Posted on April 27th, 2005 3 comments
After reading this Business Week article about blogs, I feel like maybe I’m not such a geek after all. Either that, or the rest of the world is getting a lot more geeky. Maybe this is why I’m suddenly all excited about Podcasting and vlogging. They’re part of the quickly shrinking frontier left to be explored. (Actually I’m sure there’s a lot more on the horizon, particularly in the mobile arena. And then there’s nanotech and real artificial intelligence. Oh, and don’t forget lunar colonies).
So here’s the latest hype. Business Week claims there are now 9 million blogs, with 40,000 new blogs appearing every day. They say it’s as big as the invention of the Gutenberg printing press (didn’t they once say that about the Internet itself?), and it’s not going away. I love this quote because it reflects the grass-roots nature of this phenomenon:
“The dot-com era was powered by companies — complete with programmers, marketing budgets, Aeron chairs, and burn rates. The masses of bloggers, by contrast, are normal folks with computers: no budget, no business plan, no burn rate, and — that’s right — no bubble.”
For a couple of years, I actually sat in one of those $900 Aeron chairs! Now I’ve joined the teeming masses blogging from their cheap Wal-Mart swivelchairs.
No matter how big blogging gets, I still refuse to go back to publishing baby pictures on a public blog. I’m still reeling from the moldy old pictures that come up when I search on my name in A9. Why would I want to do that to my family? There are some pretty good reasons to not blog publicly about your life, yet there are so many people who do it. I hope they all know what they’re getting into …
Technorati Tags: Blogging
Posted on April 27th, 2005 No comments
A lot has been written lately about Podcasting. I really don’t want to add to the love-fest except to say that thanks to iPodder and Podcastalley.com, I hardly ever listen to to radio over the airwaves anymore. The combination of interesting amateur content and an application like iPodder that pulls down only what I want to hear has added a personal dimension to audio content that broadcast radio will never be able to match.
Or will it? Today, Wired News reports that San Francisco’s 1550 KYCY AM station is adopting a 100% listener-submitted content model. They’ll invite Podcasters to send in their best stuff, and the station (which will be renamed to KYOURadio) will play their favorites on the air. The station will even cover ASCAP and BMI licensing fees for contributors so that they can broadcast their own playlists without having to pay the minimum $600/year it costs to do this legally. This will be a fascinating experiment to watch, and in contrast to the subject line of this post I find myself hoping that I can tune into the station over the Web from my home in Colorado. I’m guessing that this is the kind of reaction the station is hoping for, and I sincerely hope that it brings to radio what citizen journalism is bringing to the newspaper industry. I think it’s no accident that Infinity Broadcasting’s CEO Joel Hollander calls this movement “open-source radio,” which sounds a lot like Open Source Journalism (a term coined by one of my colleagues in Bakersfield).
There is one hitch, and I think it’s a major one. Because KYOURadio will remain primarily a broadcast (although if they’re smart, they’ll also make the show available as its own Podcast), everything on it has to meet the FCC’s quality standards. Some of the most popular Podcasts, like The Dawn and Drew Show and Yeast Radio, are full of the kind of stuff that the FCC lives to fine for. As a result, I suspect the type of content they choose will be a little different from what you find at sites like Podcastalley.com. This doesn’t mean it won’t succeed, just that it will be different and maybe more “mainstream.”
Of course, given how quickly Podcasting itself has taken off I don’t think anyone really knows what “mainstream” means at this point. When thousands of people like me are bypassing their car radios in order to listen to Podcasts during daily commutes, will a Podcast radio station really be able to compete? The whole problem with broadcast that Podcasting solves is that I have total control over what I listen to. Like blogs and RSS feeds, it’s a publish-and-subscribe model that fragments audiences because they want to fragment. A lot of people are tired of hearing the 10 songs over and over and blindly surfing the radio dial to hopefully find something they want to hear. With Podcasting, you subscribe to something, unsubscribe if you get tired of it and then replace it with another targeted show (like Coverville, which I love!) My guess is that Podcasting Radio stations will gain some new listeners, but not the people who are leaving radio because of Podcasts.
Posted on April 14th, 2005 No comments
Lately I’ve been distracted by some posts on the Poynter blog and elsewhere that touched a deep nerve, and today I realized that what bugs me is the incessant, ongoing debate about what is and is not “community.” In my industry this discussion has typically been about online communites. But now as more media organizations adopt citizen journalism models (there are at least 28 so far), where peoples’ online contributions are also printed in newspapers, some new voices are emerging to try to define what is true citizen journalism and what is not.
I’ve been involved in a number of major online community efforts over the years, and if there is one thing I have learned from those experiences it’s that any effort to define what is and is not community will ultimately fail. It will most likely also get in the way of actually serving the needs of consumers.
I have been as guilty of this as anyone else in the past. After trying to pigeonhole community many times and failing (usually because a boss asked me to for some Powerpoint presentation to back up something we were doing), I eventually came to the conclusion that a community is not defined by its focus or features, but rather by the people who participate and how they use it. I now believe that anything — whether it be online, in print, on a cell phone, or in some other medium — that connects people with each other is a community tool, and if the people who use it meet each other through it, they are by virtue of that fact “a community.” This is why I now even see things like Classifieds as community, and indeed the entire future of the newspaper industry hinges on how much it chooses to serve the fundamental need of people to connect with each other through Classifieds. A few years ago few people bought this argument, but now sites like Craigslist, Tribe, Myspace, Flickr and my latest project Bakotopia prove the point. Communities are about connections, period.
I think this is what bothered me about Amy Gahran’s post on the Poynter blog about the recently announced Rocky Mountain News and Boulder Daily Camera citizen journalism efforts YourHub.com and Mytown. Amy dismissesd them as follows:
“I doubt that either of these efforts will become vital, since they don’t improve upon existing online communities. Geographic focus alone is rarely enough to make an online community vibrant. Furthermore, these two online communities are starting off in direct competition with each other — as well as with every other relevant community already on the net.
The resources spent on these projects could have been used far more creatively and successfully, I think. For instance, how about offering some live or online courses/workshops to train citizen journalists — and then leverage their content, energy, and ideas both online and in print?”
Here we go again, trying to define community. I don’t disagree that training can be a good thing or that some people could use writing lessons (which appears to be Gahran’s business), but that’s completely separate from her larger point that these sites are not communities or that they’re “bad” communities. I think it’s far too early to be judging whether these Web sites and newspapers will work or not, or if they can be considered legitimate communities. They’re just one more tool for certain types of people to express themselves and connect, and why some people appear bent on predicting doom and gloom for these initiatives is beyond me.
Ultimately the success or failure of citizen journalism or any community tool will be judged by how well it helps people connect in our increasingly disconnected suburban culture. The fact of the matter is that almost all citizen journalism efforts we have seen so far have been embraced and even loved by the citizens using them. I see no reason why Colorado’s efforts can’t be as successful as the others and become part of the fabric of the larger Denver/Boulder community — whether or not they fit any one person’s definition. So let’s be just a little more positive and community-minded, shall we? Give them a chance!
Posted on April 11th, 2005 No comments
Some things you only do when you’re sick (did I mention I’m sick? Bleh heh heh! There, maybe now you believe me). And this particular project I definitely would never have had the time or inclination to do except under the extreme fatigue and boredom brought on by being in the same place all day long. That and needing something to distract me from thinking about my throat.
I’m happy to announce the launch of my new / old blog: CLICK! It’s a collection of weekly columns I once wrote for The Washington Post about weird, wild and wacky Web sites. I’ve had them in an old site for some time, but sometime between working at AOL and becoming a parent, I sort of forgot about CLICK.
But amazingly, other people didn’t!
During my extreme boredom today, I took a look at my FutureForecast.com web stats and was very fascinated to discover that a lot of traffic to FutureForecast still goes to that old site. What’s more, people apparently search on Google and Yahoo for things they remember from the column, and my site comes up. You can read a little about that on the blog’s introductory post.
I decided to move the CLICK archives to a blog because a) it’s a heck of a lot easier to publish than they method I used to use, b) some of those sites are still up, and still funny (like Nude Carrot Man), and c) now I have an easy way to talk about new funny sites in minutes vs. the 1/2 hour it used to take me to do this.
Posted on April 11th, 2005 No comments
Colorado citizens, take note. The days of blaming “The Media” for not covering the news you care about may be coming to and end. Pretty soon here, you won’t have an excuse to stand on because it will be nobody’s fault but your own. There will be too many direct outlets for you to share your voice!
I can hardly believe it, but today — just one day after Rocky Mountain News Publisher John Temple announced the pending launch of YourHub.com — the Boulder Daily Camera launched Mytown.dailycamera.com. It was not only announced, but was launched and promoted via a letter from a Daily Camera editor (the story requires registration to read). I learned about it not from the Camera, which I don’t subscribe to, but through an anonymous post on my blog.
According to the site, people can submit news (including photos), events and milestones. Milestones are defined as weddings, engagements, anniversaries, births, and my favorite: “good news.” The introduction on the site says it all:
“No news is too small – from Little League to college scholarships, professional accolades to pie-baking contests, volunteer opportunities to neighborhood watch programs.”
The Daily Camera will also be renaming its Sunday community news page to “MyTown,” and presumably printing submissions from Mytown.dailycamera.com there. That’s a smart way to tackle web-print synergy out the gate, but I hope that they print content in their free weeklies, too. I have been getting the Broomfield Enterprise delivered to my door for free for the last year, and every time I open it I think it would be a great outlet for direct community contribution (like the Northwest Voice, which is produced by the company I work for). With that and its smart police blotter map, they’d have me hooked and I might even pay for it. Right now, it gets about 2 minutes of my time before going into the recycling bin. And I’m a former journalist! One of my neighbors, a mother of two, calls every few weeks asking the Enterprise to stop delivery. Knowing that the stories of her kids and friends might be in there would probably result in the opposite effect. She’s the type who would post stuff herself, then cut out copies of the printed stories to put on the fridge.
I love the anonymous comment on my previous post, which read: “If you don’t want to wait for citizen jouranlism in your ‘backyard,’ you can check out mytown.dailycamera.com, which launched today.” Of course I will never know for sure, but this just sounds like a competitive jab at the Rocky Mountain News by someone at the Daily Camera I do stand corrected though — Boulder is really more of my back yard than metro Denver, and I’m delighted to see that I and my neighbors (most of whom don’t read any newspaper at all) will have a local outlet for news about our community and our kids. And soon, we’ll have another with YourHub.com.
With that, I’m off to find some photos of my daughter to submit to MyTown!
Posted on April 9th, 2005 2 comments
Today John Temple, Publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, announced the upcoming launch of YourHub.com – a bold new local site that appears to be one of the largest, if not the largest, community publishing / “citizen journalism” initiatives in the U.S. And it’s all happening in my back yard!
Like The Bakersfield Californian’s Northwest Voice, which launched a year ago, and Morris Communication’s Bluffton Today, which launched last week, YourHub.com will allow anyone to publish content from the Web. It will also have print components — starting this summer with print weeklies for “metro Denver communities” distributed on top of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. (As a suburban Broomfield resident, I’m just guessing that this excludes me for now — but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised). But what’s different about YourHub is that it will allow online publishing for practically every neighborhood in the greater Denver metro area all at once. This is incredibly ambitious and exciting, and I have to hand it to the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Newspaper Agency for having the guts to roll out this aggressively. This will be a fascinating experiment to watch — and since I live in Broomfield which will have a hub, to participate in as a local contributor! I have to admit that my own selfish goal is to get pictures of my beautiful 2-year-old daughter into my own local paper
As a Colorado resident, I’m also excited to see that this isn’t the only citizen journalism product in the area. Recently Jonathan Weber of The Industry Standard started New West, a regional publication based in Montana that’s focused on western issues like growth, water rights and the environment. New West has a citizen journalism section, too. There aren’t a lot of contributions there yet, but they just launched so I’m sure it will grow. I plan to attend one of their launch parties next week in Boulder.
Ten years after leaving the Denver area to work at a more progressive media company (Washingtonpost.com), it’s gratifying to see my local media finally embraced online community. It looks like I returned to Colorado at the right time!
Posted on April 6th, 2005 No comments
This post is a combination of personal news and industry kudos. First, check out the photo of my nearly finished second-story deck with a view of the Indian Peaks! This was a nice thing to come home to after a few days of traveling. I love Colorado
Now, the industry part. I continue to be impressed by how well Flickr has made use of hot trends like freeform tagging, “blog this” and RSS. I originally uploaded this photo to Flickr so I could share it with my family and friends, who are all interested to see how the new deck is progressing. Then I decided, what the heck, I’ll blog it too. Flickr also makes that incredibly easy for people who already have a blog.
And then I discovered something really, really cool. Flickr automatically sets up every single photo tag as an RSS feed! They’ve essentially tricked me into creating a photo blog about my deck, and any new photo I tag with the word “Deck” will show up on that page and in the feed. You can see this as a plain old URL (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pachecod/tags/deck/),
or as an RSS feed that you can subscribe to in a news reader or use to pull new deck photos onto your Web site.
As more sites do things like this, I can imagine a world where the idea of “blog” gets subsumed into the larger idea of publish and subscribe. Anything I publish will be subscribable by others. Right now the mechanics of setting up or subscribing to an RSS feed are still complex for most people, but that’s changing as sites like Yahoo enable one-click subscription of feeds to a My Yahoo page.
It’s a great time to be alive!
Posted on April 5th, 2005 3 comments
As promised, you can download my full presentation from the 2005 New Media World conference here:
- Goodbye Classifieds, Hello Community! (Powerpoint, 3.3 MB)
You are allowed to redistribute it for free or use it to create derivative works, provided that you provide attribution to it and to any source materials cited in the presentation.
Posted on April 3rd, 2005 3 comments
A new study from the Carnegie Corporation of New York based on interviews with 18-34-year-olds shows news habits rapidly moving away from print and national broadcast. The big winners are the Web (skewing higher income and male) and local broadcast TV (skewing lower income and female). On the web, portals such as Yahoo and MSN were considered “primary news sources,” which is interesting since those sites only aggregate and don’t actually produce any news themselves. Young people said their favorite mediums provide them news when and how they want it — another indication of the growing importance of personalization, and reduced consumer value placed on daily print editions).
I was surprised to see local broadcast TV on this list, since it offers no control whatsoever. I suspect that the social and entertainment aspects of local news are a factor. Maybe all the time local anchors spend bantering and telling jokes is having and effect? It’s not that different from The Daily Show in that regard. And the personal nature with which local TV news is delivered is also shared by blogs, which were also cited as a gaining in popularity among young people. They want biases to be transparent. My, how things have changed from what I was taught in journalism school about how people want “impartial, balanced news”! We’re entering a Bizarro World where everything is opposite of what we once believed.
Find more info on the study here:
Posted on April 3rd, 2005 2 comments
Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a very short yet thought-provoking piece about how both America Online and the WELL are celebrating their 20th anniversaries this year. AOL is of course now a monolithic, profit-centric company, while the WELL has only 4,000 paying subscribers. Yet the central element of both are community, and through community both have had profound impacts on the evolution of the digital world.
I think there is something to the fact that many of the people and companies that are having the biggest impact on the digital world today (which is increasingly bleeding into the “real” world) at one time had some connection with AOL and the Well. Back when I was a student studying “electronic journalism” at the University of Colorado, I recall Dennis Dube giving demos of AOL and CompuServe and pointing out the communities and forums. Many of the people I worked with at Washingtonpost.com were early AOL members and some belonged to the WELL too, and that probably had something to do with the fact that many of us eventually went on to work for AOL for a time. All of those people had a good understanding of the value of connecting people online (which is what online community is about). While they didn’t all work on community products, everything they did and continue to do has a strong community element.
In fairness, I should point out that while I did work for AOL for 6 years, my early community experiences were on neither AOL nor the WELL, but rather on Prodigy. That service disappeared for business reasons, but it had some very strong communities which are sadly now largely forgotten. And before Prodigy, I was involved in local dial-up bulletin board systems in my home town of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Community continues to be central to everything I do. My primary project at The Bakersfield Californian right now (Bakotopia.com) is fundamentally an online community, although in the newspaper industry people see it as “free Classifieds”. It’s interesting that a similar site, Craigslist, is often seen the same way. And isn’t it also interesting that Craig Newmark got his idea for Craigslist from the WELL?