The coming bumper-crop of news

My old blogger buddy Jeff Jarvis is trying to figure out what’s happening to the news, and how to inject a little optimism into the business:

This Friday, I’m giving a keynote at the University of Texas International Symposium on Online Journalism. My topic: “The end of the mourning, mewling, and moaning about the future of journalism: Why I’m a cock-eyed optimist about news.” I’d like your help. Tell me why you’re optimistic about news: what we can do now that we couldn’t do before, where you see growth, where you see new opportunities. (I’ll put the spiel up as soon as I figure out how to export Keynote with my notes.)

Here’s what I’d tell the children:

The good news about the news is that there’s no shortage of news. The best experts forecast a nearly boundless supply of news clear into the next century, so the news conservation efforts of the past (recycling, echo-chambering, and other forms of plagiarism) are no longer necessary and will phase out as soon as we have the means to harvest the coming bumper-crop of news.

And things aren’t just rosy on the supply side, they’re looking real good on the demand side. Previous generations of news consumers had to get by on two newsfeeds a day, one before work in the morning and the other after work. Now we can graze and forage on news all day long without becoming over-educated.

The challenge to news harvesters is in the construction of the apparatus that harvests raw news, processes it, and takes it to market. In previous generations, this process was most efficient when centralized in local news factories, but today and tomorrow the process will become more decentralized, sometimes even taking place on consumer premises under the control of news robots which sift, sort, organize, and filter according to consumer preferences. The process of moving these functions from central offices to consumer equipment is just beginning, although we’ve had working prototypes of the news robot for 25 years.

The revenue picture has never been brighter, as each feed is easily supported by multiple sources of ad and subscriber fees.

The key elements are understanding that decentralization is in fact multiple centralization, and that each center of news processing is a potential revenue generator. That’s all I wish to say at the moment, but you can do the math.

And Hook ‘Em.

In their own words

Occasionally, we run across someone who claims the New York Time lacks a liberal editorial slant, and we find that bewildering. In the announcement of Gail Collins’ retirement as editor of the editorial pages, the Times acknowledges it:

The Times editorial page has long been regarded as one of the most liberal within the mainstream media, and the change at the top is expected to continue that outlook.

It seems to me that this should clear up the confusion.

Clockwork quota system

About every six months, some genius determines the blogosphere isn’t as diverse as it should be and proposes some sort of quota system. The current offender is some dude named Steven Levy who writes for Newsweek. Jeff Jarvis and about half the known blogosphere take him to task.

There are a couple of interesting variations on the meme this time around: Levy doesn’t complain about a dearth of gay bloggers, presumably because Andrew Sullivan and the Denton empire make that charge a non-starter, nor does he mention non-American bloggers for similar reasons.

Halley Suitt jumps aboard, acting surprised, but she’s been pushing this female-bloggers-rule thing for a while, so it’s pretty disingenuous, and Chris Nolan does some explaining.

As I’ve said before, racial and gender quotas are a non-issue in the blogosphere because we generally don’t care about such trivial attributes as race and gender. If you’re smart, insightful, witty, or industrious you’ll be read. You may even be read if you’re none of these things but you can get people excited by appealing to their fears, their libidinous impulses, or their aspirations. But we’re not going to read you just because you have some invisible biological characteristics that aren’t germane to the quality of your thought.

To those who’d rather see more diverse sources of a certain one-dimensional point of view (diversity in Newsweek terms means liberals of all colors and sexes), the blogosphere isn’t for you. If you care about smart and interesting points of view, come on down.

Levy, thanks for playing the Oliver Willis game, now go home.

Echo chamber strikes back

The quickest way to get a reaction from the blogosphere is to attack it, as we can see from the list of blogs commenting on a recent piece by John Schwartz of the NY Times ridiculing the echo chamber effect.

Thing is, Schwartz is mainly right. Crazy rumors and conspiracy theories do run through the blogosphere like wildfire, and the blogosphere doesn’t employ its fact-check-your-ass function against itself with the same relish that it does against the MSM, so it’s a good thing for us to read blogs that we don’t agree with all the better to correct their errors.

There was an odd comparison of blogs to “new media” in the Schwartz piece that I found bewildering, but it was probably a typo or an editing error. (UPDATE:A source at the Times confirms this was an editing error, introduced at the copy desk.)

In any event, having a blog doesn’t mean that every criticism of the blogs is an attack on you, any more than voting Republican means you have to be a Creationist.

Echo chamber of the annointed

Mike Sanders makes an interesting observation on the Echo Chamber question:

It seems to me that an Echo Chamber is a group that ignores other opinions to their own detriment. I keep on thinking that David’s defense of the EC is rooted in an idea from Arnold Kling’s Downfall of the Annointed post in which he pointed out that some feel that trying to change people’s minds is a waste of time. Instead they just rally their supporters and wait for those who disagree to see the light

The essay he links is right on as well. Weinberger’s sticking to his guns on this issue, despite the fact that nobody agrees with him.

How ironic.

Song stealing suits commence

The RIAA has finally started suing major music thieves, starting with a few hundred people who’d each “shared” over a thousand tunes. One file thief’s reaction was typical:

Another defendant, Lisa Schamis of New York, said her Internet provider warned her two months ago that record industry lawyers had asked for her name and address, but she said she had no idea she might be sued. She acknowledged downloading ?lots? of music over file-sharing networks.

?This is ridiculous,? said Schamis, 26. ?People like me who did this, I didn?t understand it was illegal.?

?I can understand why the music industry is upset about this, but the fact that we had access to this as the public, I don?t think gives them the right to sue us. It?s wrong on their part,? said Schamis, who added she is unemployed and would be unable to pay any large fine or settlement.

OK, perhaps she was genuinely in the dark and didn’t know that what she was doing was wrong. Perhaps those of us who know better can help those who don’t understand this behavior by calling it by its name. So from now on, instead of calling it “file sharing” let’s call it “song stealing” the better to educate the masses. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Here’s a statement from songwriter Hugh Prestwood on song stealing:
Continue reading “Song stealing suits commence”

FCC Rules

After watching the FCC ownership rules hearing on C-Span, and listening to as much of the commentary by folks like KKK alumni Fritz Hollings and Trent Lott as I could stand, I came away with the belief that the uproar over these rule changes is groundless.

Lawrence Lessig said: “The FCC will liberate the networks to consolidate because the FCC feels pressured by the courts” and some other stuff, but the rules expressly forbid mergers or takeovers between the Big Four TV networks, so that’s clearly hooey. The big changes were easing of the limit on local stations a network can own (which brought existing ownership into compliance) and relaxation of the rule prohibiting newspapers, TV, and radio from being owned by the same company in the same market. ClearChannel doesn’t gain by the rules, and may have to shed some stations.

So if the opposition to these rules isn’t rational – and at least some of it isn’t (Susie “Medea” Benjamin, trust fund activist, got herself arrested again at the hearing), then what’s it based on? A lot of folks were comfortable with the way things were in America when TV news came from the three networks plus CNN, the same stories with the same liberal/centrist spin. Then along came Rupert Murdoch and we got the Fox News Channel, the New York Post, and the Fox Network, and the traditional liberal agenda got some competition. Fox isn’t always, or perhaps even often right, but it is a counterbalance and a different point of view.

The opponents of the rule change are scared that people like Murdoch will alter the media landscape at the level of local print news and broadcast news, an area still controlled by the liberal oligarchy. I hope they’re right, because I’d like to have a TV channel or a daily paper in the Frisco Bay Area with a centrist or right-wing orientation, and it certainly appears that we’d never get one under the old rules.

I don’t believe for a minute that opponents to these ownership rules from the left care about diversity of opinion, which is sure to be enhanced by allowing Murdoch to buy more media properties in more markets. More power to him.

End of the Bloggies

Michele, editor of a small victory, has withdrawn from the rigged and tainted Bloggie Awards:

There’s significant evidence that the voting is rigged. Judges themselves have stepped forward to say they got together with other judges to decide on who in their circle should win. One judge said that she didn’t bother to read the blogs she didn’t know and just voted for the ones she read regularly.

I am withdrawing my name from the ballots. They can give my place to someone else, or just leave it blank. I don’t care.

I’m totally impressed, and feel like she qualifies for the Lifetime Achievement Award in Integrity. If the others who were nominated who weren’t part of the circle jerk will kindly follow Michele’s lead, we can uncover the bad guys from who’s left.

The most glaring example of the unsavory nature of this competition can be seen by looking at the Lifetime Achievement Award. In the entire history of the blog, there have been exactly two people who qualify for this kind of recognition, Evan Williams (the Blogger guy) and Dave Winer, the longest running blogger, the original quality blogware producer, and the architect of the XML/RPC standard. Evan was awarded his sometime in the past, but Dave (whose contribution is actually greater than Evan’s) didn’t even make the finals, against such do-nothings as Rebecca Blood and Matt Haughey. Give me a break.

And any blog award that can’t find a nomination for Instapundit is ridiculous on its face.

I don’t say this because either of these guys is my buddy; I’ve never met them, and I trash both of them on a regular basis. But facts are facts.

Why blogs will win

— Implicit in the shrill anti-blog essays from Alex Beam and others in the Media Establishment is the sense that journalism is losing mindshare to blogs and other forms of new media. This isn’t just because blogs, the web, and high-tech are so all-fired wonderful. No, the backstory is the decline of journalism under MBA control, as Kathleen Parker explains in her column at Opinion

Thanks in part to human resources personnel — those well-meaning, misguided individuals who view writers and editors as cogs in a well-oiled machine — newsrooms have lost their souls.

Parker writes from her home in South Carolina, so for her the newsroom is already a thing of the past. So don’t get the big-head, bloggers, it’s not so much that we’re winning as that the other side has given-up and is in full retreat. And what are they afraid of? Fun, mostly.