Posts Tagged 'journalism'

Hyperlocal news

In connection with familiar words like ‘blog’, ‘news’, and ‘content’, the term hyperlocal has been a buzzword, at least since the launch of the hyperlocal content network Outside.in in 2006. We’ll get back to Outside.in and why I think it’s so important, but I’ll have to set some terminology straight first:

Hyperlocal means ‘over-local’; it refers to information not only about a specific location (that would just be plain old ‘local’ information) but implies a closer affiliation with the place, typically in terms of residence or some degree of familiarity. The rationale behind it is this: When people blog about the place they live, it attracts people who see themselves as connected to the same place. Very often, good old community feeling lies at the heart of it all.

Buzz rarely originates directly from community feeling; it’s more of a down-to-earth business kinda thing, and in order to turn volatile notions as community feeling into something tangible, the idea has to translate into a business model of sorts. Around 2005, with the rise of blogging in general and neighborhood blogs like Gothamist in particular, the aggregate amount of high-quality local content had become so extensive that it was in fact starting to look like an alternative to the news coverage of mainstream local media.

In this situation, what you need to make it a real alternative, is an aggregator that lets you gather the content you want and source it to users who will be able search and browse it. While millions of readers certainly is more than your average blogger could hope for, it’s what newspapers like New York Post crucially needs, and for that they’re more than willing to pay.

In briefly sketching the hyperlocal business model, I’ll throw in a few more buzzwords (hint: do watch out for the italics!):

Premise 1: Let there be given a lot of hyperlocal content on the web

Premise 2: Let there be given a news network that will let you

  • find and collect stuff, you want to use (that’s called aggregation),
  • select what you see fit to publish (that’s curation, but if you’re bluffing, please avoid confusing curation with ‘editorial work’) and
  • publish it to your own site

Consequence: Receive lots of traffic and ad-revenue.

While refraining from adding a Quod erat demonstrandum to the argument, there’s evidence that the model is working: New York Post (here’s a page for the Flatiron District) and CNN have teamed up with Outside.in, AOL acquired Patch, and MSNBC bought EveryBlock.

Outside.in is important, because it represents a genuine intersection of blogosphere and traditional media; it’s not just another newspaper letting a few reporters do some trendy blogging. What comes to mind is that this is in fact the most extensive local news coverage I have seen: Not only is there more content, the news are also much more granular.

If you’re interested in the really big picture, you’ll be sure to get it in Outside.in co-founder Steven Berlin Johnson’s excellent talk at SXSW 2009. As a little aside, I’ll be posting a little companion piece with a (hopefully growing) list of Danish hyperlocal blogs.

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Transparency is not the new objectivity, but comprehensiveness just might be

In a terrific post, Transparency is the new objectivity, David Weinberger argues that the hyperlink nature of the internet is reshaping our notions of authority. With everybody suddenly a potential author, the old claim to objectivity seems more and more trite and outworn:

Objectivity used to be presented as a stopping point for belief: If the source is objective and well-informed, you have sufficient reason to believe. The objectivity of the reporter is a stopping point for reader’s inquiry. That was part of high-end newspapers’ claimed value: You can’t believe what you read in a slanted tabloid, but our news is objective, so your inquiry can come to rest here. Credentialing systems had the same basic rhythm: You can stop your quest once you come to a credentialed authority who says, “I got this. You can believe it.” End of story.

Instead we demand transparency; to be able to “see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position.”

Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.

I think that this kind of “hyper-transparency” -where citing a book isn’t enough, but where a link has to point to the actual resource- may be an essential feature of the internet medium; but whereas it certainly is a necessary condition for establishing reliability, it’s hardly sufficient. After all, what leads to reliability is not the number of hyperlinks to the author’s sources, but trust in the fact that the relevant aspects of the matter have been adequately dealt with.

So, instead of objectivity, I’d suggest ‘comprehensiveness’ as a condition for reliability. And it’s a sufficient one too, because on the internet comprehensiveness seems more than ever to subsume transparency.

Sensation: Knowledge isn’t power anymore

Jon Stewart’s crusade against CNBC sure stirred up a lot of dust. Just as the interview with Jim Cramer, one of CNBC’s financial experts, it made headlines all over the world.

I wasn’t that impressed. Sure, righteous Stewart exposing wicked Cramer was good television, but it wasn’t serious journalism.

I mean, of course CNBC’s (baconian) statement that ‘knowledge is power’ is both bold and ridiculous. And claiming to be the ‘ONLY network with the knowledge YOU NEED’ doesn’t help either. It’s bold because CNBC is the tabloid version of financial television news, and it’s meaningless because in the market, information is only valuable when it’s a secret. A piece of financial information which everyone knows is worthless, since the market has already accounted for it.

It’s a case of the old law of supply and demand. When knowledge is all around, it stops being valuable. And since the market is constantly changing, information considered correct and useful may turn out the next minute to be incorrect and useless.

Seriously, that’s no sensation, but I must admit: schadenfreude works on TV.

Where journalism is going

These days, with Depression 2.0 and all, it can be rewarding to take a quick recap on what actually sparked the whole thing. This little gem brings you

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.