Essay by Dean Starkman
- The question that mass amateurization poses to traditional media is what
happens when the costs of reproduction and distribution go away? What
happens when there is nothing unique about publishing anymore because
users can do it themselves? We are now starting to see that question being
- One: Ida M. Tarbell, a writer for McClure’s Magazine, has made the
circulation of the magazine jump about 400 000 because of her work. Making
it one of the most popular and profitable publication in the country
- Considered by many a genius, McClure was also an impossible boss, always
steaming in from Europe and throwing the office into turmoil because of his
new schemes ideas and editorial changes.
- McClure usually fingered at a subject before the magazine decided to launch
on a story. The subject that was being kicked around was the great industrial
monopolies, known as “trusts” that had come to dominated the American life
- The natural choice in the end was oil. Tarbell had grown up in Pennsylvania
oil country, her father has run business making oil barrels and small refinery.
- Tarbell pitched the idea to McClure and he said it would think it over
- With approval in hand, she returned to New York and to being reporting on
what stands, to this day as the greatest business story ever written.
- McClure has planned a three part series, but “The History of Standard Oil
company” ended up being as a nineteen- part series and quickly turned into a
two volume book.
- No one reading this magazine had to be told that we crossed over into a new
era. Industrial age journalism has failed, we are told and even if it hasn’t
failed, it is over. Newspaper company stocks were trading for less than a
dollar a share. Where quasi monopolies once reigned over whole
metropolitan areas, we have conversation and communities, but also chaos
- Jeff Jarvis, Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor, John Paton came forward to
explain things. Together their ideas formed what is called the future of news
consensus. According to this consensus, the system of journalism will play a
decreasingly important role. News will no longer be collected and delivered
in the traditional sense. It will be assembled, shared and to an increasing
degree even gather by a sophisticated readership. The boundaries between
storyteller and audience dissolves into a conversation between equal parties.
- At its heart, the FON consensus is anti- institutional. It believes that old
insitutions must wither to make way for the networked future.
- The hallmark of revolution is that the goals of revolution cannot be contained
by institutional structure of the existing society. Either revolutionaries are
put down or some of those institutions are altered, replayed of destroyed.
- Future of News is anti institutional, it is hopeful and young and represents th
youths. The establishment has no plan and the consensus says no plan is the
plan. They talk about freedom and informality. The FON says cheap and free,
talks about communities and love, while the establishment asks for your credit card and mutters about institutions like the New York Times or mental
- News outlets have been forced to step down from their pedestals, and that is
mostly a good thing. The idea that communities reporting on themselves,
pooling knowledge in service of journalism, is indeed attractive. But if FON
consensus is right it creates a problem. The proble is that journalism holds a
true value-creating work, the principle in which it is organized is public
interest reporting, the kind that is usually expensive, risky stressful, and
dtime consuming. Public interest is a core value that build trust, sets agendas
and clarifies public understanding, challenges powerful institutions and
generates the point.
- However the FON consensus has very little to say about pubic service
journalism and in many ways is antithetical
- For one thing anti instuttional would disempower journalism
- While the FON consensus is essentially ahistorical- we’re in a revolution, we
know that journalism is a continuum. What Tarbell did, Davies does, and all
great reporters do is always in collaboration with the community.
- Future of News thinkers who emerged in the last few years, represent a new
kind of public intellectual, however they are not known for their journalism
nor their scholarship. Yet they are filling a void left by an intellectually
exhausted journalism establishment, and connecting journalism to the
- Jarvis and Shirky share a belief in the transformative power of network, both
for journalism and for the world, faith in the wisdom of crowds and citizen
journalism, in volunterrism over professionalism, in the journalism as
conversations rather than the traditional models of one to many informative
- The consensus believes that reporters and editors must enter into deep, if
not constant contact with readers via social media, especially Facebook and
Twitter. The consensus favours “iterative” journalism, reporting on the fly
and fixing mistakes along the way, rather than traditional methods of story
organization, fact checking and copyediting.
- It favour spontaneity and informality over formal and narrative forms.
- FON thinking has roots in the non journalism academy, particularly in the
notion of so called peer production, the participation of citizen amateurs in
- Peer production theory holds that dramatically lowered costs of organizing,
communicating and sharing will upend many sectors of modern life, that
journalism included. Advocated of peer production (social production) often
point to successful collaborations as Linux operating system and Wikipedia
as harbinger of the networked future.
- Peer production is itself a subset of a larger body of thought about networks
and society. It tends to view society as less hierarchical, more democratic,
more collaborative, more free and authentic from those that preceded it. - Manuel Castells states that technologu will transform nothing less than the
process of formation and exercise of power relationships. Nicholas
Negroponte states that the Internet is about to flatten organization, globalize
society, decentralize control and help harmonize people.
- There is a culture gap between peer production advocates and professional
journalism. Where professional journalism might thing “Watergate” peer
production would think ”pre-financial war coverage”. And peer production
advocated has to face some defensive and mule responses from the
- Shirk is a leading proponent of the idea that we are passing through a
watershed, not just of our generation or era, but for all human history. This is
that idea that holds that the Internet has the potential to revolutionize
human social life to a degree that we cannot understand.
- Shirky argues that our conventional views of work and incentives wont old in
a new era when the costs of collaboration and sharing are so low. That is why
Wikipedia exists, because enough people love it and more important love one
another in its context
- Another aspect of the FON debate is that ideas even a lack of certainty are
expressed with absolute certitude.
- Jarvis, like other FON thinkers lives the contradiction of the praise peer
production and volunterrism from the security of an institution. It is
shocking for Jarvis as his entrepreneurialism is publically subsidized. He is
the head at CUNY, and the C stands for city.
- He is a master of the buzzword, “googlejuice”, and the catch phrase
“customers are now in charge”. We have shifted from an economy based on
scarcity to one based on abundance.
- Jarvis presents himself as a walking experiment in social media, because of
- He created a spasm when he launched a Twitter protest campaign under
hash tag #fuckyouwashington.
- His What Would Google Do? Is almost a caricature network theory, hailing
the search company and internet culture as ushering new forms of capitalism
and society. Jarvis believes that we no longer need companies, institutions, or
government to organize us. That we have the tools to organize ourselves, we
can share and sort our knowledge and behaviour and can communicated
with each other in and instant. We also have ethics and attitudes that spring
from the new organization and change society in ways we cannot see, with
openness generosity, collaboration efficiency. We are using the internets
connective tissue to leave over borders and are recognizing society.
- This kind of rhetoric reminds us that when it comes to the future of new, we
are dealing with issues defined with uncertainty. Journalists like facts and
data. Here there aren’t any and we are in the realm of beliefs. Jarvis’s
journalism advice if commonsensical, and states do what you do best, link to
the rest. He states that the old must make way for the new. The new is not yet
clear, but it involves technology, networks, entrepreneurialism, iterative
journalism, conversations between users, and new forms of disseminating information. In this view going “digital first: means a radical revision of what
news organizations do. Digital first resets journalistic relationship with the
community, making the news organization less a producer and more open to
public to share what it knows. It is to that process that journalist adds value.
She may do so in many forms- reporting, curating people and their
information, providing applications and tools, gathering data, organizing
efforts and educating participants and writing articles.
- Therefore Jarvis states, old elites must give way to the people or the next
generation of net natives.
- FON thinkers put forward the idea of news as a commodity, describing it
variously as abundant, undifferentiated and low o value. As a consequence,
FON thinking assumed it wont command much of anything in a marker
where the costs of distribution are basically zero.
- One way to escape a commodity market is to offer something that isn’t a
commodity. This have been the preferred advice of people committed to the
reinvention of newspapers. All you need to do is offer a product so relevant
and valuable the consumer is willing to pay for it. However this advice is not
helpful as it merely reinstates the problem, by way of admission that the
current product does not pass the test. Paywalls that implemented this did
not accomplish this. They don’t expand revenues but instead contract a
subset of audience that is willing to pay.
- The times killed the service in 2007 and freed its content for a few simple
reason, first to increase the audience to the papers site and to make more
money on the advertising shown to digital audience.
- But now, the times paywall allows some free access but charges for unlimited
use is working. After just four money 224 000 users were accessing the
- Shirky and others pointed out that news isn’t a commodity but it is a public
good that everyone benefits from, and it is something that doesn’t diminish
no matter how many people use it (whether they have to pay for it or not).
Framing the news as a commodity makes it easier to give away.
- But we can now see that news as a cheap commodity argument was along an
ideological one couched with economic terms, The idea that information
wants to be free. Commodity idea gained traction only because of the
collapse of business advertising models; it had nothing to do with the
- The problem with conceiving news as a commodity is that it can become a
self fulfilling prophecy
- While Shirky and FON thinkers argue that upending current structure and
institutions is inevitable, The author argues there is a point at which
predicting institutional decline blurs into rooting for it and then morphs into
hastening it along, such as the pay wall debate shows. Shirky believes that
the new news environment needs to be chaotic but nott with the public just
the news environment. - The current shock in the media shows that the production time spent
replacing newspapers s misspent effort because we should really be
transferring our concerns to the production of lots and lots smaller,
overlapping models of accountability journalism, knowing that we wont get it
right in the beginning and not knowing how experiments will pan out.
- Nicholas Carr and others has notice that FON vision is much like
- FON thinkers and their acolytes themselves. This is all to say no one should
kid himself that when old elites fall, new ones wont take their place.
- He predicts that for a long time the FON is going to look like the Present of
News: hobbled news organizations, limping along, supplemented by swarms
of new media outlets doing their best.
- He goes even further and states that journalism needs its own institutions for
simple reason that reports on institutions much larger than itself. There must
be organizations with talent, traditions, culture, bureaucrate, geniuses,
monomaniacs, lawyers, health plans, marketing divisions, and ad sales
persons, and they must be able to take on liked of other big organizations like
Goldman Sachs, the White House, and local political bosses.
- As Michael Schudson wrote in 1995, imagine a world where governments,
lobbyists, churches and social movements, deliver information directly to
citizens on their home computers. Then journalism is momentarily abolished.
However after the initial europhia, confusing and power shifting, someone
credible would have to sort through the news and put it in an understandable
form, which is journalism of some sort. It would be reinvented and a
professional press corps would reappear.
- Rosen is a fervent believer in the potential of community involvement in
journalism. He is a longtime leader of the public journalism movement, which
has long envisioned a more intimate, porous, and in Rosen’s view equal
relationship between journalism and the public.
- He called the press out on its quest for innocence, the idea that they just
report facts and has no stake on them, is not responsible for judgement, and
cant be responsible for the outcomes. He examined how mainstream news
cultures tend to marginalize ides outside certain intellectual boundaries that
prove to be not only arbitrary but conveniently allows the news room to
avoid hard subjects.
- In journalism, real authority starts with reporting. Knowing your stuff,
mastering your best, being right on facts, digging under the surface of things,
calling around to find out what happened and verifying your facts.
- The value of Rosens critique is that it engages news organizations, prod them
to be better, rather than dimisses them or shed crocodile tears about their
inevitable but oh so regrettable demise.
- The fact is that its peer production that isn’t really working for news while
institutions still do. This is not to say that the FON debate hasn’t sparked
important discussion about what kinds of environment best forster
journalism. News pros argue, correctly that institutions not only provide
reporters resources and backup the best ones create valuable news culture by aggregating people of a certain mindset. Put it this way: a lot of people are
smart and skeptical but wont devote this or her life to uncovering graft at the
public buildings authority.
- On the other hand though, peer production advocates have a point when they
wonder whether there is something about bureaucracies strangles as much
as it nurtures journalism.
- Rosen is quicker to see the upside of disruptive technology than the
problems it brings to journalism.
- The irony thoug it sthat in the second decade of the twenty first century,
thanks to the FON thinkers journalism is now enslaved to a new system of
production. Publishing is not possible all the time and in limitless amounts.
- The cruel truth of the emerging networked news environment is that
reporters are as disempowered as they have ever been, writing more often,
under more pressure, with less autonomy, about more trivials things than
under the previous monopolistic regime. Indeed, if one were looking for
ways to undermine reporters in their work, FON ideas would be a good place
- 1. Remind them that they are nothing special and basically a commodity
- 2. Require them to spend a portion of their workday marketing and branding
themselves and figuring out their business model.
- 3. Require that they keep in touch with you via Twitter and FB constantl
instead of reporting and writing
- 4. Prematurinly bury institutional news organization
- 5. Promote a vague faith in volunteerism
- 6. Describer long form writing as affection or even a form of oppression, that
no one will ever have time to law out evidence gathered during extensive
- It’s time for journalism thinkers to turn to real task, to reempower reporters,
the backbone of journalism.
- The model that the author proposed is to take lessons from the
Guadian/News Corp case and would be institution centered, network
powered. In that cased, traditional investigative reporting broke the story,
while social media propelled it to stratosphere.
- Rebuilding or shoring up institutions is going to take some new thinking, but
it can be done. There is not inevitability as long as there is a willingness to
contemplate what is happening.
Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss?- Full Post
- The internet was supposed to liberate, empower and enrich artists. However
this promise never really panned out.
- It never transforemed into a vibrant marketplace where small stakeholders
could compete with multinational conglomerates on an even playing field.
- In the last few years its become apparent the music business, which was once
dominated by powerful music conglomerates, MTV, Clear Channel and a handful of other companies is now dominated by a smaller set of larger even
more powerful conglomerates.
- The new boss doesn’t tell artists what songs to write or who should mix the
record, but they have become dependent on such techs to pursue their craft.
- In fact it is impossible for artists to pursue their craft without enriching
Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
- In addition the new boss is waging a cynical PR campaign that allows the
used of artists songs with freedom.
- The other problem is that they have been expecting to see aggravate revenue
flowing to artist increase. However it seems to be that artists are working
more for less money.
- Musicians are constantly derided by the Digerati (people involved with
technology). If other people are profiting from an artists work, they should
share some of the proceeds with the artists.
- Despite the tech’s lobby’s portrayal of musician as luddites or doddering old
hippie, musicians, especially independent musicians are often early adopters
- When it comes to the web, they not only understand the consumer side of the
Internet but also the producer/supplier side as well. And like any
producer/supplier they want to be paid. The reason the Digeratie are so
fixed on what the consumers want is because most of them have only
experienced web as consumers. The consumers want music to be free.
- Often overlooked by the Digerati Is that musicians and bands have long been
a part of this “new economy”. This web-enabled business has been going on
since 1992. Artists have been communicating with their fans about upcoming
concerts through, Facebook, twitter, and even emails. In addition although
they get together in the same spot to record basic tracks, oftentimes
overdubs and even mixing happens through exchanging files and notes via
- Sound recordings are not cheap to make. The technology is not the expensive
part of making songs and sound recordings. Many in tech assume that
recording budgets have gone down because technology is less expensive and
provides greater productivity. However there are no facts to support this.
- They state that artists are making less money but recording costs are low so
therefore artists are doing okay.
- In other words stating that technology has lowered artists revenues in the
form of unlicensed file sharing on an industrial scale but its okay because
Digidesign (the makers of Pro-Tools) have given back some saving costs.
- However the data from recording studios say something different. They state
that recording budgets are lower because artists spend dramatically less
time recording. They just don’t have the money.
- Recording budgets didn’t start shrinking until after file sharing in 2002 ish.
While most improvements in technology and gains in productivity occurred
in 1990s. If lowering recording budgets were caused by improvement in
technology then it should have started shrinking since 1990s. - David Lowery (the author of this article) calls himself a Freemiumnista. He
gets that not all interactions between fans and artists should be monetized.
He gets that you can give away something and make more money in the long
- He states that musicians fail to embrace that they have a choice, a choice to
distribute their own songs, to give it away or sell them. The right to control
ones intellectual property (like songs) is a constitutional right. It is also part
of every international human rights agreement.
- Many digital companies condemn the past exploitation of artists by record
labels. But yet they are doing the same thing, trying to bully artists to giving
up their rights so that companies like MegaUpload or YouTube can make