Lots to wrap your head around these days if you want to be part of the future of news. Through the hail, I see the same three blinking lights ahead that other lonesome hacks and big-time news execs must see: Twitter, iPad and Pay Walls. Or put another way: Mobile Feed, Lean-Back News and MoneyMoneyMoney.
For months, these little blips of the future have been ricocheting off my would-be world news project, and ricocheting off each other. Time to allow the damn light to shine! to imagine how it might all actually work out for the best. Of course it won’t — never does — and even if the future is brighter, it’s still a moving target. But hashing it out here, with the information we have to work with, will help prepare for the changes to come. Also let’s this poor slug stop for a moment to dream the dream…
I never liked the experience of getting my news from websites and blogs. I LOVE Twitter. My “brother-in-law” said he could see i had become possessed when i used my hands to mimic the upward flow/downward scroll of the feed. Twitter has finally created the right channel to get digital news into the light, vertical format that it was made to inhabit. The gentle passing stream has replaced the bang-you-up chase, run-you-over wave–the constant risk of DROWNING — that was “surfing the web.” Ahhhh. much better now, thank you. Twitter will be the way we consume news when we are mobile, that is to say both literally/physically on the go with our smart phones, and moving through our work day and socializing at our desks. Some media companies, news suppliers seem to think that Twitter is a play area/gossip zone, and put up only or mostly their most glib offerings. They are wrong. This is the future of keeping people truly informed! It has the potential to create something for journalism that is like the radio and daily newspaper melded into one.
Verdict for me/mine: Very good news, especially from the git-go. My project aims to be smart, world news that plugged in people across the globe will want a crack at seeing. Twitter is the obvious and open place where I can go to deliver it..
ps: The recent uptick in talk of Twitter applications, aimed at developers, is also a call out to journalists to develop “news applications” for twitter, including the human kind of application. HuffPost is taking it on before the rest of the pack, and will benefit no matter how it turns out. here’s my first tiny, one-man crack at it.
I come most recently from the world of glossy newsweeklies. My web-only project (more details to come. I promise) was actually born from a weekly product. It is high-end, not mass market. It is journalism, in the classic sense. Seeing various news and magazine demos of iPad apps makes you see that there is a way to get people — and advertisers — to commit to, and pay for, quality content. Long and not-so-long form. We don’t know if it will be the savior of news business, but it reminds us that we are searching for a way — a platform, device, what have you — to use the best technology and ideas out there that actually help us separate from the above sensation of being mobile: on the go, or at our desks.
Verdict for me/mine
I am tempted to return to my old idea of getting LOTS of funding up front, and quickly build my product around a tablet application. That would, however, probably be VERY stupid. In the meantime…sticking with premise of this post, to dream of glory…I can see my brand on iPad as the future flagship of the whole damn thing, something to work toward…where its true value (in every sense) is realized.
None of the above fantasies can truly come to life if we don’t find ways to get cash for what we produce. Last week we heard on the iPad subscription front, this week on Twitter ads front.And of course, something is tipping us toward a general acceptance that it shouldnt and wont all be FREE. This is of course just a start. But it helps to envision how the ecosystem, and our habits, as both users and consumers, might evolve.
Verdict for me/mine
OK…Here’s my business model/dream scenario, circa Jan. 2012: My product has taken off from a modest start, in large part because my unique professional content stands out in the twitter (and other social media) stream. People love the stories, we’re timely and lively and the brand is catching, the output is growing. A small team of web developers and multimedia producers have just helped launch the iPad application.Some of our most loyal readers have quickly signed up for a yearly 50-week subscription at 70 bucks. Those of them who have already been web subscribers ($35) get the first six months free on iPAD. My content online and on Twitter is metered, but more and more people are just making us one of their dozen or so paid outlets. Oh by the way, I happen to also have a growing syndication business with some of the top US newspapers, who have pay walls of their own and want some exclusive foreign news. Indeed the whole industry has largely bounced back as Twitter and tablets have helped people find their sweet spot for both staying informed in real-time and remembering how to savor old-style serendipity. Satisfied, well-served customers are typically paying customers.
As for me, I am proud of my 15 employees, and am actually turning a healthy profit. Google wants to talk exit strategies. Hey, I even got invited to some seminar at the University of Missouri to schmooze with Jeff Jarvis and David Carr. But I decline! I have no time….If your memory serves you well, I am finally taking a week off all to myself…to go follow Dylan in friggin’ Japan!!!