Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Get ’em talking July 16, 2008

Filed under: community,content — contentninja @ 4:58 pm
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most talked about brands - 2008Image by Will Lion via Flickr

I have wrung my hands here, repeatedly in fact, over whether I’m adding value to the conversation.

Yes, says Umair Haque and his colleagues at Havas Media Lab. They’ve put out a paper called “The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context.” In it, they argue that user-generated content is in short supply, but what the market has lots of is user-generated context. Huh?

Take Content Ninja’s blog. A lot of what I offer here is my riff on the stuff I read in my feeds — good points made by bright minds in the field and then I analyze and expand (or try to) on them. What I’m doing is adding context to someone else’s content.

Haque et al. suggest that media’s future lies not in figuring out how to get user-generated content and use it for little or nothing.  The key is to put content out there that generates a contextual discussion. That discussion is important for two reasons: 1) It’s proof that your content is of value to users, and 2) the value of the context comes not from individual users but from the collective discussion.

“A naked rating, ranking, or review on its own has little value or meaning – but millions of them, in
the aggregate, weave complex and multilayered webs of meaning. Put another way, context is the result of the complex, multilevel, network effects that happen when millions of consumers connect,” they write.

And the context is specific to a community or network. Outsiders won’t get it. Think of it as a circle. Give the community content of value to members, and they’ll want to provide context of value to the community.

The white paper goes on to discuss how this viewpoint can be used to change the way advertising, business models and media strategy are done. How that works is less clear to me, but I’m sure Haque and his folks will have more to say.

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It’s alive! May 29, 2008

Filed under: innovation — contentninja @ 3:58 pm
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Ready Position

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Paul Gillin’s post Wednesday at Social Media Today is a nice string of briefs on innovative experiments in journalism today.

Among others, he highlights the San Francisco Chronicle’s success with user-generated content for money-making niche print products and the Hartford Courant’s reverse publishing of hyperlocal UGC from an online community. (Hmm. Smells like a ninja project.)

Also interesting is the Press Gazette (UK) plan to merge three newsrooms into a platform-agnostic workforce. This is the separate-content-creation-from-product-creation concept. Journalists from the Guardian, the Observer and the Guardian’s Web site will create content for department editors (product managers), who will push it out through various forms of distribution. The reporter doesn’t work for any one product; the reporter just gets the news.

Gillin notes: “One radical concept: Journalists will have the freedom to publish directly to their audiences on timely stories, without the intercession of an editor.”

This is taking the disruption of social media right down to the frontlines. As Clay Shirky argues in “Here Comes Everybody,” institutions were created to manage the output of large groups. Social media tools, however, make it possible for larger groups to manage themselves, thereby disrupting an institution’s management structure. In other words, we may not need so many managers.

Now’s a perfect time for our industry to re-evaluate every process, protocol and structure we have. If we make our newsrooms truly 24/7, tech-savvy places, then we don’t need separate online departments b/c every reporter is living it. And if we’re living in that space with our audiences, we need to talk directly with them, not just at them.

Am I saying we don’t need editors anymore? Not at all, but I do think editors need to get out of the way sometimes.

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