CONVENER: Jim Shaffer
ATTENDEES: Mike Skoler, Bill Densmore, Linda Ju, Martin Reynolds, Mike Van Buren, Scott Hall, Dave Johnson, Rich Anderson, Staci Kramer, Stephen Silha, Matlho Kjosi, Peggy Kuhr, Brian Beveridge, Christine Saed, Azalea Blalock (Chris Peck joins where indicated)
Jim Shaffer: Why bother to experiment with multiple economic models?
How to test economic models:
1. Discover or generate tests—for example, Rich Anderson’s Village Soup in Camden
2. Document and measure what was learned. When something doesn’t work the temptation is to waive the hand, should have known that. Sometimes it is most important to document the things which don’t work as well as the things that do.
3. Identify and challenge assumptions. Sometimes a success or a failure may be do to reasons we don’t fully understand. B.F. Skinner’s idea of chickens randomly reinforced with feeding at certain times. They behaved the way they were behaving when the food came down.
Part of the clue to testing economic models is to challenge the assumptions about whe we have learned.
4. Then in a position to communicate the results. The result is increased chance of learning and discovery and adaptive change.
5. CRITICAL —Embrace failure as a learning opportunity.
Christine Saed of the successful manager with low turnover: How: “good decisions.” How did you get to good decisions? “Bad decisions.”
Jim Shaffer: At the LATimes, there was plenty of superstition in the circulation department and the newsroom about why things were growing for 30 years. The real reason was just that the market was growing.
Martin Reynolds: Cecily and I had to convince our company tosend us here and I’m beginning to sweat a little bit: What am i going to bring back to my VP of news that is going to be useful here. Saying, “the best thing we can do this is to just make some bad decisions.” That isn’t going to work.
Peggy Holman: What I would say is failure or success are simply a moment in time in a larger scheme of things. The important point is to add reflection into the cycle, whether you are working on a success or a failure. Study successes with the same intensity as failure.
Mike Skoler: Some of it is about being willing to share. When someone happens on a model that is successful, you tend to keep it to yourself, of not wanting to share because you give up what was your own. Sometimes when something fails, you are afraid to share because you might look stupid. We need to create a culture that more knowledge helps us all.
Martin Reynolds: The culture is not sharing, holding onto stories. “But now is a time in our industry where we need to share information to go into adaptive change.”
Jim Shaffer: What would be an effective repository for shared knowledge? Is it a committee of the NAA? An academic function? Maybe some journalism school?
Mike Skoler: What about a speakers bureau? There are people who have experience to share? You pay expenses to bring someone else. The understanding is if someone will pay your expenses you have to be willing to share.
Staci Kramer: An introduction. She lives in St. Louis. She is executive of PaidContent.org. It covers the economic of digital entertainment and media. It is a 24-7 site. They have an RSS feed. They send out a newsletter five days a week about 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Who reads: They write about everything from nano-publishing to major public companies, from network’s video streaming to user-generated media. Always from the aspect of how are you making money at this, how does it change the economics of what we are doing. In many ways what we are doing is a log of experiments. She comes from mainstream journalism. Sometimes she sees what she is doing as applying traditional journalism to non-traditional methods. She sees things differently because she is looking at them in multiple ways. “Things are shifting, you have to either take control or lose control.”
When you think about information as being collected in a repository, you are missing the point of what can be accomplished right now – a dynamic repository. Come up with a list of common tag terms that you might use, to signify what you are writing about. Maybe you could start a tag called “news matters.” How many of you know what tagging is? What does tagging do? One of the biggest issues of the current information structure is unfortunately there’s not someone who sits down and looks at every piece of paper and decides how it should be categorized. It isn’t organized like a library. So people create their own classifications. It is personal-information architecture. You say what you are about to put up is these four things. Someone in an area designated is a word which describes those things. One thing you could do is create a delicious account, now part of Yahoo. You post something to your delicious account. It is free and open to anybody and they will see the headline of that story.
A LINK TO DELICIOUS:
What’s going on in the hyperlocal: A lot of investor money is going into it. It is unneverving. People who follow curves in funding like to see funding going to things that you can see potential results from. There is no proof that everybody who wants to do it can make money from it. As we’ve already seen with Bayosphere, there will be a fair amount of funding that will go down the drain. In a way what’s faddish is that you can make money doing it.
Scott Hall: What is hyperlocal?
Rich Anderson: It is my community, your community, 20,000-40,000. Everybody thinks there is a cheap easy way to do this. They keep funding the cheap local way.
The Tyee: Vancouver, B.C. (union and user funded)
New Have Independent (foundation funded)
Mountain Area Information Network (multi-service)
New West – Jonathan Weber
Jim Shaffer: How could we report on hyperlocal?
Staci Kramer: One way would be to have somebody to take responsibility for following the hyper-local area. How do you measure success? You could set up some RSS feeds with tags and search terms and start to collect some things. What matters of what you are looking at?
Rich Anderson: What about having the Media Giraffe look at it?
Staci Kramer: Also look at Dan Gillmor’s service. Most people think advertising is the key way.
Rich Anderson: You can’t rely totally on advertising. It is relying on business. But it is new ways to get revenue from that traditional base of support.
Staci Kramer: CitizenImage.com asks you to post photographs and you will get 50% of what they make on it.
Rich Anderson: I say that is folly. The reason local newspapers ore local online services have failed is it wasn’t sustainable. You have to think of a new species. Our idea is the community network idea to replace what was the community newspaper. The reason we are still so dominated by advertising revenue is we still have the newspaper there. That’s not bad. But how you’re going to afford the good quality journalism is to find new revenue to support it. And you find that from the same businesses to whom you provide other services. Advertising is absolutely necessary, to have that advertising base both online and in print, but it is not sufficient.
Jim Shaffer: Go back to tracking? If the University of Missouri were to set up a tracking service would that be competition to your site, Staci?
Staci Kramer: Not at all. Part of the new economy is we all need each other. But who will follow the tracks and what are you doing it for?
Jim Shaffer: Who would want a tracking service? Investors? Entrepreneurs?
Richard Anderson: I came because I thought this group was going to create some ideas and start making them happen. Maybe this group is going to be an entrepreneurial effort to start things and use Media Giraffe as its tracker. To try and answer this question of what is the new community medium.
Staci Kramer: It may be that the need is not a need to create a link to everything going on but to narrow it to just service the people you want to reach. What would be in the manageable chunks and who would they be fore?
Brian Beveridge: Have you established philosophically what you want these entities to achieve? Its more than how do you make money, right? Is that what you want to accomplish? Did you already establish some kind of professional orphilosophical criteria for what journalism should look like? With all the cool experiments, and capital generation, that’s sort of fractile process – you have no idea where it is going. Yesterday there was talk about supporting or establishing a movement.
Mike Skoler: The economic underpinnings for quality journalism are shifting. So much is moving online. The ad model, even if it fully transfers on line, there ar e more players in it, so the actual money that goes to journalism is going to diminish dramatically. As we try to figure out new way to involve citizens, we need to be open to a whole new range of ways of finding revenue. This discussion is about being able to understand what the experiments are only in the sense of we don’t know what the new world is but if we can track experiments, it gives us a leg up.
Brian Beveridge: But what are the indicators of quality journalism? Do you have a golden vision of journalism or is it to go anywhere tha tpursues money?
Linda Ju: We discussed yesterday, and it came down to the question of are we going to be value driven or just pursue the money. Everyone is here because we want to create content that matters, that is value generated. We are all involved in experiments and should talk about how do we support the experiements we are involved in right now. There is no consensus that there is even change necessary. We are not always supported in our own work.
Peggy Holman: Can you talk about what Independent Press Association is doing?
Linda Ju: In 1996 there was a Media Democracy Congress in San Francisco organized by AlterNet. Independent publishers, mostly magazine publishers, came together and were trying to figure out what do about a blocked distribution market. In the 1990s there were hundreds of magazine distribution companies and now there are four. Formed to get smaller enterprises together mostly mission focused. Started building an infrastructure for the ethnic and community press. “We’re drawing in all the people from MSM – like myself— who are fed up.” It involves 500 mission driven publications, alternative publishing, with program-related investments. “It started like this – a bunch of people coming together anymore. It being with not being able to take it anymore, and being willing to fall on our face.” Seed money came from the Knight Foundation and the McArthur Foundation.
Jim Shaffer: Greenhousing involves a sharing of best practices. Maybe we should narrow down the information-gathering projects just in this room.
Pegg Holman: She wants to explore that idea – of this group figuring out a greenhousing resource for sharing information about media projects.
Rich Anderson: One of the problems with the nonprofit model is you can get funding for symposiums, which has nothing to do with your mission.
Linda Ju: We developed relationships with these foundations where we were able to say, now you have to listen to us.
Christine Saed: If you are going to go in the non-profit direction, no profits draw from both private and public for money. Foundations are just one possible piece. There is planned giving.
Staci Kramer: Dropped in without the plot of the play. Apologizes if not completely with the program. She worked for the St. Louis Journalism Review. Are you trying to grow companies that can be self sustaining without foundation support?
Linda Ju: Yes. The foundations push you in that direction.
Staci Kramer: If you look at foundations like angel investors, that can be useful.
Peggy Holman: Would it be useful to some of the experiments represented here to have an organization?
Scott Hall: He is here fo r his boss. She would be extremely interested in Rich Anderson’s service (Village Soup) for example.
Dave Johnson: As a small newspaper, we are looking for sustainability. We have published for six months. There is still enough volunteer passion to keep it going.
Staci Kramer: The model of getting paid is following the initial citizen journalism excitement. Now companies are coming along and are thinking they can make money, with low entry and labor costs. They don’t understand the realities yet.
Mike Skoler: It is seen as a way to get cheap content.
Scott Hall: Where I work, we have 75 volunteers who do 75 percent of the musical program. Everyone once in a while they say they are being used. As Clyde Bentley said yesterday: Journalism is a hard job, you are not going to get a person to sit in a county board meeting for three hours.
CHRIS PECK REJOINS THEMEETING.
Jim Shaffer: So if there were a greenhousing organization that was sharing best practices, all aspects of organizing, would that be a good thing. Summary for Chris Peck. Working on forming a greenhouse for sharing of information about alternative media models.
Rich Anderson: I am hopeful that will come out of this meeting. We have the components here that already exist. For his part, he is interested in exploring ways the VillageSoup plaform “can e shared and made available to other members of this common . . . .we would be interested in making our platform available to others that want to to experiment with community networks.”
Staci Kramer: “That alone has something that is valuable beyond numbers.” Anyone who has created a content management system knows that.
Rich Anderson: The idea is based on creating a system like the Visa model:
There are a lot of variations of what is going on. But what if there were one platform that was based on this community concept?
Staci Kramer: You need to figure out who ought to be in the greenouse?
Linda Ju: How was this group brought together?
Steve Silha: It was brought together by people who are trying to organize change. They tried to get people from all aspects of the system: Wall Street, bloggers, MSM. Really tried to get a diverse approach.
Chris Peck: The people who want to be in the greenhouse would be people who are comfortable with that form of association. What Rich was talking about is the platform could be available to anyone interested in starting a greenouse or community based news organization. What sort of community would likely be open and receptive to that idea. Early, the had a geography in mind and thought of 50 or so communities – urban, or resort or college communities as examples. What about the greenhouse idea? Is that the key to the launches of the alternative magazine you are seeking getting going? How do they acquire staff?
Linda Ju: Yes, basically. Writers who work for IPA magazines get much more feedback. But they are trying to make it sustainable to.
Mike Skoler: An attempt to pull together. Linda, you are beginning to work in broadcast media. Staci and Bill are tracking in different ways and styles a lot of what is going on. There are a number of people here doing experiiments. Linda has learned for how to be a base for doing greenhouse work and working with social-venture capitalists. Rather than moving toward creating something new, could we bring forces together within the work and create a collaboration among pieces of expertise in the room, to get the information needed, the contacts, the investment, without defining necessarily now what projects should be allowed in. It’s always to easier to build when you have the pieces already together rather than go out and create fresh.
Jim Shaffer: As content goes online and things become many to many, what were magazines and newspapers start to look more and more alike.
Mike Skoler: Now the online component is shared across all media now.
Rich Anderson: Do any of your magazines have online components? What about taking the Village Soup, and the learn-share-buy platform and see if some of the magazines would adopt that concept. You are using the same platform, but it just happens to be a magazine.
Linda Ju: I have been thinking a lot about your model.
Mike Skoler: And what a perfect setting for you to make the offer of essentially creating a co-op, for people to are strapped for resources.