Category Archives: platforms

Zuckerberg’s Regret. After the Movie: On Facebook & Privacy & More

The Social Network, both the movie itself and the event of the thing, works on many different levels. The Hollywood and real-life versions of Mark Zuckerberg’s striking gold are certainly a story of our (changing) times, and the timing of the film’s release is spot on. Having taken a crack last week at FB & Privacy, ive got some quick thoughts to throw down since seeing the movie in a jam-packed theatre on the Champs-Elysees, sitting next to at least one person who is not one of the Facebook 500 million club. And she liked the movie too!?

HACKER REDUX.…the early scenes of Zuck cracking into the Harvard computer system to get photos of campus coeds makes a nice hacking/historical/cinematic/bookend with “War Games“. Hey, that was 27 friggin’ years ago…!? Since then, the image of computers/computing has gotten much more personal and much less scary *in a WWIII kind of way…and yet, clearly, the impact on our lives is immeasurably greater. Possible consequences in the future? Even scary ones? As incalculable as ever….

NOT THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL the pre-punctual rushing to the defense of Zuck, FB, the Church of the Social Web that’s been circulating around the, er, social web...is all fairly ridiculous. That a hollywood screenwriter didn’t set out to “understand” or “explain” something doesn’t mean he has misunderstood it. And in fact, it’s all mostly there: the changing nature of business, communication and relationships, and yes, privacy. And how these things also have NOT changed. Fictional Zuck trying to talk to his ex at the restaurant after he’s irreparably blown it has no computer interface involved. He is a hero of capitalism not interested in money, a social innovator who struggles with sociability. This is not about geeks v. non-geeks or revenge of the revenge of the nerds. It’s about the real-life creator of Facebook. You remember: 0 to 500 million is six years. Letting these contradictions seep out, rather than hit you over the head with it–that’s what storytelling…and filmmaking…should be about.

GENIUS MR. Z. My basic lack of knowledge about the internet is nothing compared to my total ignorance about the ins and outs of building computer hardware and software…But I’m gonna venture to say that the Facebook founder has got a bit of both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs: being able to understand how to build the things that people want to use, and the underlying architecture that supports it. The social aspect of computing technology is Zuck’s great invention. If 9 out of 10 nerd/geek/hackers are identified as such in part because of their difficulty in the broader social milieu (and/or desire to stay outside of it)…it then follows that the 1 out of 10 (1 in a billion!) who manages to understand the very elemental structure of the way we interact with each other is destined to design new methods and machines for doing so.

BUSINESS IS BUSINESS They say the real genius of Gates and Jobs is in how they built their companies. The Social Network gives a hint of Zuck’s prowess as a coming corporate titan. It’s a mix of tenacity, decisiveness, finding good people to work with. Much is made out of the fact that he doesn’t care about money. (Hey, there’s time!) But it’s not so strange that someone isn’t in business to get rich…there’s much else to be had: power, fame, revolution…and there’s a bit of all those in Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg.

PRIVACY, WHERE ART THOU? It’s ever more clear that this is much more than a side issue for Facebook, and the social revolution it is leading. In a certain sense the word ‘privacy‘ is the flipside/opposite of social. The more we share, the less privacy we hold on to, the more social the internet becomes — and the more of our lives we live on the internet — the more the very meaning of privacy is being transformed. That is Zuck’s revolution…and his business model. But it’s not a done deal. Facebook is still new, and habits can change. Platforms can shift. FB is still NOT Microsoft. Returning to my Friday night movie companion, who I will remind you, is not on Facebook. And neither are there any pictures of her…or our kids…on my FB page. I don’t know whether I agree with her diktat, but we’ll err on the side of privacy. She/we are the exception….for now. And the only thing the real life Zuckerberg has felt he had to apologize for is not any perceived invasion of privacy of 500 million, but stupid stuff he wrote on a blog when he was an anonymous 19-year-old student at Harvard.

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The Diary I Never Kept: Old School Reporter Becomes Online Editor (Blogger…? not so much)

My pace in this space is slowing down. My first three months: 24 posts. The last three months:…errrr…. 5. I am not here now to apologize, nor blame Hurricane Earl, nor vow more regular entries from this day forward.

I knew starting out that I wasn’t a natural blogger, in the traditional sense of this modern pasttime-cum-profession. My initial burst of posts can probably be explained by an odd mix of self-consciousness (validation for my decision to open my own digital soap box) and lack of self-consciousness (an editor-less, free form space where I could choose both topic and tone). I was also in search of an outlet for the energy of the actual web project I was chronicling, and the need to start spreading the word.

But the output rate, which is still paltry compared to some, wasn’t bound to last. The truth is that I’ve always had my doubts about whether I was even a natural writer, tout court. Sure, the turns of phrase sometimes come pouring out, and in terms of both organization of thoughts and occasional moments of eloquence, I’m light years ahead in writing than in speaking. Uhh..? And what should be the plainest proof of all: I’ve managed to actually make a living by cobbling together sentences for major print publications. That makes me a writer. Right? But even as I made my way in this line of work, I was never driven by some primordial pangs to put it all down on paper, never filled separate notebooks with my musings, never kept a diary or wrote short stories in the midnights of my youth.

Ultimately though, my doubts about my scribbler proclivities were tamed by the understanding that a beat reporter is both more and less than a writer. More, as in more hours on the horn begging some police clerk or political flak to cough up some access or information…and Less, well, you get the idea. In both its higher and lower guises, hackdom calls upon the actual production of words as the final step in a multi-faceted, often rushed and unpredictable process. And as I thankfully learned sooner rather than later, the writing should always err on the side of utilitarian rather than Joycean.

This all comes up in the wake of a bunch of revelatory hemming and hawing by some smart online writer folk about twitter (microblogging) killing blogging with death by a thousand tweets. The takeaway line comes when Leo Laporte realizes that no one noticed that his buzz/twitter updates weren’t being posted. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. Without getting into the useless question about who qualifies as a writer, and who just a shouter: these are the folk that were indeed jotting stuff down (or shouting it out) in the 3 a.m.’s of their youth…and beyond. Folk like Laporte and Paul Carr and Dave Winer are lucky to have found an audience, and their sizing up the various platforms is just figuring out how to get heard…not, as it were, how to get writing.

But alas, this is not a digital (and sporadic) diary about writing…it’s about a guy who has made his living in the news business… trying to figure out how to continue making his living in the news business, as the walls appear to crumble all around. And more than ever I realize that this moment…and this project…are as much a way for me to pivot from reporter to editor. For the past few years, I’d realized how much I like working with other writers to improve their copy, and I’d become convinced that “why not me?” on story selection, packaging, et al. I’m sure there is much to learn, but I’d also seen one of my colleagues who I most identified with do it with aplomb and enjoying it to the hilt.

And if all goes well, my project would allow me to step across the threshold without having to jump into the scrum of an MSM middle management that must respond to an upper management forced to chase its proverbial tail and run for proverbial cover amidst those proverbial crumbling walls!?

None of this–nor even my proverbial cliches!?–means that my writing and reporting career is dust. I hope that stuff that I have written, and have yet to write, will one day see the light of day. But my focus is now elsewhere. And if you’re reading this, you may be in a similar position as I was one year ago: XX years of staff experience under your belt, facing a backward step to freelancer status, eyeing a new way in the new media jungle. There are lots of ideas, lots of energy, real opportunity, new ways to tell and deliver stories. Yes, you must be ready and able to do everything. You cannot avoid working hard on the business side of the equation. But on some basic level, the  same reporter/editor dividing line still exists. Which side are you on? Do you ache to write? To be heard? Or are you driven now by something else? The answer to that question may help you discover the right tree to plant in the proverbial digital media jungle. (Clearly, my writing needs an editor more than ever….)

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One Hack’s Response to ‘ProtoBlogger’ Dave Winer: The War is Over…And You Won (but we’re still here)

One of the things I love about Twitter is that it has finally connected me with some of the best blog posts out there…different topics, voices, lengths, frequencies. The atomized output of these one-man, one-woman information/expression machines are dropped into the stream alongside links to MSM articles, news flashes, op-ed pieces, and other, er, branded stuff…and of course the breakfast updates and bad jokes.

Within the confines of the magic 140 characters and hierarchylessness of the platform, there’s often no way of knowing which type of content source we will be routed to by that hyperlink. For various reasons, this is a good thing. But to start with, Twitter’s flat stream is simply an accurate expression of the times, that the passing flash of information is ever more its own marquee. Before I quickly get too far ahead of myself: let’s just say this is both the central point of this post…and an introduction to its subject.

Dave Winer is one of those digital names-in-light I’ve discovered via Twitter. He has a way of explaining our coming world of connectivity that is true to his visionary hacker origins…and written in the kind of stripped-away fashion that allows even us old world luddites to absorb (if not always full comprehend) it all. Indeed he may be most useful for those who get paid to communicate because of the form itself of his communication. He is both prolific and concise. He shares what is on his mind now with rounded thoughts that manage to seem both off-the-cuff and thoroughly reasoned. Typically circa 500 words, they are like prose screen grabs of whatever happens to be sizzling in his brain at the moment. For all that, and because he’s been doing it since 1997, the NYT tagged Winer the “protoblogger.”

As I already feel myself failing at the blogger’s need for both spontaneity and brevity (and the reporter’s vow to cozy up to no one)…let me just say Winer’s musings last week on why he doesn’t give interviews to reporters pissed me off in a major way. And that is the subject of this post.

Of course Winer has no obligation to speak to anyone, or give any professional category a free pass. He is free to share and even shout his opinions about what is broken in the ways the news has traditionally been gathered and spread. There’s plenty to say on these fronts. But this piece wasn’t really about that, was it? It was instead your basic roundhouse slap at those (and the numbers are indeed dwindling) who make a living reporting and writing traditional news stories.

From his experience, reporters are “almost always” misquoting, manipulating, unprepared wannabe Woodward-and-Bernsteins, as self-important as we are perpetually misinformed. This time that state-of-mind screen grab of his looked both filled with animus and rather intellectually lazy, with the air of score settling from some distant past. This is rebooting the  news in the sense of another Timberland to the groin. But this post is not about protecting/defending myself and my colleagues, and the work we’ve done in the past, but rather it’s about the future.

Of course when he writes of how having a blog liberated him from the need to spread his ideas/products through interviews, he is reminding us of a very basic shift in how access to the means of production of information is being forever transformed by the internet. But we already knew that. There has been a basic shift over the past few years even inside the deepest caverns of the MSM that, taken as a whole, this revolution will wind up a net win for the cause of democracy, economic development and creativity. And most of all, ain’t nothin’ gonna stop it…

So when Winer lumps “almost all” reporters into the same shit pile he is simply resuscitating what even a newbie to the digital space like me had considered a moot point, dusting off a dichotomy between bloggers and reporters –between blogging and journalism — that is yesterday’s news indeed.

Sure, large media companies — and even a few of my colleagues still holding on to their jobs — will do everything they can to sit on as much of playground kickball as they can. But all of us know that the game has changed forever. Or put another way: the real message to our esteemed Protoblogger is “Please come out from behind your screen: the war is over…and you won!” The sniping that continues — bloggers calling journos lazy shill=masters, journos taking cracks at bloggers’ for their pajamas and lack of gumshoe reporting — is usually just the by now rusty artillery to fight the same old personal feuds and battles that opinionated people have been and will always be fighting.

The real news that the Dave Weigel affair reminds us of is that smart young reporters who claw for access to the influential and ache for a wide audience, see blogs as the obvious fastest path to, eh, journalistic success.

The fight over terrain and resources is friendly fire, folks. We all seem to agree that being more informed, more accurate, faster, freer is the best formula for both better solo bloggers and newspaper staffers. The differences in the approaches and objectives of the different forms can only help to improve the work on one, and the other platform–and indeed, they are often the same person.

In general, we might say that the blogger benefits/suffers from the lack of a built-in structure looking over her, the journo benefits/suffers from having it. How can knowing that help them both? Instead, the real problem is that the brass upstairs is convinced by a wrongheaded conventional wisdom that calls for meat cleaver costs cuts…and more meat cleaver cost cuts…as the only short or long term solution for economic viability of whatever information is being produced. (And who can really blame them…until an alternative emerges?)

It’s telling that all the hemming and hawing from the fallout of Rolling Stone’s McChrystal article misses the fact that the article itself was the result of a major investment of time and money by the publication, and some damn good reporting by the reporter. And yes Mr. Winer, for all the breakdowns from McChrystal and his entourage, and debates about whether beat reporters shield their sources, producing that revealing an article required that Hastings ask lots of questions. (I don’t think McChrystal was sharing his thoughts on a blog…even if he had one, eh?) Is it the exception that proves the rule? Maybe. But how about some reflection on the exception to help improve the coverage by all.

Ok..if you are still with me, it is clear that I suck at this platform: too long, long-winded, meandering in my thoughts. And not quite opinionated enough. I needed to write it the minute after I read Winer’s original post last Tuesday. I was pissed off then, thinking about the good faith, if necessarily flawed, attempts I’d made over the years trying to figure something out on the fly by asking smarter, better informed people about it. Press interviews can take any number of forms, but they are also one of the fundamental tools out there to keep information flowing in a democracy. Even the face time (as we saw in McChrystal story) is often necessary, not Kabuki theater, as David Carr, a great reporter (who relies on sources all the time) chimed in on Twitter. Did he read the post?

But I waited, and my initial anger faded…even more so after I heard Winer talking about his post with Jay Rosen on Rebooting the News. On radio, Winer was less absolutist, less bitter, and I remembered as I listened that the written blog platform….and maybe my beloved Twitter too…have inherited from the news business a tendency toward sensationalism. “Some journalists” become “Almost all journalists…” Or maybe, he just needs an editor? Or maybe the point is the provocation? It is the right time, place, and platform to shake things up.

And indeed, the final revealing tidbit in all this is how, in the end, I wound up writing this post. I saw this Jay Rosen tweet last night, saying it was time to put a fork in the journos v bloggers debate, as referenced to a Joe Klein-Glenn Greenwald spat. (actually they are both both…). I responded with a dig at his “buddy” Winer. Two tweets later the protoblogger was encouraging this distracted hack to blog about it. That was last night. Maybe I ought to call him now….to ask out about the programming parameters necessary to keep my thoughts below 500 words/24 hours…or at least to drop this far-too-heavy hyperlink in his Twitter stream.

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TIME Casualties, Newsweek Funerals & New Startup Biz Models. Revenue Before Branding

The dire straits of Newsweek is a grim, though hardly surprising, development. Neither as a longtime Time magazine guy nor current New Media wannabe dude does the prospect that this historic brand might vanish offer me any satisfaction whatsoever. Those dancing on graves reveal more about themselves than they do about either the deceased or the reasons for the demise. That a chunk of the old stuff is bound to fail/disappear is by now a given, and all the victory shouts and schadenfreude is just the shit talking of middle school playgrounds. Indeed as Clay Shirky has pointed out, failure is one basic fact that unites the MSM with the would-be new stuff.

So what do the current predicaments of Time and Newsweek tell me — downsized Time foreign staffer, current Time (and Time.com) contributor — about getting my startup up and started? It is clear that both these weekly print/digital brands and potential real-time vessels still carry weight with the general public. It is also clear that the management no longer sees the value in staffing the world like they once did. On good days, you can see that the Brand + the DNA of the institution + the network of collaborators can still turn out some pretty great and sellable stuff ….on bad days, they’re running on fumes.

There is a fine line where a quick dot.com piece  can start to look like a mediocre blog post, where a decent dot.com piece is “repackaged” for print, and doesn’t quite cut it. And then, with a mix of insight, pavement-pounding and a nose for the zeitgeist, a colleague can tell us who we are as a society — and it both sparkles as the print cover and finds weeks-long legs on the web.

But we are still left wondering what the future will ultimately be of a “respected global news brand” that is not committed to investing in the production of first-hand, on-the-ground reporting. These are innately national/international publications that don’t have the option like the LA Times or Chicago Tribune to retrench geographically and focus on local news for its local reader base.

Still, as always, we’re talkin’ about a revolution, and I have (by choice/necessity) thrown myself into it, unburdening my brain matter with trying to hold on to the past. It helps to imagine old brands in new ways. And in turn, imagine my own project in new ways, with new models, almost every day. Both Time and Newsweek could potentially evolve into content-distribution vessels, portals, brands that acquire their content from others. And I’m not talking just single freelancers, but companies in the business of offering a consistent, tailored stream of content to those who have the brand/audience that can sustain it.

Maybe there’s terrain to be exploited on the continuum between the Ny Times and Yahoo news? And without staffs, but WITH coming paywalls/iPads, etc, there will be a need for quality content. And that’s where lately I’ve begun to see the business model for the launch of my own project. That may be what globalpost may be pivoting toward, with a series of partnerships at least as impressive as its unique viewers growth.

The urgency to discover business models in itself will help drive the evolution of the way news is produced. That of course goes for Demand News consciously downgraded quantity-over-quality, but should also be the case for those of us who want to offer something better to readers. Frédéric Filloux, as always, boils it down nicely in his most recent Monday Note. A believer in new technology, an incisive (and entertaining) critic of the serial mistakes of legacy news, the former editor of the French daily Liberation still believes that “professionalism” matters…and has value.

Two conversations I have had in the past two weeks: one with another MSM dude breaking off and doing his own thing, the other with a European internet executive (hopefully I will have more to tell about her in coming weeks…) have convinced me that the business model must begin with what is generically called ‘B2B’, that is, selling our product directly to other businesses, in our case, other major brands or web portals. In France, they call it an agence, which is an all-encompassing term that includes the wires (AFP), but also smaller content providers. In the new digital world, it can mean many things.

If we do pursue this course, it would mean a shift of focus from mass branding to targeted selling. I have no preconception of what the business must look like: I just want it to work, survive, thrive…If content is King, selling it is the crown (the power), and brand is the castle. Nice to have all the elements, but maybe it is no longer necessary? And here in Europe, we know that some castles without kings are nice to look at, others simply disappear into history…

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Pre-Recruiting: Building a Team Before the Fact, Channeling Vince Lombardi

I have promised more about Jed Micka, as of last month, my full-fledged (though not yet full-time..see below) partner in this enterprise. Most of the basics on Mr. Micka are in my last Nieman Lab post, but I wanted to add a quick update here on where we are, which will lead into the subject of this piece.

Jed is not thinking about the news business, or even our project, in this very moment. He’s all about the Arctic. That’s the topic of the Master’s thesis he  must complete by June in international political strategy at Sciences Po University here in Paris. That leaves me to do the heavy lifting (for now) on the project while Jed works around the clock on his 100-page paper (“four pages a day,” he says, giving away his programmer/engineering tendencies). Still, we do meet every Friday for a couple of hours so I can update him on the week’s progress (or lack thereof) and get his feedback, and we can brainstorm and map out the weeks and months to come. Perhaps even more than his computing/programmer skills, that which feels most valuable is his business mind: questions of costs, incorporation, copyright, spreadsheets, strategy are both on his resume and in his DNA.

Still, in the more short-term, the good news is that Jed has the programming skills to build the live site, and even as we hope to raise some funds in the coming few months, we are moving ahead with a pure bootstraps approach, financing-free if necessary, with the aim to launch a limited beta version in September.

Still, just the two of us won’t quite cut it. We will need some additional peoplepower. This is something I have known since the get-go. My would-be digital brand is NOT a blog or some other kind of one-man show. Indeed in my pre-bootstrapping ignorance, I envisioned raising the million or two needed to launch the thing at full capacity, with a well-fed staff of 10-15 folk. That ain’t gonna happen–even if the millions were to suddenly fall into our laps. Jed has helped crystallize the importance of making sure that there is a constant and direct correlation from Day One between costs and revenues: we are a lean startup, both in financial and existential terms, and will be for a long time to come.

This all means that we need to find low-cost, high-quality help from Day One. Or even before. The good (and yet sad) news on the editorial side is that it is a buyer’s market. Highly qualified professional reporters are out of work. Journalism schools are still churning out smart and eager j-bunnies. Still, buyer’s market doesnt mean slavery–which is not the business I wanted to get into anyway. What I have to offer is OPPORTUNITY, to get in on the ground level of something that, if it works, will be part of the future. The alternatives can both be grim for different reasons: either staying/getting shackled to a sinking ship or shilling for something so damn cheap and chincy that is depressing precisely because it is the future.

Still, Jed’s whole cost/revenue approach means that we simply cannot compete with the older and bigger and richer outlets in paying for services.  None of this, however, is either easy or predictable. I have had a smart, hyper linked and ambitious J-school grad in need of experience suddenly jump ship, saying she needed some income immediately; while a well-established colleague said (unprompted) that she would consider leaving her solid job with a major news organization even if my project couldn’t guarantee her a salary. We’ll see.

Much of it is a question of stars aligning. Right now, the stars have aligned enough to have a potential early contributor already working (for free, so far!) on the project. Amar Toor is contributing on my relatively new morning “overnight news bundle” whileUslept. He has income coming in from other writing/blogging work, and a flexible schedule. And Amar too is smart, hyper-linked and ambitious. He got a master’s in economics rather than journalism, but writes with the ease and attitude of a seasoned hack. To round out the storyline: he is actually the person who introduced me to Jed.

But even though he seems genuinely excited by the larger project, it’s hard to feel like you can count on someone if you can’t pay them. Again, we’ll see. All I can do is to be as honest and open as possible, sharing what I know and asking help for what I don’t. Hopefully, all of that can can help the others around me believe in the project as much as I do. And though I’m no Vince Lombardi, on good days, I like to think some of that is in my DNA.

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Dream Scenario: Twitter, iPad, & My News Biz Ambitions

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…

TWITTER

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.

iPAD

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.

PAYWALLS

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!!!

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The Birth of a (petit) Project Within the Bigger One

I’m still finding my voice on Twitter. The only thing I’m sure of is that I won’t be tweeting my breakfast menu or misadventures on public transportation. So far I have also shied away from the Confucian pearls of wisdom and random thoughts about the state of the world or my failures at fatherhood. My tweets are mostly linked to news that’s breaking, both in the rest of the world and this much smaller universe of the Transformation of the Business of Information.

Based in Europe, and with the majority of my followed-and-followers in the US, I have found that my geography and language skills may help me to get some breaking news into the Twitter river ahead of the crowd. And so there I was the other morning, about to re-Tweet some bit of France news (don’t remember what?), when another interesting story popped up…and I thought: Hmmm? Let me try to squeeze these two together into one tweet. But with 140 characters to work with…good luck!? So I put the two links aside into a Word document…and then it HIT! me: Why not expand the 2 links into, say, 5…and bundle it into a TOP HEADLINES FROM JEFF post. I could put it up on this site, and link to it once a day. At the very least it would be a good workout at world news story selection, which will be key to the website I am trying to launch. But then it HIT! me…again! If timing is everything, that’s doubly true on the real-time web, which is creating new niches in the ways and whens of how we consume information. I should exploit my Time Zone advantage and News Biz Experience, I told myself, and deliver a story list at around 7 a.m. Eastern time composed solely of news that has broken since 11 p.m. It will necessarily be different than wire service roundups and website Top Stories, which tend to always include plenty of reports of what was already known before the plugged-in news junkies logged off and went to bed. Instead, I would focus on stories that broke after Americans went to bed….which has become While U Slept.

This daily a.m. story list, which I have begun to post here and also at whileUslept.wordpress.com, is geared exclusively toward a hyper-plugged-in U.S. readership and will be composed of aggregated links. (My website project will be different/more) In the first few days so far, it has included a mix of news happening in the first part of the day in Asia and Europe, and late at night in North America, as well as a few exclusive scoops coming out in US publications.

So well before I’ve launched the actual project I have in mind, I already have a related product of sorts. Again, it is a no-lose situation, allowing me to jump straight into story selection, headline writing and the like. (I am happy to report that it comes rather naturally after 18 years as a reporter…and is damned fun!) But my next trick – to be addressed in an upcoming post — is to see if I can actually begin to build an audience…before I’ve even built my website!?

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Filed under branding, Breaking News, content, entrepreneurship, journalism, new media, old media, platforms, social media, The Big 5 (Top Overnight Stories), Top Headlines, world news