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“Plug ‘n Play,” not “Networked” Journalism will be the future of news 10/11/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in netj, NetworkedJournalism.

What’s hot in journalism now are efforts by professional journalists to collaborate with amateur news contributors, particularly bloggers, to stem their industry’s decline. Jeff Jarvis this week hosted a Networked Journalism Summit in NYC to promote these activities, which now go by names like Networked Journalism, Citizen Journalism, and Crowdsourcing. But immediately before the summit, Jay Rosen posted his own, hard-knock experience with this genre (Assignment Zero). He found there were difficulties with division of labor, motivations of the individuals, and the complexities and expense of coordination.

The problems that are surfacing are symptoms of a false premise — that in the “pro-am” vision of Networked Journalism, the “am’s” will actually be satisfied working as unpaid amateurs motivated by the psychic rewards of working with “real” journalists. But these amateurs will soon realize that their coordinating journalists add very little value, and that the marketplace has always found ways to compensate the work of those like themselves who create engaging news stories – think PR firms, spokespeople, and publicists. They will also notice that the Internet is starting to hatch promising new revenue models that may support independent reporters. For instance, if it is financially viable for TV networks to embed advertising into individual programs then make them available for download on any web site, why can’t independent reporters do the same with their stories, particularly those involving video?

At the moment, it appears that the future of news will more likely feature “Plug ‘n Play Journalism” than Networked Journalism. News story-creators will be self-funded by advertising or interest groups. Editor-centric news outlets will select among these stories, and perhaps embellish them to build their audiences. This model solves all the problems that Jay Rosen identified: division of labor, individuals’ motivations, and the complexities and expense of coordination. It just doesn’t happen to solve them in a way that for journalists will be painless.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis responds in the comments to this post that by “am” he did not mean unpaid, but “independent, not staff,” which pretty much puts us on the same page.


1. Jeff Jarvis - 10/12/07

Who said unpaid? I didn’t say unpaid. ‘Am’ in this case means independent, not staff, owning your own thing. But I certainly raise the business issues of how this work will be supported financially. We’re saying the same thing; different jargon. I’ve been arguing that news organizations need to produce less and gather more and the strategic challenge is how to encourage and support others to produce more so there’s more to gather.

2. Steve Boriss - 10/12/07

Jeff, Thanks for the clarification. I was taking your use of the phrase “pro-am” literally. Looks like we are in agreement, possibly with the nuanced difference that I see no other way for the model to work unless outside news gatherers find a way to support themselves. So, I believe the encouragement and support must be with the goal of getting people to invest and get into that business. In fact, it may be a good escape hatch for those journalists who have reason to be concerned about their jobs.

3. Ed Driscoll.com - 10/14/07

The Legacy Media’s Brain Drain

Fellow Silicon Valley resident Alan D. Mutter writes, “As if the mainstream media didnt have enough trouble navigating the uncharted realm of digital innovation, they are losing many of the young, technologically astute employees who could be their g…

4. Steve Boriss - 10/15/07

Ed, It’s not a fair fight. These news institutions have just not been built around the need to compete. There is so much they don’t know, and they don’t know what they don’t know.

5. In “Plug ‘n’ Play” Journalism, Plugs Very Expensive « Network(ed)News - 10/18/07

[…] Plugs Very Expensive Published October 18th, 2007 news Pondering the Future of News, Steve Boriss asks, “if it is financially viable for TV networks to embed advertising into individual programs […]

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