Street pitch from zemanta.comImage by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten via Flickr

A topic for blogging springs to life, and then the project of managing the post weighs it down. Questions start flooding the mind faster than language can articulate them. Is this post unique enough? Am I rehashing stale ideas? Where do I find a picture? Am I stepping on copyright? Who/where should I link? What should I read before writing? Do I have the facts right? Will I ever be able to monetize this? How should I tag it? Compound the questions with a time-frame that should be more like 30 minutes and less like 2 hours for a single post, and I start looking like I need a friend.

Zemanta has been a great friend in the quest for easy and relevant blogging. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and would rather not imagine its absence. It places pictures, finds relevant links, and tags posts with helpful aplomb. “Friend” is a good descriptor for Zemanta; It’s always there, ready to help out in the only way it knows how. But Zemanta can’t ease all of my blogging needs, and I can’t demand too much of it. (as much as I wish a friend could be my personal assistant, employee, maid, cook, and computer, I wouldn’t have much friends if I demanded that level of commitment).

Every blogger should be friends with Zemanta today. But that friendship will surely wain when there is an Integrated Content Management Framework that solves the riddle of how to make relevant, unique, atomizable, mashable, monetizable, fully linked and tagged multi-media prepared for syndication. Then again, that’s a mighty high demand for any friend.

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Riders waiting at a U.S. bus stop with a shelter.Image via Wikipedia

Taking my familiar walk down Ashland Ave in Chicago, barely noticing the familiar Taquerias and boutiques, I passed scores of newspaper boxes. They were all at intersections, bus stops, and coffee shops. I walked confidently, knowing that at any point I could pick up the same content that was on the previous corner. At some point, my brain fired up it’s desire engine, focused in on the need for some El reading material, and propelled my hand towards a couple boxes containing the Chicago Journal and the RedEye. Thanks be to the person who invented the newspaper box and the method of placing them ubiquitously in high-traffic areas (a quick wikipedia search failed to tell me who that person was, and then I gave up).

The newspaper box was a successful attempt at distributing newspapers everywhere. And now, in our crisp new digital world, a similar innovation must be spun up. The makings are already there. We’ve got digital high-traffic areas, we’ve got links and widgets, we’ve got RSS Feeds, and we’ve got people who like fresh/relevant content. What we don’t have is a reliable way to monetize all of the grabbing and reading.

The game today seems to be “get the reader to come back to my controlled site so I can pop some ads up and monetize their pretty blues.” But, truthfully, I don’t want to read your content on your site. Just as much as I don’t want to go downtown to the Chicago Tribune to peep some news. I want to grab a tiny slice of your content in places I’m already walking past.

More and more, my digital walk takes me past Google Reader, WordPress, Technorati, the NYTimes, EveryBlock, Twitter, and Facebook. I don’t walk past the LoMediaCo Daily News very often, so it needs to place it’s content at the high-traffic intersections of the web. Don’t lock me in to your user interface. Don’t interrupt my EveryBlock experience by making me open a link in a new tab. All of the mechanisms exist to provide me with a great content experience, but the business model for using them is nascent. It’s gonna be all about aggregating content and sharing benjamins. And that’s gonna take a beautiful database that knows about content ownership (no matter how atomized), place of viewing, stats, revenue generated, and algorithms for how much value the venue brings to the table and how much value the content brings to the table. Some will make money by making super-boss venues (e.g., Google), and some will make money by pumping out the freshest (e.g., TechCrunch) and best (e.g., NYTimes) content.

I’m not asking for anyone to give up their desire to place the “I Made This” stamp on their content. I’m asking you to give up your desire to make me see your content in your house. I’m asking you to give up your desire to be the only one to distribute your content (i.e., let it go viral).

I’ll be happy when my digital-walk content grabbing is as simple as my Ashland-walk content grabbing.

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine for writing many thoughtful posts that got me thinking about this.

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Fire on the MountainImage by matrix2003 via Flickr

A house on fire brings LoMediaCo’s running. I think the rationale is that it’s what people want to see. If that’s true, wouldn’t there be an amazing place on the web that serves up endless Feeds and Vids of houses on fire?

To find out, I turned to a bastion of Wedia: Technorati. They keep a handy list of the top 100 Blogs. I didn’t see one that even remotely touched on burning houses or any other kind of local disaster. Most blogs are about politics, gadgets, blogs, celebrities, and the web.

Here’s the problem, LoMediaCo’s are caught in a cycle of providing content that is visceral for 30 seconds, but does not illicit opinion, thought, or action. The only thing someone could say about a house on fire is, “wow, that’s horrible. I hope it doesn’t happen to me.” LoMediaCo’s don’t have to give up the house on fire stories, but they do need to realize that that kind of story does not fly online. Houses on fire don’t build community. Houses on fire aren’t sticky.

Fools for Rules

April 7, 2008

étudiants en journalismeImage from Wikipedia

It’s hard to follow the rules if you never read the rules. That’s what’s happening over at Consumerist.com with their 26 year old Editor who never worked a day in journalism prior to his current gig. Read all about it over here at the Newspaper Death Watch.

This is the kind of mentality we’re shooting for here at Wedia Up. Letting Media Outsiders (such as my humble self) take some stabs at the big problemo in conjunction with Media Insiders. Having not read the Rules of Journalism, I’m gonna take out my little paring knife and make a stab. Apologies if I hit an artery.

Step 1: Give people what they want to see/read/hear right now and let them interact.

Step 2: Something something something, so you can make money.

And now for the breakdown:

  1. “Give”: Make the presentation of content like a little personal gift. If at all possible, make it free. Hopefully people will ask for another gift later.
  2. “People”:  Please don’t write off a certain demographic of people as “non-consumers”. To steal from my good friend on the Nickel, “All consumers are created with equal information needs.” Just because I want more info about my friends and less about a house fire doesn’t mean I’m a non-consumer.
  3. “Want”: Let people self-identify, explore, show preferences, and be geographically diverse. Pretty soon, wants will become fairly obvious. A lot of people don’t know what they want until they see it. Don’t assume that everyone wants fact-checked, edited, impersonal, objective content all the time. There’s a bunch of relevant info that people want that will never win a LoMediaCo a Pulitzer.
  4. “See/Read/Hear”: Content should know no distribution borders.
  5. “Right Now”: Give as much content as you can whenever it is available. Link to all related articles, a deep archive, and outside sources so I can drink until I’m not thirsty. If everything is online, it doesn’t eat-up space on a 22-minute broadcast or the front-page of a daily newspaper.
  6. “Interact”: Let people mash-up the content, share it, comment on it, and start a conversation. Allow them to say when it’s bad and when it’s good.
  7. “Something Something Something”: I don’t think anyone knows exactly how to make consistent money in a Wedia setting. This is gonna take some massive innovation. It’s very possible that the current LoMediaCo business model will not function in a Wedia environment. Through collaboration, small tests, frequent stabs, and a tolerance for risk, I bet someone figures it out.

What percentage of this sounds familiar? If it’s over 90%, I’ll try harder next time.

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