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Getting it

March 03, 2006

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.

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Comments

I find the whole series of "get it" "don't get it" debate tedious. Right now, the web 2.0 start-ups are in the middle of their burn of the VC cash they raised last year. It's still early enough to debate tired incumbent vs. the vibrant new as people scramble to convert readers into customers under whatever model. But it's also late enough for them to start checking their funding watches and bat eyelashes coquettishly at Google or Yahoo. As gravity tweaks the search giants in unfamiliar spots, the exit taps might tighten and the cloud-seeders, tool-droppers, and filters must start proving relevance through sustained profitability and growth. Then will you see the outline of new media, when you grow value from expanding and improving the audience over getting flipped to a search engine or ensuring that you are a 8.0 on the Get It Richter Scale. I predict that out there is a quiet little company seeded from people who have worked long enough in the traditional media space to know its *exploitable* vulnerabilities and can match that with a fresh perspective on how to create *exploitable* opportunities for new value. Until the next great extinction, however, we must endure the professional media revolutionaries haunting the conference circuit to sit on panels and circle jerk over who gets it and who does not.

Posted by: John Gauntt at March 3, 2006 02:30 PM

I would never say that MySpace is rebuilding our world. MySpace is creating the lacking "third place " in our surburbanized culture for this and future generations. But it is not turning the world upside down.

What turns the world upside down are the opinions, and contributions of individuals on their expertise. Big Media used to be the delivery tool, and the conversation space for opinion and thought (cite Good Night and Good Luck once more). Media has accepted it's diminshed role already by catering to entertainment, speculation, and the inability to ask the questions that need to get asked.

Single individuals, experts in their field, don't have problems asking those questions - that is their job, to ask the questions and make sense of the answers. The one thing we might lack, is a mediator, now that Big Media is gone (to speak of the future as realized)

Posted by: JohnO at March 3, 2006 02:31 PM

News sites have a lot to gain by adding social features to their sites. At Crisscross we are integrating a profile-based social network into the news site allowing us to build distribution and revenues that will pay for quality content.

Posted by: Mark Devlin at March 3, 2006 11:53 PM

That MySpace is as big as it is (and gets so much attention because of it) is downright frightening.

Posted by: Douglas Clifton at March 4, 2006 01:50 AM

Maybe the experts who used to get misquoted by the press start their own publications (blogs) and give us their thoughts without the intermediaries. Not as if the publishers were paying them anything before for the privilege of mangling their words and quoting them out of context. Even a snarky dude like you can "get" that one! ;->

Posted by: Dave Winer at March 5, 2006 12:18 PM

"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."


This is wrong entirely false. Podcasting, Blogging, Vlogging have shown that individuals can and do create content that is equal in all ways to any big business media venture. I would even go so far as to say that institutions have alot of learning to do from independent creators. Honestly, the institutions are hoping like hell that you are right, but your not.

"Glocer "gets it" because he believes "sites like Myspace are rebuilding our world"


This is just the most absurd thing I've read in 2 days. Sites like MySpace have been around for years and years and there is nothing new or "world rebuilding" about them. So MySpace rebuilds the world, where does Orkut and Friendster fit into all of this.


Also, what the hell is a MySpace enabler? Wouldn't that be Rupert Murdoch?


This entire post seemed like fluff to me. Gotta be honest.

Jack
mailto:kickasspodcast@gmail.com

skype:
callto://kickasspodcast


PS- what sort of antiquated blogging tool do you use, why should I have to know HTML to be able to comment on your blog? Weak Sauce.

Posted by: jack at March 5, 2006 10:03 PM

Dave: No one begrudges you your blog. Trust me.

Jack: Send your complaints to Movable Type. By the way, you need to read a little more slowly; you're missing things.

Everyone else: Thanks.

Posted by: Nick at March 5, 2006 10:37 PM

""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?""

What do creating high quality content and the the financial consideration of advertisers have nothing to do with one another?

Frankly "paying by the click" seems only evolutionary and really doesn't change anything about how the content itself is crafted.

Really? Moveable type won't show me what I formatting I actually just typed in preview? That seems like a huge hole. Why would it not let you actually preview what you just wrote? I'll omit the html breaks this time and see what i get!

Jack

Posted by: Anonymous at March 5, 2006 10:59 PM

Jack: Let's say you're an online newspaper. You do a long, complex story about the relationship between political strife and disease in Africa. It's a good story, and it's an important story, and it's expensive to produce (you have to send a reporter and a photographer overseas). But it's not a story that gets readers to click on ads, and it's not a story that lends itself to the kind of keywords that advertisers bid a lot of money for. You also do a brief review of some new high-definition TVs coming on the market. It's a cheap story to produce. And it produces loads of high-priced clickthroughs by readers.

How long do you think it will be before you start cutting back on the big, complex, expensive stories and start doing more of the cheap, high-clickthrough-rate ones? Ads priced by clickthroughs produce a very different set of economic incentives than ads priced by impressions. And, eventually, it's those economic incentives that will determine what media companies produce.

Posted by: Nick at March 5, 2006 11:56 PM

Well, Nick, that's an interesting point. My question is do you have a solution to this?

Posted by: John D at March 7, 2006 07:19 PM

The point you raise is the key one: where is the money going to come from to pay for journalism, which (whatever some people might think) does take more intellectual rigour than opening your blogging program.

The reality is though that "quality" journalism has been in retreat for some time (where "quality" is defined as "covering important subjects that advertisers don't necessarily want to be associated with, such as wars, famine, public and private corruption, mendacity, etc)". The rise of celebrity "culture" (well, all the world's a Petri dish) has partly been funded by the fact that advertisers find it easier to sell alongside stories about those folk.

I would make one point: the "advertiser/click" view of life is a *very* US-centric one. In Europe, people are less tolerant of adverts, and less likely to act on them. It's a quieter life, advertising-wise. Compare the amount of ads on commercial TV in the UK with any US channel but HBO. Over here, "24" on the BBC only lasted 50 minutes per episode. Why? Ads.

Interesting too that Dave Winer often points to the BBC for news. Where'd you think the money came from, Dave? Though I don't think the BBC takes donations, would you?

Posted by: Charles at March 10, 2006 06:19 AM

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