This week, we've got a few new developments, a load of nifty resources and several more go-rounds in the always-festering paid content debate. Let's get to it. (Explanation here
— The biggest news in new media this week was probably the launch last Monday of Google Fast Flip
, which allows you to flip through articles across the web while viewing them on their own pages, sort of like a scrollable set of screenshots. According to Google
, there are two major (related) goals behind this: To speed up web browsing by eliminating slow load times, and to restore some of the magazine-style experience of flipping through pages online.
A quick review of the reviews: The New York Times' David Carr
, who saw an in-progress version last summer, loves it, calling it "a back-to-the-future moment where readers can once again experience the thrill and serendipity of flipping their way through pages to amusing or enlightening ends." Between this and Google's micropayment idea
, he says it's time to take Google's efforts to help news organizations seriously. Paul Bradshaw
at the Online Journalism Blog couldn't agree less, calling Fast Flip an opportunistic joke on a panicking news industry. Alan Warms
of Silicon Valley Insider says he also gets a back-to-the-future vibe — in a bad way. Simply put, he says, there's not enough links, and it's driven by publishers instead of consumers.
Carr has some company in his rave review, though: Steve Outing
— like many others, I'm sure — loves that Google is sharing revenues with publishers. And Publish2 co-founder Scott Karp
likes that Google is attempting to create a new user interface for news, rather than just trying to figure out how to charge for it.
My take: I'm not sure where to stand on whether to take Google's efforts to help publishers seriously. We don't know the split of ad revenue, and until we do, we have no idea whether this a bona fide collaborative attempt to solve a problem or just a way to wring a few more dollars from a desperate news industry.
As for the product itself, color me unimpressed. The content simply seems far too haphazardly thrown together. Right now, the "recommended" stories in FastFlip are a Washington Post Date Lab, a New York Times article on Amazon, news from the BBC on dementia, a Slate piece on Stephen Baldwin, a demo conference on Fast Company, and the worst dressed Emmys of all time on Us. Huh? Isn't Google's job as the king of search to bring some order
to the chaos that is the web? The "Recommended" tab might as well be titled "Browse random articles from three dozen publishers. Hope you like one of them." One person's serendipity is another's jumbled mess.
— In ideas, this week has to start with Nieman Reports' massive fall issue
on journalism and social media. There's tons of great stuff here and I've barely started to dig into it all, but I already love Matt Thompson's manifesto
on the value of Wikipedia or "Giant Pool of Money"
-style explainers in news. (Elsewhere, the report gives a great picture
of how it works in practice for one paper.) The Nieman Journalism Lab
has been highlighting various articles from the report all week, and I plan to have some more thoughts on at least one of them up for you later this week.
— The political media world has been abuzz about James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles' expose
of ACORN, and as C.W. Anderson
and others have noted, it seems to be the sequel to Mark Bowden's Atlantic article
I wrote about last week. The Columbia Journalism Review
picks up where Bowden left off, lamenting the separation of the public into "different fact universes" and notes that the mainstream media should continue the "standard strategy" of giving "balanced" context to stories, trying to in some sense referee the conflict. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast's Conor Friedersdorf
(hardly a conservative himself) uses the episode to argue for the government to allow anyone to record any elected official or anyone else who is paid with any public money.
— On the paid content front, the must-read piece this week is PBS MediaShift's fantastic two-part debate
on micropayments between David Carr and Techdirt's Mike Masnick. It functions as a great primer for the arguments on both sides, which are articulated by two sharp, eloquent spokesmen. I have to say Masnick got the better of this one, and his description of micropayments as "putting up a tollbooth on a 50-lane highway where the other 49 lanes have no tollbooth, and there's no specific benefit for paying the toll" is the most fitting analogy I've seen yet of the issue. (He also takes down the idea of an antitrust exemption for newspapers along the way.)
Meanwhile, Steve Outing
ponders the tangibility issue of paying for news I noted in the comments section last week, and says the right paradigm might be found in mobile phone apps. Editor & Publisher's indefatigable Joe Strupp
brings us up to date on newspapers' plans to charge for content online, Ken Doctor
sees some real changes signified in several under-the-radar news business moves, and Alan Mutter has good news
about a lower ideal pay wall fee and bad news
about inflated web traffic stats.
— Mashable's Vadim Lavrusik
offers seven ways to make news sites more social, and Steve Yelvington
gives seven more steps to nurturing that online community. (Thanks to the wonderful Stephanie Romanski
, I'm happy to say my paper has most of Mashable's list covered.)
— This week in depressing journalism industry graphs: BusinessWeek
has some awful-looking graphs of jobs in traditional media industries, but Jeff Jarvis
wonders if it's as bad as it looks, given that journalism is becoming so decentralized.
— Joshua Michele-Ross of Radar
has a short but profound read on why news organizations have been so slow to adapt to change: Because they're institutions. I would guess that any journalist working for a traditional media organization could readily vouch for him here; I know I would.
— Finally, the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Steve Buttry offers two indispensable resources for journalists and j-school students — one incredibly comprehensive list of resources
on journalism ethics, and another slightly intimidating yet inspirational list of ways
to make yourself a better journalist. These things are golden.