Interesting bit in the Guardian about a project by three fellows at Shorenstein Center at Harvard, a project I participated in. The question they asked is how did news go electronic. It was a great little discussion, and not one that took the direction indicated by the Guardian story.
There are two ways to approach the transition,
- Try to force the web to be like print.
- Let the web be the web and be creative.
We all know which way works, and which way the news industry views it from.
I had a meeting last week with Joel Spolsky, a blogger who figured out how to make it work. You don’t charge for access to the information. What you do is create a honey-pot that attracts specific kinds of people. Then think about products you can sell to those people, or businesses who would pay money for access to them. Solve problems, and then think creatively about building businesses around the flow you have.
Spolsky started Stack Overflow, a great service for answering questions programmers have. It’s authoritative in so many areas. The business they attract is recruiting. Great programmers are in demand. Everyone wins, and Joel gets rich.
The news industry ultimately will figure this out, or a new news industry will form around this idea. If you’re covering a geography, learn what the geography needs, write about it, gather all the business interests around that need, and invest in new ventures that require access to these people, because you have developed that access.
A great example would be the awful Internet connectivity on the island of Manhattan. What news organization could help us solve that problem? And do they have products that could flow over newly enhanced connectivity? The answers are so obvious there’s no need to explain.
This must be the 18th time I’ve written this piece. The story never changes, but it keeps needing to be told. 🙂