Yearly Archives: 2009

Blog posts I have written and not written this year

Hey, would ya look at that, the year’s almost over. And while I’m not the biggest fan of arbitrary divisions of time, I sure do like making lists.

Year-end lists are little nuggets of candy that fall from the sky like sweet, sweet hail, and every now and then, it’s the end of a decade, and people really go nuts with all the listing, and — naturally — the lists of lists.

As for me, I’m going to keep this post squarely focused on just two lists.

Posts I haven’t written yet, but promise to get to soon, really, honest

  • That thing about the coming link economy. Wait, did I write that? Not really. Let’s just say this: If you spend time as a journalist digging up information online, finding valuable links to pass along to your readers and followers, adding context and reference to what we think of as the conventional “news,” then I think there’s some money in it for you. Not just PageRank. Not just whuffie.
  • “Why I enjoy casually copy editing Wikipedia.” I do. And that’s an actual title from an abandoned draft post sitting in my WordPress install. I think it says a lot about the future of annotations and corrections that I can correct things like spelling and punctuation in Wikipedia without thinking about it too much, or jumping through any hoops at all related to my identity. It plays right into my desire to copy edit the world as I move through it. If I can’t carry around a black marker and play apostrophe police, at least I can fix Wikipedia.
  • Hyperlocal is made of people. Seems obvious, but a lot of people seem to think it’s about software, or a business model, or user-generated content. Any version of those three items can and will work, but if you don’t have wildly passionate journalists, developers, salespeople, all three, or one person who does all three jobs, you’re not going to get very far. It used to be enough just to have a great idea for a news project. Then, you had to answer the inevitable question, “Sure, sounds great, but what’s the business model?” Now, even if you can answer that, people will ask you “But will it scale?” As if your success isn’t valid unless everyone else can succeed by following exactly the same path as you. See why I haven’t written this one yet? I’ve been on all sides of this argument in the last few years, and I plan to stay there.

The most popular posts here at Invisible Inkling this year

  1. The difference between Facebook friends and Twitter friends: Something pithy that StumbleUpon users seem to really love, a lot.
  2. 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head: Still my most popular blog post ever. Pretty sure most of it still makes sense.
  3. 10 little white lies you hear about the future of newspapers: Wrote this in the middle of the Great Paywall Debate of early 2009. And it shows.
  4. New York Times on e-paper: This is from 2006. Search engines love it.
  5. Five Keys to Authenticity: Probably the post I put the most thought into this year, even if some of it was while I was hacking up phlegm en route to a talk in Pittsburgh on the topic. Following those five pieces of advice really are key to sounding like the human being you are, when you’re engaging with readers (or customers, for that matter) in what I’ll agnostically call “social media channels.”
  6. My advice to journalism students: This list goes to 6 because this post is right behind ‘Five Keys’ in pageviews. I’ve been giving unsolicited advice to journalism schools, faculty, and students since I started blogging, moments after starting a graduate program at San Jose State’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication.

Thank you

Whether you’re reading this because you’re an avid subscriber of this blog via RSS, or you just keep it open in IE6 and hit refresh once a month, or because you follow me on Twitter, or because you see this posted automagically as a Facebook note, or because someone retweeted it after I tweeted a self-referencing tweet linking to it, or because your journalism professor made you subscribe to this blog months ago, I want to say thank you.

It’s been a fun year. (New job, new town, bigger kid, fun travels, awards, a diploma, new friends, etc.)

So, thanks.

What I would fund: An imaginary challenge for news business models

Last night, I was browsing this year’s public Knight News Challenge entries ahead of the midnight deadline to enter, and I caught myself thinking about what the project doesn’t fund when it comes to supporting journalism.

And the answer appears to be business models.

My friends at the Foundation might dispute this, or maybe not, but rather than make this into a post about what they’re doing right or wrong (after all, I won a News Challenge grant in 2008, and thus, am friendly with a wide swath of the winners thanks to some fun conferences the Knight Foundation was kind enough to fly me out to) I’m far more interested in just playing a bit of Fantasy League Foundation here, making a short list of the things I would support if I had 5 million dollars or so to give away. (Full disclosure: I do not have 5 million dollars to give away.)

Two specific projects I would fund:

1. Technically Philly’s News Inkubator

The team at this Philadelphia tech blog includes Sean Blanda, who you might remember as the organizer of BCNI Philly, along with his other varied credits as a student and professional. Their KNC10 proposal, News Inkubator, would serve as a source for news startups looking for help with the legal, financial, and administrative issues that come with running a real live business. In short, they would have allowed hyperlocal journalism impresarios to focus on content and outsource a modicum of worry on the business side of things to the Inkubator project. At the very least, they’d learn something and put it into action, rather than casting about for friends and neighbors to provide legal support, accounting, and a sales force.

From a post at Wired Journalists by Sean about the News Inkubator project:

“With the administrative burdens outsourced, the barrier for creating a sustainable news organization in the city is lowered dramatically.”

2. CoPress

(Full disclosure: I’m pretty sure I’m still an adviser to CoPress, which became a for-profit company earlier this year after their KNC09 proposal was rejected.)

CoPress is a disruptive innovator in student media, providing student news organizations of all shapes and sizes with hosting, support, and a network of interested developers and journalists to lean on as they move away from legacy content management systems with little flexibility and no room for learning about the actual management of content and systems.

Here’s an excellent short presentation from CoPress on innovation, especially in student news organizations, but with a stylish overview of the challenges facing everyone in the newspaper business:

And a few ideas for projects I’d like to fund:

  • Match up local businesses with mobile news consumers. Foursquare and Gowalla get this. Google certainly gets it. Show me a model that involves delivering deals to mobile news consumers based on their current physical location, and I’ll throw money at it.
  • Connect local nonprofits with local journalists and technologists to provide job training for underprivileged neighborhoods. I’ve written a bit about how I think a coworking space could fit into this sort of model.
  • Replace low-value remnant ad networks and AdSense with forms of advertising that don’t embarrass readers, journalists, and publishers. (Hint: I come to your news site for content and information, not to whiten my teeth.)

Here’s what I wouldn’t fund:

Anyone claiming that their hyperlocal news model is going to scale up to become a cross-country overnight success. Hyperlocal is made of people. You can build something awesome once, in one town, but neighborhood news and advertising is about shoe leather, guts, and determination — not about software. No two neighborhoods are the same, and no two hyperlocal mavens are the same.

What about you? What’s on your news business wishlist this year?

Items that recently have caught my attention

Reading

The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009
Published at Foreign Policy on December 14, 2009.
Global warming, international relations, Iraq, Chechnya, and more — but not the headlines you were expecting. An important year-end list from Foreign Policy magazine, spotted via kottke.org.
From a naval alliance that could shift the military balance of power on two continents to a troubling security gap in the U.S. passport system to a brand-new way to circle the globe, these are the stories that never got the attention they deserved in 2009 but could dominate the conversation in 2010.

Augmenting our Reality: two or three big bangs per page
Published at garciamedia on December 3, 2009.
A fun roundup of what magazines are doing with AR at this point. A bit gimmicky, but an interesting start.

Explore a whole new way to window shop, with Google and your mobile phone
Published at The Official Google Blog on December 7, 2009.
QR codes + Google business listings = Yelp killer? Maybe. But aren’t QR codes so 2007? I thought Augmented Reality was the 2009 solution to this problem.
To scan the codes, you’ll need a phone with a camera and an app that can read QR codes. For Android-powered devices, including the Droid by Motorola, we recommend using the free Barcode Scanner app. For iPhone, we have found the $1.99 QuickMark app to work best, and starting today, we’re partnering with QuickMark to offer the app for free for the first 40,000 downloads.

Sports Illustrated – Tablet Demo 1.5
Published at YouTube on December 2, 2009.
I’m a sucker for any and every slick video about a tablet or e-paper product. This one is the slickest I’ve seen yet.

Writing

Write Better Blog Posts Today
Published at Chris Brogan on December 13, 2009.
Chris Brogan runs down some of the textbook tactics of the best professional bloggers. Hint: He’s one of them.
Before you write, consider what you’re seeking. Do you want the post to drive a sale? Do you want it to engage your audience? Do you want the post to handle some mechanical goal, such as receiving more links, more bookmarks, and thus improve the rank of your site? Maybe your posts only serve to point out that you’re the thought leader. Know your goals before you post.

Monday Morning Breslin: A Death in Emergency Room One
Published at Gangrey on December 7, 2009.
A classic Breslin piece from the New York Herald Tribune on the death of John F. Kennedy. Be sure to read the whole thing, then check out the links in the comment thread below to bits of history, rebuttal, clarification.
These things he was doing took only small minutes, and other doctors and nurses were in the room and talking and moving, but Perry does not remember them. He saw only the throat and chest, shining under the huge lamp, and when he would look up or move his eyes between motions, he would see this plum dress and the terribly disciplined face standing over against the gray tile wall.

Peter Gammons: My 20 years at ESPN
Published at ESPN The Magazine on December 12, 2009.
Not a huge Gammons fan, but as a huge baseball fan who came of age while he was reporting for ESPN, I love the litany of anecdotes here, from Jack Morris to Mariano Rivera.
And I watched Fidel Castro stand for and sing along with the U.S. national anthem, because it was baseball, and it didn’t surprise me because Gene Mauch had told me that when he played there in the 1950s, he had befriended Castro and that first and foremost, in Mauch’s words, “Fidel loved baseball the way you and I love baseball.”

The Content Strategist as Digital Curator
Published at A List Apart on December 8, 2009.
This article from A List Apart is mostly geared toward the producer who works with *internal* content — think of the archives of a newspaper.com — but the principles all apply to anyone curating the best of the Web for a given audience.
In galleries and museums, curators use judgment and a refined sense of style to select and arrange art to create a narrative, evoke a response, and communicate a message. As the digital landscape becomes increasingly complex, and as businesses become ever more comfortable using the web to bring their product and audience closer, the techniques and principles of museum curatorship can inform how we create online experiences—particularly when we approach content.

Arithmetic

How to Make an Interactive Area Graph
Published at FlowingData on December 9, 2009.
Nathan at FlowingData provides this Actionscript/Flash tutorial on how to build a graph that looks a bit like those baby name explorers and unemployment charts you’ve seen lately.
This tutorial is for people with at least a little bit of programming experience.

Man Promotes Band In The Middle Of Nowhere On Google Street View
Published at TechCrunch on December 4, 2009.
I’m personally fascinated by the physical hacking of the world to insert messaging into virtual representations of the world. In this case, the plot involves tracking a Google Street View car and getting ahead of it to set up, essentially, an advertisement.
After making a sign and keeping it in the trunk of my car for about a month I finally chanced across the google street view car. Then I had to follow it until I figured out its pattern, then get ahead of it with time to set up.

baratunde: “I can reach more people on my Twitter account than the Star Ledger reaches with its Monday edition.” – @CoryBooker http://bit.ly/6rpe38
Published at Twitter on December 7, 2009.