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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Advice for Newspaper Editors

The printing-press-to-paper-boy distribution system is going away fast; get out while you can. Google and Craigslist are taking away your publisher’s want-ad business while they distribute your news stories for free. Your skill at discerning what is newsworthy will be valuable in the internet age, but you have to find a way to monetize it as the existing system disintegrates.

Start a blog, if you haven’t already. Treat all the other bloggers as though they are your reportorial staff and all the information services as your research department. Use advertising to make money.

Unfortunately, you now have the problem your publisher used to have: circulation. There are millions of people competing with you, no matter how good you are. Check out Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, or Dave Farber to see what the competition is like.

A new system for assembling the virtual front page, editorial page, etc. is evolving, and you are participating. The big question is whether you participate by discovering a new form or by going extinct. Here are some of the characteristics these new “pages” will have.

Personalized: Each reader will have his or her own page in each category. The news page will consist of items that are relevant to her and that she hasn’t seen before. The editorial and op-ed pages will hold the opinions she respects or fears enough to monitor. Actually, the editorials may emerge as advertisements next to the news items since, like ads, they contain opinions writers wants you to believe.

Annotated: Unlike hard copy newspapers, your internet news page is not finished when it’s published. Readers who are awake when your page hits the net will weigh in with instant letters to the editor. You have the option of allowing their comments to go through to the subsequent readers, but you must stay on the job all day and perhaps even revise your original story.

Entangled: There are many clusters of blogs that reference each other. Each blogger publishes links to specific stories or entire blogs that he or she likes. One artificial cause of this can be the Google page-ranking scheme which recommends pages that are most frequently linked by other pages. Naturally, savvy bloggers have been scratching each others’ backs through mutual references.

If you can develop an exquisite sense of what a few hundred thousand people want to read and get their attention with your blog, you will be set for life. You will have become the publisher of an internet magazine. Unfortunately, few people have an exquisite sense of anything.

As an alternative to allowing millions of individuals become magazine editors who live or die by their choices, site administrators are developing other methods of selection. Slashdot has a multi-level moderation system. Readers of Slashdot are occasionally invited to be temporary moderators that rate comments readers make on stories. Then other readers are invited to rate the moderators on whether their point assignments were reasonable. Perched on top of this hierarchy of opinion judgers is the owner of Slashdot, Commander Taco. Unfortunately, nobody gets paid for any of this activity.

As a person with good judgment about what other people like to read, your money-making options on the internet are currently limited. Whoever can figure out how to employ editorial talent on the internet will be the next press czar.

posted by Jim Morris @ 7:33 AM 


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