Before we start, I have to share a fear. Since I am writing about journalists and news, a real journalist may read this. That’s like playing golf with a PGA pro, except I can’t blame sentence structure on the wind. So now let’s start …
Even an icy morning did not stop a full room from gathering at The Harvard Club for The Future of News and Information panels presented as part of The Digital Breakfast series by Gotham Media. The first panel was a group of savvy news people that work in a day-to-day news creation role and the second panel featured a group that is using new publishing technologies and models to build, support, or maybe destroy (depends on your view) the news business as we see it today.
I’ll start by saying that I have always been a newspaper and magazine guy. I still subscribe to three newspapers, even during this “demise” of the newspaper business. In saying that, I know the problem because I was there at the beginning. When I lived in Boston, I would occasionally trek over to Out-of-Town News in Cambridge to load up on New York papers that covered Mets spring training or grab the Newark Star Ledger for job listings in New Jersey (forgive me, but I was young and wanted everyday to be a Wildwood summer day). The Internet ended that. I no longer had to buy the NY Daily News to read Lupica or The NY Post to read headline puns; I could do that online (or read the Boston Herald we used to line the parrot’s cage).
Back to the panels…The first panel was moderated by Andy Nibley, Chairman and CEO at Marsteller, and it included Tom Bettag, formally of Discovery and ABC News, Chrystia Freeland from Financial Times, and a brink-of-being-angry Martin Nisenholtz from NY Times Digital. Some points that they covered were that they felt you could charge for content, a model used by FT, but that content needed to be special and unique and it needed to add a level of value to the subscriber’s life, but what is that price point? Local news was unique, but had very low perceived value, whereas content that can help make or save the subscriber time or money could be packaged for a price. You can read more here from Kelly Samardak in the Online Minute.
The second panel featured new technology and services that could either enhance the news experience or provided a new means for building or aggregating an online presence. First up was Apture, and they offer a publishing tool that allows a publisher to link to supporting content that will display as on-domain content in a pop-up window. The idea is to keep the user on your site. It sounds very interesting, and I plan to investigate its free personal version very soon. Keith McAllister of Mochila outlined how they provided news publishers a chance to back fill their original content with news pulled from their syndication partners, such as Reuters, AP, Getty Images and many more. Andrea Spiegel of True/Slant (and formally down the hall from me at AOL where she had an office and I had a cube), explained that the yet-to-be-launched service focuses on aggregating content around a “Name” contributor, and then provide the contributor a chance to add their voice around the news of the day. They are looking for contributing specialists to fill out their line-up, so visit their site and submit your name. A couple of observations are that: 1) Mochilla seems like a perfect content supplier for Apture; 2) the old-school journalists in the office are very shaky when they saw Wikipedia being used and in discussions about identifying authoritative news sources, and 3) Unigo was the fourth company, but as a standalone publisher of a successful online college guide they are outside the scope of the other tools presented.