Business as usual

Journalism, like higher education and health care, are in the throes of industry transformations. The news profession's idea of "business as usual" functions as a defensive rationalization that blinds them to the deep changes they could make. Here's how the mental chatter of industry strategists and leadership may sound if it we're possible to listen in:
  • The changes in technology do not change people's need for news or their reliance on our journalistic expertise.
  • No matter how much the customers change their taste and consumer preferences, they'll still need to know what's on sale and what's an especially good bargain today.
  • Just because readers are chatting up their friends more than ever does not change their need for the latest news.
  • So long as we keep on doing what we're trusted, respected and celebrated for doing, we'll be okay.
  • When people quit needing trusted sources for news, we'll know it in advance because we'll be covering the democracy becoming a failed state.
  • We're not heroes or vigilantes - we're in this together - people need to read the news as much as we need to report on it.
  • There's no way for the news to get old or out of date because it's our job to keep on top of anything that's changing.
When we entertain defensive rationalizations like these, we need a wake up call. We're asleep at the wheel and blinded by our own assumptions. We cannot see what's really happening because we've convinced ourselves we're smarter than that. Our overconfidence seems to us like realistic appraisals, rational decisions and logical conclusions. We'll wake up when we hit a wall or drive off the cliff. There's no stopping us "barreling down the road to ruin" when we're in the clear to pursue business as usual.


Fighting the good fight

Journalism 1.0 fought battles every day to defeat forces of deception, cover-up, and misrepresentation. Anytime the truth was uncovered, a moral victory was won. Journalism 1.0 wants to keep fighting and winning these battles to get the facts straight and the public accurately informed. It's evident that the enemy is still there to be battled against. If anything, there are more deceptions, cover-ups, and misrepresentations occurring in our world of pervasive connectivity.

While the battles rage on, what has changed is the scarcity of information. The public is getting the facts straight and even better informed without newsprint. Information has become abundant and increasingly free for the taking. Liberated from the confines of ink on paper, information has become searchable, taggable, forwardable and mashable. It's no wonder the public is finding out whatever they want to know sooner, more selectively and with greater depth than newspapers can deliver.

Journalism 1.0 can only assume they are losing a moral fight The forces of deception, cover-up, and misrepresentation must be winning. They don't see a way to stop fighting the battle they have always been admired, valued and paid for pursuing. The advent of ubiquitous information has not changed the need for hard-won moral victories. Journalism 2.0 makes no sense to their value constructs, priorities and professional standards. They can only continue to fight the good fight.


Naked news reporting

The book Naked Conversations convinced me I wanted to launch a blog and write for it daily. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel made a point that corporate transparency was becoming valued like never before. I suspect that Journalism 2.0 is coming to the same conclusion. A lack of transparency will equate with a lack of value, credibility, professionalism and incentive to spread the reputation of the reporter. I recently explored another facet of this transition as journalists becoming confessional professionals. This morning I've been playing around with how newsrooms and news gatherers can "get naked". Here are some of what I would expect to read from reporters about newsmakers:
  • They have been trying to make some news in ways the media has not found newsworthy.
  • Their incident was timed perfectly to get in today's news cycle.
  • They made the news by making a scene unlike the previous two.
  • Their attempt to mislead the public gave us journalists a high horse to ride to expose the deception and reveal the truth.
  • They managed to get in the news by parlaying the slight offense into a big story.
  • They provoked the media to cover the story by mentioning the news organizations shortcomings in their press release.
  • They framed the conversation as so one-sided the reporters had to fill in what was unstated and neglected.
  • They got paid attention by the reporters by paying the reporters attention in their own publicity.
  • They attracted a lot of interest in their story by leaving a lot for the news-gatherers to add, fill in and spin.
  • They baited the reporters to cover their latest developments by suggesting more had already changed than actually did.
These "news items" reveal how assignment editors make decisions. They show the readers the inner workings of a news room. They make public what has gone on behind closed doors for centuries. They make news of how news is selected, prioritized, gathered, researched, vetted and written up.


Gone are the days

Newspapers probably thought they never had it easy until they look back now. There was a steady state of deadline pressures and controlled panic: getting out the latest edition, covering the stories without libel suits, getting enough vetting done before going to print, or receiving last minute revelations that change the edited copy dramatically. But there was a lot they took for granted until their game was changed and the goal posts moved.
  • Newspapers had passive subscribers who renewed their subscriptions without a second thought. The paper was always good enough unless it had committed some unforgivable faux pas. The value of the newspaper was not questioned or compared to something else. Subscribers didn't consider shopping around for better journalism or getting their trusted news without ink on paper.
  • The passive subscribers were active shoppers. As some newspapers discovered when they discontinued their coupon sections, the active shoppers value the paper for the ads, consumer tips and money saving coupons. The reportage of international, national and regional news legitimizes what they really hunger for: bargains galore! Print advertisers found the newspapers' subscriber base to be easy to connect with and profit from.
  • Readers didn't expect much and were easy to please. They did not want to express themselves or give their voice about news visibility. They did not want to contribute to the reporting of news or get newsprint that matched their unique interests. They had no concept of active or interactive subscribers beyond choosing subscriber plans and where to have the paper thrown on their properties. They had no desire for the writers to be transparent in their process reporting the news. They did not want to forward the news to friends, add comments to articles or get the news for free. Readers had no problem with professionals acting authoritative and dictating what is "news" for the passive subscribers to accept without question.
  • This large base of reliable subscribers were products of the culture, socialization processes and schooling. There was no costly transition to get readers to be so cooperative and satisfied. The cultivation of their receptive mindset did not require formal training, sales pitches or advertising campaigns. The subscribers expected to be told the news like they had been told what to think in school and what to do on the job.
The newspapers were representatives like the elected representatives in legislatures. They represented the citizens' interests in truth, facts and substantiated proof. They utilized and protected the rights to a free press, free speech and free assembly. The newspapers were relied upon to represent diverse constituencies, partisan stances and conflicted issues. Democracies where served by the roles played by newspapers in communities and nations. The tools were not yet democratized and the readers' expectations had not yet changed. Gone are the days.


Long Tail 2.0

As Journalism 2.0 migrates into ultra-local and ultra-segmented market niches, it will exposed to all the dynamics of The Long Tail. Since Chris Anderson's book by that title, there have been many more insights developed about departures from the short tail of blockbuster hits. Here's the main concepts I currently have in mind:
  • As Chris Anderson explored in his follow-up book: Free, the long tail creates an abundance of alternatives for consumers and rivals for each provider. This disrupts perceived scarcities which had maintained the power to control supply and name their price. The emergent abundance of options and rivals introduces a force of economic gravity that brings prices down to zero.
  • The long tail creates too much information and too many alternatives for consumers to consider. The pressure on their minds can become overwhelming as they scan, rank and filter "their drinking from the fire-hose". Rather than look for the niche that satisfies their unique preferences, they search for ways to do less thinking. Instead of behaving rationally, they exhibit cognitive patterns identified in Dan Ariely's book: Predictably Irrational.
  • The abundance may backfire and result in a herd mentality. Minds are put at ease by doing what everyone else is. There's no critical thinking required to follow the buzz and conform to the taste of the trend setters. The niche then produces it's own mini-blockbuster where everyone jumps on the bandwagon, as Bill Wasik explores in And Then There's This.
  • The bandwagon effect can experienced as a loss of individuality and self determination. Conformity sucks when we want to generate our own tags, bookmarks, playlists and collections. Our inclination for "loss aversion" may induce a rapid boredom with the mini-blockbuster. This quick "fall from grace" creates a churn in what sells and gets buzz that Bill Wasik calls "nanostories". Everything becomes all too familiar all too quickly to maintain a loyal base, create a follow-up offering or generate a second wave of buzz.

When customers are driven by the long tail to become flighty, fickle and faddish, with their expectations raised for free items in the infinite aisle, I suspect that profitable business models are nowhere to be found.


Thrill me - don't inform me

Professionals of every stripe believe in what they're doing. They dismiss non-believers who question their value, find their service useless or find fault with its approach. Journalists believe their professional practices are essential to the functioning of democratic elections and government with the consent of the governed. Without journalists working hard at their role in democratic societies, corruption, scams, rip-offs and deceits would abound. Without investigative reporting and fact checking, the gullible public could be told anything by vested interests and get taken as truth. Without the commitment to follow unfolding stories for weeks or months, citizens would fail to recognize character flaws and patterns of misconduct in the leaders and agencies they rely upon.

Non-believers view all these claims made by journalists with skepticism or cynicism. Non-believers are coming from a different place, looking through different lenses and framing the value propositions from contexts that are not served by the "contributions to society". The professionals appear unresponsive, insensitive, self-absorbed and out of touch. The same can be said for many professionals in academia and medicine.

Until recently, I've been assuming the non-believers are on to something better, in tune with the future and well-prepared for forthcoming challenges. While there are many signs of declining print literacy, I suspect it's being replaced by advances in visual, acoustic and cultural literacies. While attention spans have shortened and abilities to focus deteriorated, there are indications of greater fluidity, resourcefulness and spontaneity in minds inundated by online and media experiences.

Three of the books I'm currently reading are challenging these optimistic preconceptions of mine. I'll say more about these books in future posts. Today let me simply pose the contradiction to my assumptions. I'm getting the dismal picture that the non-believers in professional journalism are:
  • continually opposed to getting bored by abstract information
  • repeatedly losing interest in whatever is a familiar, old "has been"
  • easily bored, apathetic, and disinterested in anything difficult
  • constantly seeking thrills from something new, edgy or controversial
  • having nothing substantial or comforting to fall back on between thrills
  • living without a sense of meaning, purpose and chosen direction
  • avoiding self awareness or recognition of personal patterns
People in this condition would make great consumers. They would dependent on advertisers and trend setters to dictate their tastes. They would devour the outputs from manufacturers of cultural advances. They would live for the latest thing with no looking back. They'd crave being an "it" boy or girl and follow those who've already made it. They'd go blank when given useful information as if to say: "Thrill me - don't inform me".


Vetting news sources 2.0

In the world I want to live in, news sources get qualified as legitimate in a far better way than they do now. My interest is NOT in silencing dissent, squelching debate or dominating a conversation. Rather it's to deepen insight, better empathize and value diversity for breaking up "one right answer". Here's the guiding premises for a different way to vet news sources:
  • Some of us are tolerant of others with different viewpoints, compassionate about interests other than our own and empathetic with others' pain. Some of us are intolerant of others with different viewpoints, judgmental about interests other than our own and critical of others acting out their pain
  • Those of us who are tolerant in general come across as intolerant toward those who lack compassion and empathy for others out of a concern for how that treatment could put those others in more pain, misfortune and deprivation. Those of us who are intolerant in general come across as tolerant toward those who are equally judgmental and critical (lacking compassion and empathy) out a concern for sticking together in a battle of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, disciplined vs. slouches or some other clear cut dichotomy.
  • Those of us with compassion and empathy speak of different viewpoints, different sides of an issue and phases of development that change our minds. Those of us who are judgmental and critical speak of rationalizations to vindicate positional stances, attacks on others and one-sided viewpoints.
  • Those with some understanding of others can foresee how things may work out for the better, resolve themselves through dialogue and come to shared objectives as a result. Those with strong convictions against others can foresee how things will get worse, vindicate paranoid predictions and come to a stalemate of irreconcilable differences before long.
  • Those with optimistic forecasts can look forward to the future, work toward desirable outcomes and envision welcomed changes. Those with pessimistic forecasts dread the future, work on restoring previous conditions and envision the defeat of those who welcome perilous changes.
  • Those who welcome changes can put aside fears, provide reassurances and comfort others' anxieties about transitions. Those who dread changes can play on people's fears, provide nightmare scenarios and raise everyone's anxiety level to the brink of panic.
Journalism 1.0 typically fails to draws these distinctions. The journalists report on paranoia as if it's a calm assessment of actual conditions. They legitimize a lack of empathy as a considerate point of view. They feed problems in the world by dismissing the effects of paying particular attention, framing the facts and self-fulfilling prophesies.

Journalism 2.0 could do the opposite and do a far better job of vetting news sources. The journalists can report on paranoia as paranoia, They can legitimize empathy for considering many points of view that then contrasts with a lack of empathy. They can dismantle the chronic problems in the world by relying on the effects of paying particular attention, framing the facts and self-fulfilling prophesies.


Hyper journalism 2.0

There's a lot of buzz among the innovators about hyper-local journalism as the next wave. (see this post by Jeff Jarvis) That works at several levels as I see the possibility. First it conceptualizes "what is newsworthy" as something immediate to the readers, not abstract, distant or sophisticated. It speaks to their own context where they can take action, make a difference and connect with others to get things done. Hyper local also mashes up the context of news gathering with news readers and creates a long tail of reporters. News content can be crowdsourced when the news getting covered is local. This approach also becomes transparent about the process and persons involved -- more easily than the "big city dailies" that feel more pressure to appear professional, respectable and detached. As I explored previously, hyper-local can facilitate processes with purposes.

While I've reflected on all these benefits of hyper-local journalism, it occurred to me there are several similar ways that Journalism 2.0 may go hyper:
  • hyper-transparent - If journalism becomes hyper-transparent, the readers will be revealing too. They will share how they take what is written and what they do with it. Their "after the consumption of the news" processes will be put on display. There will be social networking platforms for the readers to reveal their biases, frames of reference and contexts for making use of what they absorb.
  • hyper-useful - If journalism becomes hyper-useful, the providers will be immersed in feedback about their contributions. They may even dashboards to monitor the ratings, reactions and references to what they have offered. Together the providers and users of news will become smarter about what works and delivers desirable differences. They will also discover pitfalls to avoid, temptations to dismiss and extremes to balance wisely. They will depend on the feedback to become more self-reliant, less desperate to please others and thus more responsive to indicators of providing authentic value.
  • hyper-reciprocal - If journalism becomes hyper-reciprocal, the processes of gathering, writing and using the news will no longer appear linear. There will be no one to blame while everyone takes their share of the responsibility. It will appear that what happens are effects of many factors, fallout from previous results and repercussions of persistent cycles. The complexity will defy explanation or causal analysis. Yet it will deliver emergent outcomes, synergistic benefits and paradoxical realizations in spite of the contributors less inclusive outlooks.
All this adds up to much more valuable journalism. It will make bigger differences in their contexts to others and get appreciated more in return. The ecologies will contribute to the prosperity of all concerned, not just the predatory production and advertisers mechanisms in current practices. The incumbents will have a lot to learn from this transformation.


Tetrad of Journalism transitions

If you've been following me for long, you know I'm a big fan of Marshall McLuhan's use of Tetrads. Combining four kinds of transitions seems more accurate than exploring any single or pair of changes. I've previously explored how Tetrads apply to gameplay learning and the synthesis of the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks. While I've been exploring Journalism 2.0 for the past couple weeks, I've once again been capturing ideas for a combination of four transitions. Here's my latest thinking on how Journalism 2.0 will amount to changing every which way.

Extends user content generation - Most user content gets generated heroically. There are, of course, collaborative wiki, websites, blogs, podcasts and videos. But these are usually single productions, rather than ongoing processes. I suspect heroics are occurring because we don't to where or when or how to jump in and help out with other's content generation. Journalism 2.0 will transition to very transparent processes which allow content generation to evolve into user content contribution and collaboration. It will become obvious how a story is coming along, what's missing, what questions need more refinement, what facts need checking, what back stories could help out, etc. It will also be apparent who's already working on what to avoid duplication of effort and what needs several different versions created to pick the best one. Previous experiences with heroic content generation will provide a hoard of skilled contributors.

Reverses profane progress - When agrarian societies became industrialized, the clock became a big deal. Things had to get done "on time", rather than "in good time" or "on their own time". This also made our collective sense of progress far more important than any sense of enjoyment with simple pleasures and any satisfaction with the current situation. This was good for business and tax supported infrastructures as people became driven to consume more goods which created more manufacturing, retail and service jobs to meet that demand. This gave a significant role to news gatherers, reporters and publishers to report on all that uneven and conflicted progress. Nearly everyone agreed until recently that you could not have too much progress, too much news or too much consumption. We've gone overboard with these excesses and poised for a reversal. I suspect we may become oriented in a medieval sense of the now moment where time is insignificant. We may become re-enchanted with the natural environment and our own physical experiences as Morris Berman has anticipated. We may even switch from profane to sacred sensibilities as Mircea Eliade perceived tribal lives to have embraced throughout human existence..

Retires hired writers - Hired writers may become perceived as mere hacks and mercenaries whose commercial interests degrade their usefulness. Their writing style may fail to meet the quality standards of "free content generation". Their latest news may no longer seem newsworthy. Their value proposition to viewers, readers and subscribers may become obsolete.

Retrieves immersive experiencing - We've all had moments of losing ourselves in an experience that fills our senses. We then "snap out of it" and get back to business as usual. Many spiritual traditions suggest we've got it backwards. They propose that we rarely "snap out of it" and mostly "stop the world". I know from personal experiences of immersing myself in the moment with "no thinking required", the colors are more vivid, the sounds and tastes more pleasing, and a peace of mind comes over me. This state of mind can be sustained so long as I do something so familiar to me that it requires no analysis, problem solving or planning. I also access this mental state when I'm writing "on the good days". This tells me the other transitions above could occur in this stress free, full-of-gratitude, state-of-mind too.


Hand it to us

Those of us who are abandoning Journalism 1.0 are feeling more powerful than the "news hounds" addicted to news in print and broadcast formats. Here's some of our experiences that have convinced us we are not incapable as consumers of spoon-fed news:
  1. When we have a universal remote control in our hands, we discover that some devices in our midst respond. We get results by "power on" or "power off". We make a difference by changing the channel and/or volume level. We may even have a "menu button" which gives us control over when we watch something after it's been broadcast. Once we're watching a "time shifted" program, we can upgrade our experience with pause, step, scan and skip commands that get followed obediently.
  2. When we're playing games with elaborate score keeping, there's a dashboard full of indicators about our own game play. We can utilize it's continual updates to make more or different progress based on the indicators we're tracking. We can benefit from the monitoring of every variable in real time to catch our mistakes, question our assumptions and change strategies. We can refine our approach to better balance conflicting objectives or make different tradeoffs. We can gain experiences where we then feel more capable and able to rely on our own judgment.
  3. When we have online access, we can search and find what we're looking for. We can go shopping without much difficulty locating exactly what we had in mind. We can communicate with others and check what messages have come in. We can upload our own creations for others to experience. We can monitor events around the world and next door. We can feel connected, resourceful and privileged in a world that pays us attention and responds to our requests.
  4. When we're loading up our handheld, we can dictate what we will have access to wherever we go with it. We can create playlists of particular music we enjoy differently from anyone else. We can load up on podcasts and videos that suit our own taste. We can share what we've put on our handheld with others who do the same with us. We can take in the content we're carrying around when we're free to tune out the world and tune into it.

All these experiences give us a perspective that says: "don't tell me: what I enjoy, what's important to me, or what I should know". We're operating under the impression that we're in control of our experiences, powerful players in a fascinating game and successfully connecting with whatever offers value to us right now. From this perspective, Journalism 1.0 seems like:
  • what happens when the batteries in the remote control are dead
  • what it would be like to play a game where the dashboard got updated once an hour or once a day
  • what online shopping would turn into if searching only delivered paid links to sites that with no variety or selection
  • what frustrations we'd feel if someone else loaded up our handheld "for us"

What we're looking for in Journalism 2.0 is continuity with our experiences of being powerful in these ways we are in control while viewing, gaming, searching, shopping or loading up a handheld. We looking for news providers to "hand it to us".


Appetites for more news

I've known retirees who subscribed to three daily newspapers and read them religiously. I've also known senior citizens who left their TV on all day tuned to a cable news channel. All these "news hounds" were also avid shoppers. They basked in materialistic splendors rather than being creative, reflective or nurturing. I've recently realized how newspapers, broadcast journalists and print advertisers have profited off of their avid readers. A cycle of increasing returns was created, and is only now fading away and getting replaced.

Lots of people want to take their minds off their troubles. This is a tricky business. If they pay attention to all the good news in the world, they will end up feeling sorry for themselves, deprived and worse off than before. If they can keep abreast of all the bad news in the world, they don't feel so bad. Their misery loves company and there's always someone worse off than themselves. Their appetite for "ain't it awful" updates from the world is insatiable.

Most people come out of years of classroom schooling and routinized employment -- feeling powerless to make a difference in the world. Anything that "makes them feel" dependent on authorities, experts and professionals to take charge - give them that familiar feeling. Information that presumes they are empowered, efficacious and engaged would rub them the wrong way. They feel OK when they are not feeling OK about themselves. News that gives them this reassuring feeling of powerlessness sits well with them.

Our minds are hard wired to deal with imminent dangers. We're prone to worry relentlessly when safety is unavailable. We naturally pay attention to what's changing in our situation to anticipate when to fight, take flight or freeze like a deer in headlights. News of changing dangers feeds our need to worry endlessly.

When we've had enough of commiseration, powerlessness and anxiety, anyone living near a store goes shopping. Acting like a consumer who can pull out a wallet to pay for goods and services feels powerful, in control and free from all the bad news. Shopping spells relief and provides a break from the daily grind. Yet it's only an escape. There's always the insatiable need to track the bad news, feel dependent and monitor impending doom.

Journalists and advertisers have filled these needs superbly. The more they delivered, the more people wanted from them. It not only satisfied a demand, it created more demand. The sales not only returned revenue, it returned desire for more news and advertising. It was impossible to lose while this cycle thrived. But as the "news hounds" are getting replaced by cyber citizens, it's impossible to win.


Four ways we pay attention

When we're reading what journalists and advertising copy writers have written, we may experience any of the following:
  1. our attention being grabbed and stolen away from what we really wanted to pay attention to
  2. our attention being gotten by them so we pay attention to something we would not have otherwise considered
  3. our attention being paid to something that has been already been given a lot of attention
  4. our attention being given to something we intended to pay attention to
The first two ways of getting our attention are endemic to push models and delivery systems. We are getting forced fed by experts who supposedly know what's best for us -- while they are serving their own interests in commercial success and profitability. The unilateral dynamics allow for mass production and mass consumption.

The second two ways are characteristic of pull models and discovery systems We are getting paid attention to and pay attention in return. We feel we are getting respected, understood and well served while helping the enterprise succeed. The reciprocal dynamics require long tail, indie providers to serve small niches and channels.

Journalism 1.0 has mastered the art of grabbing and getting our attention with headlines, hooks at the top of stories and photo inserts. Print advertisers have done the same. With their revenues in decline, both are wanting to be trusted after centuries of acting like thieves and exploiters of our attention. They don't know how to pay attention to readers in ways that will get attention paid in return. They don't see problems with their push models and delivery systems for mass production. They assume they can move online and return to "grabbing and getting" our attention, a.k.a. "business as usual". I don't think so.


Journalistic blame games

Jeff Jarvis introduced me to all the blaming going on among incumbent journalists in his post: When innovation yields efficiency. At one level, it appears that those in power cannot take responsibility for their loss of marketplace power. They can only give that responsibility to those who appear to be taking away their power.

This is a very familiar pattern to me in the mentoring I've done over the years. When someone is feeling helpless, persecuted and anxiety ridden, it's inconceivable for them to take responsibility for their condition. They use their circumstances to tell victim stories, seek sympathy and vilify those who are better off. "Taking responsibility" falls on their ears as "taking the blame". In their experience, this is adding insult to injury - taking the heat after taking the loss. It's too much to take according to them.

Of course I reflected more deeply on this in the month since Jeff wrote that illuminating post. I have made more connections to other facets of Journalism 1.0 and the doors they are leaving wide open for upstart replacements:
  • What if blaming craigslist and Google for declining revenues in the newspaper industry is symptomatic of how they report on the news. It's in keeping with framing politicians with blame for legislative policy changes, business leaders for changes in industries and school systems for the substandard learning outcomes of students.
  • What if the way news reports on "who made the news" is implicitly blaming the newsmaker for the incident. Journalists that report on the context that led up to it, allowed it, fed it, or failed to change it would at least be "spreading the blame", if not doing the responsible thing.
  • What if responsible journalism takes responsibility for the effects of news gathering and reporting. Journalists that merely publish reports would then blame anyone who accused them of being irresponsible.
  • What if professionalism is a shield to hide behind, to indemnify the journalists from accusations of making situations worse by their news coverage. As journalism evolves to be "less professional", perhaps reporters will report on their concerns about changing the story by telling it, biasing the story by their outlook and lengthening the story by making it newsworthy.
In my mind, this creates a picture of how Journalism 1.0 leaves the door wide open for a replacement. To close that door, the incumbents would have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for changes that would rather not face.


From professional to confessional

Back when I was a practicing architect, I was already seeing signs of professions in decline. The need for a professional architect was getting replaced by the use of construction managers. Knowing the ins and outs of bidding, procurement, permits and construction was getting valued by clients more than design expertise. Since then, residential CADD programs (computer aided drafting/deign) have migrated to desktop versions for sale in office supply stores. Builder supply retailers offer free CADD services for designing decks, kitchens and other remodeling projects. There have been similar DIY transitions in portions of law, medicine, real estate, publishing, video editing and music production.

Professions appear to me as a byproduct of information scarcity and the storage of expertise with ink on paper. These contributing factors maintained barriers to keep amateurs from competing with professionals without comparable qualifications, credentials and fees paid. Credibility was earned by gaining privileged access to the scarce information, studying some of the expert texts, and grasping the internally consistent paradigm of a chosen profession. Professionalism has lasted for centuries, just like printed pages have endured.

Now that we have attention scarcity, information abundance and digitized expertise, professionalism is losing ground. The viewpoint of non-consumers I've conveyed here and here reveals how professional credentials are losing their credibility. We're becoming more oral, tribal and cyclically minded as digital media take effect on our outlooks and ways of organizing our impressions. Cred comes from transparency nowadays, not certificates, licenses and diplomas. Confessional expertise is far more credible than professional knowledge when we have access to the info, and need a viewpoint to orient ourselves.

Some journalists have made the transition away from professionalism that many bloggers have already accomplished. Readers feel like they know these writers personally. It's apparent where the "reporter" is coming from. It's significant how they're feeling as they write their latest piece. Their own back story plays into their perceptions as much as the background of the story they write about. They make it seem like their subjectivity is equal to their objectivity when weighing the relative value of verified facts and personal frames of reference. They realize there's no way to escape "writing as biography". These are confessional journalists.


When newsworthy turns worthless

Journalism 1.0 defines newsworthy on the basis of what is new and different. It's inconceivable that a news story could be scooped by a history of the same old story. Yet in Journalism 2.0, it will no longer be about new news, it be about what works for people making a difference in the diverse worlds. The latest may not be nearly as useful and patterns from the past that are worth repeating or are better to be avoided. Breaking news may appear broken, rather than what sells.

The migration to Journalism 2.0 is one of those paradigm shifts where the ground is not in the same place, the prior assumptions are no longer valid, and the familiar concepts no longer make sense. This new frame of reference will critique time-honored practices with fresh eyes. Things long taken for granted will be questioned and revised. When Journalists 1.0 claim that something is newsworthy, readers, subscribers and contributors to Journalism 2.0 will be thinking:
  1. "No way something new could be more important than what is slowing gaining acceptance, traction and momentum"
  2. "Yeah right. As even if something I didn't know before is the most important thing to consider right now"
  3. "Show me the pattern. How does this 'newsworthy thing' fit into a more useful context that helps me get something accomplished"
  4. "Just because it's newsworthy, does mean it gives me a clue what to do with it"
  5. "Why should I care that you think it's newsworthy, when you're not in in my corner, wearing my shoes, or looking through my eyes"
  6. "Who are you to tell me how information should be tagged? Did you miss out on the folksonomy revolution or what?"
  7. "I'll tell you when something is newsworthy and what makes it that way in my frame of reference"
  8. "Since when are their experts, other than myself, in what works for me?"
  9. "If it helps me get results with my skill set, resources and one-of-a-kind situation, that's newsworthy!"
  10. "You're implying that whatever is not newsworthy is worthless, when the reverse is actually true for me. Who's the customer here?"


Quality of writing for hire

Over the weekend, I did something I rarely do. I read some column inches in the newspaper and a weekly news magazine. I was struck once again by the disappointing quality of the writing. I found what I read to be inferior to my usual reading of blog posts and books. I rarely read paid journalists for this reason. The quality of "writing for hire" seems lacking to me. Today I've been reflecting on why that is. Here are some of my thoughts:
  • Writing as freedom of expression comes from a different place than writing for hire. The freedom from commercial constraints frees up the style and topics to be closer to the writer's heart. When we write what we feel like writing about, it comes across as more authentic, passionate and revealing. I find it more engaging as a reader when the writer has been set free of those commercial constraints.
  • Writing as a profession claims to be capable of delivering quality regardless of personal moods, circumstances and conflicts. The professional training, expertise and demeanor is presumed to override whatever detractors could interfere with one's professionalism day to day. Writing as self expression is better when the authors listen to their moods, learn from their circumstances and explores ways to resolve current conflicts. It keeps writers together rather than splitting them in two.
  • When we're paid to do anything, we're obligated in very different ways from when we're contributing for attention and reputation, not recompense. Receiving money means there is a overseer with say-so over our final product, and possibly our process too. There are these commercial constraints that can impair and impede the flow of inspired ideas and wording.
  • When people are writing professionally, they read professional writers. They take up residence in an echo chamber of stylistic conventions, popular phrases and consensual tones. There's no discrepant feedback to steer the conventions in a different direction. The writing is presumed to be high quality, regardless of how it compares or gets perceived by readers. The professionalism sets up an implicit ultimatum: take it or leave it.

What I've been reading about experiments in reinventing journalism seem to uniformly assume their quality of writing is a given. What's missing is a revenue mechanism and business model to sustain the "writing for hire". I'm getting the picture that those innovations are sustaining the profession. The preservation of "writing for hire" deserves to be categorized as "Journalism 1.5". The disruptive innovations I'm exploring as Journalism 2.0 will likely engage "writing for free and with freedom from commercial constraints". Journalism 2.0 will compete with incumbent news organizations on the quality of writing and be proven superior.


Prelude to outcome-based journalism

Journalism 1.0 is obligated to remain scientifically objective and politically neutral. Exceptions are allowed in editorials or Op-Ed pages in print and opinion segments in broadcast.. This requirement eliminates the possibility of outcome-based journalism that is inevitably subjective and politicizing. It's looking to me like conventional journalism will "stick to its guns" while outcome-based journalism takes hold. To the incumbents, this will look like lowering professional standards and pandering to short-sighted interests. However, the non-consumers will receive outcome-based journalism as a viable value proposition that helps them get their jobs done The migration out of Journalism 1.0 will gain momentum as more seek news that helps them make a difference in other lives.

It's impossible for a delivery system designed for mass production and consumption to be outcome-based. What the hordes of their consumers do with the delivered output is "none of their business". There's no way to listen to that many voices, customize to that many specifications and respond to that many opportunities for add on services. The product has to be put on the shelf or in the mail and then leave it at that. The only feedback that's manageable at the scale of mass production is received through suggestion boxes, complaint forms and refunds/cancellations. Those appear as insignificant blips on the radar, not the drivers of strategic innovation and value proposition revision.

Discovery systems are inherently outcome-based. They deliver as a follow-up to their discoveries. There is nothing they send out reliably, consistently or mechanically because nothing is called for by every constituent in context. Every situation offers much to learn, explore and respond to effectively. The potential always exists to get far off track, deluded by false positives, and over-confident from early successes. Discovery systems require outcome data to find a path through the forest of infinite options. They need to know "how it turned out", "what came of their response" and "what remains to explore further" after every contribution to the situation.

Where delivery systems can do their thing unilaterally, discovery systems only function by partnering with their "customers". They cannot go it alone and get it right. It takes a two-way street to work through the alternatives. The purpose is achieving particular outcomes, not delivering products, expertise or services. That purpose is owned by the customers. The discovery system serves the purposes brought to them by customers. A discovery system maintains processes that serve social purposes.


News as processes with purpose

When we think of news as content that can be delivered by professional news organizations, we're acting like the Internet has not been invented yet. Practitioners of Journalism 1.0 are delighted when we think this way because we will continue to read, subscribe to and validate the content they generate. We'll agree the news they deliver is newsworthy. We'll accept our familiar role as passive consumers of news, We are very accustomed to doing nothing about what we read because we are outside of political, military, corporate and diplomatic circles.

As Google researched those among us who clink on the paid links in our search results, they found that those who search the news are twice as likely to switch to shopping links. That got me wondering if the same is not true for avid newspaper subscribers. It appears extremely valid in my small circle of friends and relations. Those I know who read their newspaper religiously are also devoted to acquiring possessions, finding bargains, leaping at sales and refining their consumer preferences. I suspect there is a robust synergy between Journalism 1.0 and materialistic consumption. They have been keeping each other going ever since retailers opened shop and an editor launched a newspaper in town.

In this synergy of shopping and news reading, news is content that gets delivered to consumers. It involves numerous professional processes behind closed doors to deliver timely, accurate and newsworthy news. What goes on during editorial conferences, news gathering, fact checking and writing are not newsworthy. There is a Chinese Wall in news organizations to keep the revenue side separate. This avoids compromising the editorial integrity with short sighted profiteering or pandering to advertisers. The advertising and subscriber sales processes are equally off limits to readers and industry observers. When the news is content, the processes are not news.

News is morphing into transparent processes. Chris Anderson notes in Free that the Chinese Wall has vanished in Google News. The relevant ads are placed adjacent to the news articles without fear of undue influence from advertisers. Likewise, citizen journalists are forcing paid content providers to compete with free offerings that scoop insider stories from a new breed of newsmakers. Professional processes, conducted behind closed doors, are increasingly out in the open, transparent and news in themselves. How the story takes shape, who contributes to the telling the story, and what changes in perceptions have occurred -- have all become newsworthy. Bloggers like myself are making our own thought, learning and growth processes transparent. When anyone of us reads their RSS feed subscriptions, we've changed to valuing "news as processes". We're watching the long tail of contributors growing, changing, learning and creating from one day to the next. We're following authors as they evolve as well as stories as they unfold. We're then finding professional authorities noticeably lacking in that personal, transparent dimension that makes their expert content increasingly unreadable.

I foresee another change on the horizon. We will soon regard news as "processes with social purposes". If it does not make a difference for those making a difference in others' lives, it will not be deemed as newsworthy. It will be as repugnant to this new sensibility, as speculation, rumor and deceit are to professional news gatherers now. It will no longer be enough to reveal one's own processes with a commitment to transparency. We will see others are in process, using processes, changing their own processes and responding to their constituencies' processes. We will respond accordingly with all this in common and notable exceptions that enable us to make differences in their lives, processes and impacts on those they serve. How we see others, how we respond, how they take use that and respond in kind -- will be the new understanding of what is really newsworthy.


Newsmakers 2.0

Back in the heyday of Journalism 1.0, there were relatively few newsmakers. So many reporters sought them ought for exclusive interviews, that a system of press credentials was developed. Coveted press passes were distributed at events where newsmakers were gathered. As citizen journalists have come on the scene, one of the few distinguishing characteristics of incumbent news gatherers and reporters are those press credentials. Meanwhile those newsmakers aren't what they used to be. Access to them is not as valuable. The news they make is not as newsworthy. The write-ups of their news is not as readable as it once was. It's the citizen journalists who may have the last laugh as the credentials they cannot get steer them clear of Journalism 1.0 chasing after exclusives, scoops and off-the-record interviews.

Another hallmark of the nearly bygone era was the idea of news as content. News was substantial and write-ups were regarded as first drafts of recorded history. The newsmakers were respected as historical figures when the news they made took on historical proportions. News of progress and setbacks made the passage of linear time seem significant. News cycles would go around on the straight track that advanced into the future. Anyone who did not follow the news was behind the times, out of touch and neglectful of their civic duty. Citizens were expected to be perpetually well informed in order to vote intelligently on candidates and ballot issues. They depended on the delivery of news as content to help them get that job done.

All that is changing as Journalism 2.0 takes shape. News is becoming processes with purposes. Content is part of those processes, but no longer news in itself. The passage of time and recording of history is losing significance as something that makes a valued difference. Newsmakers are everyone of us who is making a difference in others' lives, as our upgraded civic duty. The difference we're making is news to us when we find out it actually occurred as we intended or some variation of that. It's news to others for whom the difference was made that it was contributed, intentional and open to more feedback. The news of making a difference plays into making more and better differences. Newsmakers change the lives of newsmakers who then do the same in return. These cycles are virtuous, energizing and sustainable. These processes of making reciprocated differences are easily made transparent and embedded in online content.

Freemium models for news delivery are not likely to be sustainable when they get constructed out of 1.0 components. Free news as content that lures some to pay for additional content fails to offer 2.0 value, even if the newsmaker is high ranking or the news itself will make history. News about someone else (a newsmaker 1.0) making a difference is of little use as 'food for action". It will be questioned with disruptive frames of reference:
  • what am I supposed to do with that information?
  • how does that relate to what I'm intending to accomplish?
  • what context of mine could find that personally relevant, productive, strategic or valuable?
  • what's the real purpose of giving me that information?
  • what does that tell me about the differences I've made lately?
  • what opportunities does that define for me to make more and better differences?
  • what does this set me up to expect, predict or prepare for that serves my objectives?
I expect freemium models for news delivery will be very sustainable when the offering of new "processes with purposes" answer these questions superbly for each of us, the new newsmakers 2.0.


Food for action

In his new book: Free The future of a radical price, Chris Anderson reminds entrepreneurs to swim upstream. He suggests that there is a gravitational force in any economy which reduces the price of any abundant supply to zero. Profitability, and then revenue, vanishes as anything becomes commoditized, and ubiquitous. Meanwhile, that abundance creates a new scarcity. Upstream, against the vector of price gravity, are new realms of revenue and profitability. Tim O'Reilly suggests that profitability cannot disappear, only change form, like the indestructibility of matter/energy. The question is where to look for new regions of revenue and profits.

The most obvious upstream relocation is an attention economy. When we're swimming in too much readily available information, we're running short on being able to pay attention. We're more inclined to pay attention to those who pay attention to us -- like friends and followers in social networking platforms. We're less likely to pay attention to content providers who merely provide more/better/different content which increases the abundance, rather than capitalize on the new scarcity.

Another possible upstream relocation for profitability is deeper comprehension. Both McKenzie Wark and Umair Haque have suggested there is a scarcity of genuine food for thought. Back when I was teaching college, I would have said the same thing. Getting my students to think for themselves, to hack the propaganda in the textbook, and to co-create new understandings -- was my pride and joy. Having extracted myself from that consensual reality, I now view "food for thought" as the sugar water offered by paid content providers. It merely competes with the abundance of free content while taxing the shortage of attention like all content does. Said another way, better taste is not better nutrition for those wasted by junk food. The value proposition does not solve the problems of non-consumers.

My latest possibility under consideration is "food for action". Unlike food for thought, there's a relative shortage of information for getting results, making a specific difference, realizing particular changes and completing specific objectives. The abundance of information is informative, explanatory, and insightful but not "food for action". The non-consumers who I've defined as "too busy" to utilize newspapers are immersed in taking action. Besides a scarcity of attention and comprehension, these action heroes, responders, and grass roots activists run short of strategies, solutions and protocols. They want to know "what to do with new information?". The answer to that question will empower their filtering the surplus content and engage their deeper comprehension. When they put "food for action" to use and it works and gets results, they're predisposed to pay for more. They perceive the exceptional value without advertising pitches or bargaining pricing. They seem to me like the most likely place where profitability is conserved as it disappears from Journalism 1.0.


Unreadable newspapers

Every copy editor worth his/her salt stands guard against unreadable text. Whenever they get the feedback that some column inches are unreadable, they leap into action. They see if the piece begins with a hook. They check whether the article is factual and informative. The red flags words with three or four syllables that reduce the Flesch readability score. They go over the wording and sentence structure for grammatical errors. They restore the adherence to consensual rules of readable text.

As I've deeply pondered why newspapers are waning and what changes are on the horizon, I've arrived at a different scorecard for readability. I'm proposing that media-savvy citizens already evaluate text along these lines. They're finding newspapers to be unreadable for very different reasons than copy editors do. Here's a first pass at how Journalism 2.0 may assess unreadability:
  • Too informative: Provides too much information as if the readers are supposed to feel like they're drinking from a fire hose.
  • Too factual: Makes a thing of objectivity as if that is not imposing a dominant narrative and devaluing subjective frames of reference.
  • Too superficial: Dwells on what happened instead of the patterns that lead up to it and the reasons it could happen again.
  • Too newsy: Fixates on breaking developments in an unfolding story without regard to making it worse by covering it.
  • Too eager to blame individuals: Seeks to hold individuals responsible for actions rather than systems, communities and interdependencies.
  • Too contemporary: Reports on what just happened instead of what always happens and historical precedents that say "here we go again".
  • Too reactive: Fusses about covering the story accurately instead of proactively changing the story's outcome by intervening in it.
I'm suggesting that incumbent news organizations cannot go there. Because of the ways they have succeeded as a profession for centuries, there's no way they could possibly be too newsy, contemporary or factual. In their minds, these "unreadability criteria" are essential to their time-honored value proposition. These are valued qualities where one "cannot have too much of a good thing". There's no way that news coverage could be toxic, contributing to value destruction or unreadable by being overdone, too good or too focused. They will persist with their convictions until the last reader unsubscribes.