What they’re saying on Buzzmachine

What Jeff Jarvis’ readers are saying about The Ben Franklin Project

  1. Great article. Step by step we’re starting to piece together the ‘new’ newspaper. This model reminds me of the middle-eastern online news organisation Elaph that has an incredibly inventive production structure, which began as a counter to regional censorship, and ended up with a truly international shape and extremely low overheads.

    One note, business tracking and payroll etc can be handled by Replicon (I’ve no affiliation to it, just a regular user) which keeps everything in professional order without ever touching paper.

  2. JRC employee says:

    It is obvious Mr. Jarvis has not been to a JRC newspaper to see for himself the conditions JRC employees must work under. Our computers our 13 years old while we are operating on an obsolete system (when was the last time you put out a paper using Windows 98). Before you tell JRC not to by new equipment, go take a look at the challenge facing the employees every day working with these antiquated machines.

  3. Matthew Terenzio says:

    This is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve seen from a newspaper company in over a decade.

    It’s definitely going to be a challenge to change the culture at any company but the fact that Paton understands what cultural changes need to be made is a huge, huge step in the right direction.

    I’ve also worked with some of the web developers they currently have and I’m telling everyone to watch this company.

  4. Shawn Petriw says:

    “WordPress, Google Docs, and Flickr”

    Great use for that iPad you returned, Jeff.

  5. Marc Matteo says:

    I’m curious, wouldn’t it make more sense to have professional photographers shoot the pictures and then simply crowdsource the text? This way a quality visual site can be developed (and print product created) while readers can compete to see who has the most interesting text… like a game!

    Perhaps the Demand Media algorithms can be licensed… then even fewer editors would be necessary.

    It sounds fun!

  6. Orlando says:

    I’m a science teacher and I think this type of method would be awesome for allowing people like myself (non-journalist) to be able to add to the publishing process. This would be awesome if a publication tried this model out. The news that would get reported would be what the people want not what the media wants us to have. Interesting insight.

  7. Sounds interesting and fun. My concern is how to pull it off time wise. Still, any way to change the culture and infuse new ideas should be jumped on by all those in the publishing industry

  8. Inky wretch says:

    I was working in the online unit of a major weekly newsmagazine and, all of five years ago, pushed as hard as I could to have the web-first/paper-later approach adopted. Well, at presentation after presentation, everyone nodded, acknowledged that the times were changing and muttered vapid truisms about the need to be “agents of change” or “embrace tech” or, well, you get the idea.

    The end result, and I know it was replicated at many other publications, was that the ink-and-paper diehards decided that they had better control the Web operation. Back-stabbing and knifings became the order of the day as the magazine’s editors made their plays for control of the web’s daily operations and the right to shape the direction they wanted it to head.

    In some respects these people were actually quite smart. They realized the web was the future and that their careers depended on hitching a ride. The flaw in their thinking was that it did not go far enough. Without exception the inky wretches insisted on attempting to make the web operation a new variant of their tired, old mag.

    They thought in terms of traffic — ie., that it was the online equivalent of circulation, and they boosted those figures with sleight of hand slideshows and the most cynical use of SEO. Google the terms “nike” + “big butt” and you will find an entry that was held up to all producers as an example of what the new, online journalism was all about. The fact that we were pulling volumes of porn surfers worried nobody in a position of power; indeed, the mag editor kept issuing officewide hero-grams about the stellar traffic gains our site was making.

    The result was disaster. As the mag’s circulation descended a Himalayan gradient, the web operation lost its core audience, which was replaced by blow-in surfers who arrived via Yahoo and AOL to look at the latest “wealth porn” slideshow. Meanwhile the bosses were heading up to the executive floor, where they buried the CEO etc with buzzwords and BS. Sure, they talked “engagement” and “reader conversations” and “online community”, but what they really meant was nothing more nor less than the old, arrogant business model: We decide what you read and what you talk about.

    The magazine has since been sold for a knock-down price and, even in the care of its new deep-pockets owner, its future is moot.

    This journalism thing of ours will survive and prosper as the new business models and editorial regimes kick in. That said, it breaks your heart to see the missteps along the way.

  9. […] Cross posted at Buzzmachine.com […]

  10. Sriyansa says:

    Great post!

    In fact because the content has been vetted by the market, 2 things can happen:

    a) it is interesting enough that people will pay for it (or someone who has contributed to the process will make them pay for it)

    b) publisher knows the target readership in great detail – hence higher ad rates

    Additionally, this is not something that will take a ton of time to take off. The key though will be in managing the community expectations.

  11. Sean Upton says:

    Even though print is second, it has to happen, so: while we are on the “no strings to old technology” theme (and reinvisioning front-ends for CMS), how about ditching expensive pagination and Adobe’s print tools and trying to use open-source DTP for layout. Scribus is just as easy to use as InDesign, has professionally suitable PDF output, and can be scripted with a bit of Python to glue to web tools like wordpress using XML-RPC. Inkscape works well for illustration, and gimp is (well, just) okay.

  12. Patrizia says:

    The taking of photos can become competitive: a reader says “I can beat that.” ”

    That also can make the newspaper ( at this point we should find something else to call it) always changing.
    The news begins with the first photos and then we get better and better…
    This IS globalization.
    A newspaper written in the cloud, things which are accessible from China to Europe to America…and of course the Internet plays the part of the King.

    How could we call it?

    iNews, or weNews, or cloudNews, broadbandnews, WDFnews
    Write, read now and never pay? Be part of the news?

    This is a big step in the future of news, may be the only possible bail out for newspaper.
    Remember? Everything has to change, so that everything is always the same…
    This is the Internet generation, the end to end network.
    Not a centralized power or centralized news, but an end to end news…

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

  13. Waldo says:

    A couple of things I’d disagree with in what is an otherwise okay post:

    In my experience, reporters certainly don’t worry about the H&Js. If they did it would make the lives of sub-editors much easier. Most reporters will give you War and Peace if you let them.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because online is “unlimited” there’s no word limit and no need for editing. A long, badly composed ramble that never gets to the point (a bit like this response) is a disservice to your time-poor readers.

    And while the idea of asking your readers what you should work on is all warm and fuzzy in a kumbaya kind of way, I can only see it working on non-trivial stories. Asking “the gang” what they know about the local mayor’s use of a slush fund to finance his habit for working girls might not be the best move.

    Still, the digital first, print (or mobile app) second mantra is one I think would work for a lot of publications.

    • Andy Freeman says:

      > Asking “the gang” what they know about the local mayor’s use of a slush fund to finance his habit for working girls might not be the best move.

      Why not? (If you think that you’re in danger until you go public, going public earlier protects you earlier.)

  14. robin says:

    sounds like mr. paton is trying to replicate this experiment:

    http://livingstories.googlelabs.com/

    apparently the code for this has been open-sourced, maybe jrc has the coding chops to pick it up as one tool would be easier to manage as several different organizations implement this vision.

    best of luck to them!

  15. Nick says:

    By starting the digital process first, and posting stories online immediately, the print editors/designers can use the pageviews and comments as a gauge on which articles are most read, and therefore, which ones may be most likely to be read in the print version.

    Basically, if an article isn’t read or commented on, it may not be needed or doesn’t justify print publishing. Sort of like American Idol for news.

  16. James says:

    “The taking of photos can become competitive: a reader says ‘I can beat that.’”

    The same thing can be said of a blog vs a newspaper.

    You can’t be so dismissive of the importance of professional photographers in news media while at the same time trying to justify the need for newspapers, journalists, and editors versus bloggers.

    Bloggers are to newspaper journalists what Flickr Creative Commons is to photojournalists.

  17. Tom says:

    These are great observations, Jeff.

    Not only would this save a news organization money of production costs, it would also probably allow more resources to be put toward news gathering, which would also benefit the consumer.

  18. Credibility is hard to earn and easy to lose, and it’s something that must be considered in a model like this.

    Go to any NYTimes article online and read through some of the hundreds of comments – everything from “Obama’s a Kenyan, Muslim socialist” to “those damn [Republicans | Democrats] are destroying America.” I certainly wouldn’t want to be a reporter chasing stories based on input from that crowd.

    Tell me how to weed out the actual contributors from the scandal-gawkers, conspiracy-lovers and attention-seekers, and then I’ll believe that the entire newspaper can be run in the cloud. Otherwise, you need a base of primary-source reporters with the tools, assets, and access to do investigative reporting to kick the process off. Once the information is out there, the cloud can enrich it (as it’s proven time & time again…)

  19. […] News(paper) in the cloud « BuzzMachine (tags: news newspapers cloud press publishing future content print) […]

1 Comment

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One response to “What they’re saying on Buzzmachine

  1. Great posting. Can’t wait to read a lot more about this subject.

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