Newspapers are already hemoraging readership, as the web has created an extremely rich bazaar, allowing us to shop for unbundled content at every turn, while unbundled advertising models begin to sprout up to support this evolution. Well, get ready for the online replicas of the print world to begin to sweat even more. Following on the heals of the mass appeal of social wisdom sites such as slashdot and digg comes a revolutionary hybrid of mainstream media, citizen journalism and participatory editing: Newsvine.
Taking the aggregation features of a Yahoo! News, the collaborative properties of a digg and the citizen media aspects of blogging, Newsvine is staged to completely redefine the news. Why? Because the common man now has stake in the game.
Top/down delivery of content, beginning with organized knowledge, is a modern construct. Since the advent of television, these organized silos of knowledge have been optimized over the years for advertising to take advantage of explicit media buys — matching business audience demographics, psychographics and geographics to channeled, programed, bundled content. Great for advertisers and the networks/publications, lousy for the “consumer,” as we end up consuming more messaging and less news or interests which match *our* needs and desires.
These constructed, mechanical relationships define false, explicit edges of our culture, which in turn raises the value proposition of media and news organizations simply by standardizing on such lexicon. This standardization of topical interests — unknowingly bought into by the public as what is *real* — enables a sussinct universe of sales and stories, broadcast on television news and pumped through newspapers, serving as the ying to the entertainment media’s yang.
A metaphor: Is it easier to entertain and pacify a child within a theme park or the natural environment of a forest?
Somewhere between the crafted, paced, 4/4 movement of greased industry palms rubbing against one another, lies our percept of reality, consistently bombarded by messaging and it’s representative experience. So while we struggle with this understanding of our surroundings, back in the news room, editors — the field managers of this construct — find themselves under the thumb of the financial steerings and pressures of this propped reality. Their indoctrinated intuition places reactionary constraints on the types of stories generated, the depth of coverage, even the language the writer chooses to employ.
The innovators and early adopters of the web… we’re basically saying, “Fuck that noise.”
Bottom/up constructs, enabled by the personal publishing revolution, delivered with flexible subscription technology such as RSS, have empowered individuals to publish cheaply within our own crafted domains.
- RSS allows us to digest information passively (in a centralized location), instead of actively (surfing the decentalized web), which greatly increases our level of input and conversely, fine tunes our understanding of the world, which is represented by our output (blogging, conversations, actions, etc.)
- Those of us who publish our own information objects, apply meta-data to increase the potential of findability, both now and in future interfaces
- Many of us participate with folksonomies, helping make our POV of all information semantically rich and contextual to our neighbors interests, our future grandchildern’s recollections of us, even the desires of a family on the other side of the planet
- We create multimedia objects to compete with elite vehicles of capital, and fuel them through the same tactical approaches
This participatory environment is one aspect of the Web 2.0 phrase that gets tossed about. It’s enabling us humans to share our creative impulses with others, helping to constantly define and then redefine the world around us through our personal representations of both explicit and implicit lexicon.
This is an open paradigm, a transparent journey, based in accelerated trust and faith in one another.
So when these two worlds meet — old school vs. new school or modernism vs. post-modernism or proprietary vs. open source — the truth of hierarchy and the truth of individual POV’s collide. Guess what remains?
A truthier truth.
Newsvine has taken a position of mixing mainstream feeds with user submitted, tagged and collaboratively greenlit content. Even more revolutionary, they’re mixing the standardized embedded lexicon of our culture — topical categories — with the co-occurance generated wisdom of the people creating relevant content living within such silos (see below)
The secondary navigation points are all dynamic, altering over time as the co-occurance of tagged objects within a topical category shifts. This is how I think — how I search, discover, build my own archive in this blog — so in and of itself, the concept doesn’t blow me away. What does blow me away is that by simply placing this paradigm next to, say, The New York Times, Yahoo! News, my pseudo-innovative hometown Greensboro News & Record and a blog aggregator like Greensboro101 (disclosure: I’m on the advisory panel), none of these domains can compete if Newsvine gains a participatory, critical mass audience.
Think about it: Newsvine provides AP feeds (like a Yahoo! News), yet allows anyone to seed *any* story, from *any* site (like digging or del.icio.us tagging). Let me try to clearly paint how disruptive of a strategy this is.
- With only the AP feed, Newsvine could potentially evolve to become a successful News aggregator
- The addition of the digg and del.icio.us features completely change the game. Newsvine now becomes populated by the very content from the news sites (New York Times, News & Record, etc.) that it’s competing against for advertising
- The better the content, say, a New York Times produces, the more likely it’ll end up in Newsvine, but with more context (meta-data) and a thriving, participatory readership.
- Content will begin to be valued differently at a New York Times — as prices might become reduced at the domain, while new, shared models will be created at sites like Newsvine. Good for the Times, as they have a new market for revenue, but it will effect their organizational structure. The big advantage for Newsvine: they don’t have to completely readjust due to their recent entry into the arena and their nimble stature (compared to large news organizations)
- Community blog aggregators could possibly fall to the wayside, simply due to the fact that people can seed their own local posts, as well as their neighbors, and leverage unbundled advertising services. The very concept of “community” will be redefined on much more granular levels, moving towards a flickr existence, as explicit tags begin to define groups of interest
The Final Touch
Mike Davidson obviously knows what he has here; not only an opportunity to provide a rich, participatory environment for the redefinition of what news means to us as a collective, a community and as individuals, but this service could very well challenge the embedded constructs of media and the contradictions of Adam Smith capitalism.
In the final analysis, if Newswire succeeds, it’ll be because of the participatory nature of people. So if Davidson really wants to make his mark on this planet, he’ll not only decide to share advertising revenue with the organizations and the content creators themselves, but the swarms of participating editors — editors removed from the burden and balancing act of management, reduced simply to individual citizens focused on making our communities that much more aware, educated and inclusive. If an incentive program can be devised along these lines– some type of a micro-payment structure based on Karma points and click-throughs for both editors *and* authors– he’ll be responsible for creating the Mechanical Turk of the media world.
If he heads in this direction, or others evolve his concept down this line, media as we know it could absolutely cease to exist. Reputable journalists will become more enabled by freelance opportunities, as news organizations will need to drastically reduce their overhead because advertising money won’t be channeled into one out of six corporate funnels.
Then we’ll more easily find the opportunities to 2.0 the hell out of government.
(Big ups to Kent Bye over at The Echo Chamber Project for refueling my tank last night on the way home. 5 hours of ECP podcasts will get you into this type of groove. Go check out his amazing project)