There are two types of people in this world: those who “get it” and those who “don’t get it.” Fortunately, we have Jeff Jarvis to sort them out.
The Online Publishing Association held a conference in London this week, and Jarvis was all over it like “the ghost of xmas future,” as the Guardian put it. Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, Jarvis live-blogged, “gets it.” World Association of Newspapers managing director Ali Rahnema, on the other hand, “doesn’t get it.”
Glocer “gets it” because he believes “sites like Myspace are rebuilding our world,” and that the role of media companies will be to “seed clouds,” “provide tools” and act as filters allowing “the good stuff” to “rise to the top.” Rahnema “doesn’t get it” because he raises concerns about the possibly damaging effects of aggregation sites like Google News. Such objections confirm, Jarvis writes, that the newspapers “are just a dead-tree industry trying to protect themselves.”
I know I don’t “get it,” but I find myself going back to a question that Martin Nisenholtz, head of the New York Times’ digital operation, asked at the start of the conference: “How do we create high quality content in a world where advertisers want to pay by the click, and consumers don’t want to pay at all?” It’s not just, or even primarily, a question of whether quality content can bubble up or drip down from the blogospheric puddle-cloud – of course it can. It’s a question of the types of quality content that can be supported by the new media economics that the internet is creating. There are kinds of quality content that individuals can produce on their own – opinions, reactions, live conference reports, etc. – and there are different, maybe more important kinds of quality content that require the sort of coordination and investment that only institutions can provide. Being an enabler of the Myspace world – a cloud-seeder, tool-provider, and passive filter – may well be the role of the successful news organization of the future. But what a diminished role it is.