Microsharing – a future we’re ignoring?*

Today, in an attempt to get people talking about something I’ve been mulling over for a while, I had thought I accidentally invented an awful new word: Microsharing

Luckily,  I hadn’t.

Some chap called Tony Obregon (I’m guessing this  Tony Obregon) did the hard work slapping it up on Wikipedia back in 2006.

However, I’m slightly miffed we haven’t got around to talking about it from the perspective of making money from content until 2011. Hopefully, this post gets the ball rolling.

So to microshare is:

…to offer access to a select piece or set of digital content by a specific group of invited or otherwise privileged guests in a controlled and secure manner.

So, why does it interest me?

Well, in what was a glorious example of perfect linkbait keyword combos, a VC chap named Bradford Cross recently put across his view on how the iPad would destroy print journalism.

Most of what he was saying has been said a million times before, but when Bradford starts thinking about how payment models might integrate with the social web it suddenly gets interesting:

What should I be able to do with that Economist article?  Should I be able to share it à la carte so I can discuss it with the people I want?  Should I be able to share it within my network, or within the intersection of my network and the network of paying Economist subscribers?

Should I be able to share it publicly?  Maybe I could share it with a special shortened link that encapsulates a special key – that key could charge me if I share it with my friends and I want them to read it, or it could charge the clicker of the link if the Economist decides to allow à la carte payment on some new kind of media platform.

This is the first time I’ve seen anyone think beyond the “if it’s not free it can not be shared on the social web” line… and I’ve been looking out for someone to do it for quite a while!

In real life humans are perfectly capable, and generous enough, to purchase something of value to them and then to loan or give it to someone they care about, trust, or share an interest with. It’s a nice thing to do. We feel good about it, especially when we loan something to someone who finds it really valuable too.

However, with the social web this doesn’t happen. Shared stuff is either free and shared with everyone or it’s paid for and can be shared with no one (unless they too feel compelled to pay for it).

Why the difference, if paying for stuff doesn’t stop us sharing it in real life? Perhaps the social web hasn’t yet evolved to a point where we can share like this as easily as we do in real life?

I think it might be rather nice to have something in the middle: a “licensed sharing of paid-for content“. I think it might even create another strata of the online gift economy.

The trick, however, is to find a way to do it that moves beyond voucher codes and limited previews and puts the power to share in the hands of the person who has paid.

I like the idea of integrating with an existing network then defining the people you want to send the content too (much like you would send an link out to a group in an email). I’m told, however, this is may be too laborious.

So I’m wondering what you think? Do we need it? If so, what form do you think it could take?

*Or, following the Bradford Cross school of post titling: “Why microsharing will destroy the future… OF EVERYTHING”

**And Kindle have on this very day announced book lending – microsharing in action! :)

“Everyone just Googles”

This is a quote taken from a conversation I had with a lawyer about her consumption of news:

“The problem is you people in the media are stuck in your own little world and forget that we’re also quite busy in our own little world and we don’t have time to keep up with what you’re doing.
“We don’t want to have to understand your RSS feeds, we just want to get the information that we need as quickly and easily as possible.
“Handing over 50p and getting that information printed on paper is an easy transaction. It makes sense.
“Fiddling around trying to understand and set up an RSS reader doesn’t.
“When it comes to information online the quickest way is to Google for it. Everyone just Googles.
“Then, if you find a useful easy-to-use site in the Google search results, that’s the site you’ll go back to.”

What is journalism and is it really that essential?

This is a comment I wrote for an earlier post about the role of journalists. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve copied it into a post because it is actually longer than most things I write and  the debate is moving on. Let me know what you think!

I think one of the things that seems to be misunderstood between commenters is the thorny issue of the importance of journalism.

I think there are two areas that need to be unwoven in this debate:

One is making sure we understand what we mean when we talk about journalism.

The second is making sure when we talk about journalism being essential, we understand what we think it is essential for.

OK, so trying to define journalism is an essay in itself and I know I’m going to fall far short with this attempt, but here goes:

Journalism seems to be a catch-all for many types of writing that is triggered by current or relevant events.

Continue reading

Brand identifiers – or what’s important about how you get your news?

On my last post a mini-debate has broken out about whether our exisiting news organisations really need journalists to investigate stories.

A debate also broke out on Twitter between myself and Bobbie “I probably have one of the coolest jobs in the world and get to live in San Fransciso” Johnson of The Guardian.

He was arguing that having investigative journalism was, in a way, a form of marketing for a news brand – a way to identify the product as being better than its competition.

An interesting point that got me thinking.

Russell Brand & Jonanathan Ross, the US elections, the Congo, Gordon Brown shaking hands with Al Qaida suspects – all of these are news stories and all of them have been covered by the UK’s media outlets in one form or another over the last week.

So, what are the things that make you choose to get your news from one organisation rather than another? I tried to make a list: Continue reading

Enviromental journalism: question for BCU students

This afternoon I’m popping down to Birmingham City University to meet Paul Bradshaw‘s group of online journalism students.

They’ve been doing some fascinating work on developing an environmental news service, with each of them specialising in a different subject area.

Environmental news is close to my heart. I would love The Post to be giving more coverage to stories on sustainability.

But it’s also one of those subject areas that many readers regard with great suspicion. Look at The Times guide to the most popular environmental stories of 2007 and you’ll see what I mean.

So, I guess the big question is, can you write environmental stories in a way that builds trust between you and the reader? Is the current suspicion surrounding climate change – for example – caused by media sensationalism or poor scientific reporting? Perhaps it’s neither, maybe it’s just human nature to respond to environmental stories with suspicion.

I certainly don’t know the answer. But in a world where the hegemony of large news corporations is increasingly challenged, the issue of maintaining trust as a way to maintain audience is critical.

And, I suspect, if you find a way to crack the hardest nut of trust and environmental reporting, then you have probably struck gold.

Del.icio.us

Under the recent comments in this blog’s sidebar, you will find that I have got me a new del.icio.us widget displaying my account. (Thanks to Pete for the suggestion)

I signed up to del.icio.us a few weeks ago and haven’t used it a great deal… until now. This weekend I started filling it with things I think might be useful for our meeting on the new Birmingham Post website.

Is there anything I’ve missed?

Talking to Donnacha

It may be noticeable that, since I commented on Greenslade’s departure from the NUJ last month, this blog has lurched into a discussion on the future journalism and online content.

To my surprise, there has also been an exchange of comments between myself and NUJ multimedia commission member Donnacha DeLong – the chap who sparked off the debate in the first place by writing an article entitled Web 2.0 is Rubbish.

I’m dead chuffed he has taken the time and effort to post – so I thought I’d link to the conversation here.

Post Bloggers

The newest addition to The Birmingham Post editorial team, Tom Scotney, has started his own personal blog.

Vive le revolucion!

One of his first posts deals with a journalist pet hate – the mountain of unsolicited and irrellevent PR emails that we recieve.

My own hobby horse is the unnecessary waste produced from PR campaigns – a subject I hope to post in picture form soon. I’ve been saving up a few beauties.

Bedtime reading for the NUJ…

…and for any journlist who wants to get to grips with the future of journalism.

I’ve been following Paul Bradshaw‘s recent posts about blogging and investigative journalism with great interest. Currently there are five – all draft sections of a chapter for a new Investigative Journalism book.

I think they give a fascinating picture of just what can be achieved online – not just for investigative journalism, but perhaps other forms of reporting too:

  1. Blogging and Journalism 
    Explores the relationship of blogging to journalism.
  2. The Amateur-Professional Debate
    Questions whether the subjectivity of blogs is really corrosive to the search for “truth”. 
  3. Sourcing Material
    How online material can make readers part of the investigative process and help to “fine tune” stories.
  4. Publishing
    How online work can provide greater transparency and a wider distribution.
  5. Fundraising 
    How blogs have provided alternative funding streams for investigiative jourmalism. 

In his fifth draft, Paul also puts forward examples of interesting economic models for this style of journalism.

If would be nice to see the NUJ debating how such issues could be better exploited by professional journalists and, perhaps, provide us with a bit of training to boot.

Here’s hoping.