice of journalism helps establish a brand reputation that can have a positive influence on the business(es), or when the business(es) can derive some operational efficiency from the existence of a journalism organization. All, of course, within whatever ethical and practical guidelines the business establishes for its journalism.

    In all, journalism might still create advertising adjacencies or paid content opportunities that help sustain it. I guess, though, that it will soon require other ways to make a buck.

    As with most things, I only sense this to be true, but I am not adamant about it. I’d be curious to hear the project team’s thoughts.

    Thanks and best regards,
    Jay Small