Saturday, February 14, 2009

How Kaleidoscope Can Benefit Content Providers

I will be attending the NewsInnovation-Chicago BarCamp. At NewsInnovation, I hope to have the opportunity to make a pitch to help people see the value of Kaleidoscope as a shared personal or organizational content management system with web services that could help both individuals and news organizations. I have not come up with a really good term for that yet, but hopefully it will evolve over time. This blog post is going to talk about how I see Kaleidoscope (still in development) affecting news or content providers in ways to revitalize a struggling industry as well as open up opportunities for content consumers to participate in this process. Before you continue reading, I should give a disclaimer that the highest level that I have worked at a news organization was being the original RSS feed-- the "paper boy" (or to be more proper, a news delivery person / news carrier...but news carrier sounds contagious :) ). So, my terminology and understanding the industry is of an outsider looking inside the industry.

From a news media standpoint, I have learned that there are lots of details in individual lives and groups of people's lives that are news to people. Before the Internet, the typical way people would share news would be phone, fax, and home mail delivery. Broadcast of news tended to be from organizations in the form of newspapers, radio, and television. Feedback to broadcasts tended to come in the form of phone, fax, or traditional mail. Ok, this is obvious for most people, but some of us may need a gentle reminder :) . Today, the idea of broadcast has kind of blurred from an institutional standpoint. The billion channel world is upon us now-- just not in the interactive television that most people envisioned at the end of the 20th century-- and was ushered in by web 2.0 technology or "social media". Everybody can be a broadcaster or interact on a person-to-person basis. Even other devices can participate. Your washer and dryer can share the news that the current cycle is done or your plants can let you know that they are thirsty. Ok, that's the background, but what does this have to do with Kaleidoscope?

News organizations are really struggling now. I read an interesting article in Time magazine about how to revive newspapers. To summarize the article somewhat, the key issues were that although readership is up (internet readers + subscribed readers), revenues are down because most newspapers provide their publications online for free to users but subsidized by advertisements. With the terrible state of the economy, ad rates are not what they used to be, and even if they were, there are not a lot of major publications that could sustain an ad-only revenue stream to pay for publishing, journalists, and not to mention their own advertising of the publication. However, most users, myself included, enjoy being able to get a whole host of content over the internet that originated from print publications and subsidized by ad banners and Google Adwords. If these sites revert back to a subscription model for original print content accessible through the internet, I think they would see their user traffic become siginificantly reduced.

So, what should they do? One of the comments in the Time magazine article about new technology is that early adopters tend to directly port the current content to the new media. For example, early TV shows included televised radio shows of people reading scripts or orchestras playing music. It was not until people really utilized the full capability of the supporting technology of television (editing, multiple cameras, graphics overlays, etc.) that the full potential of television was realized. Social media is starting to really make the World Wide Web a more mature communication platform consisting of many parallel technologies that integrate together. News organizations have to go beyond reposting printed content and adding feedback sections. A Some organizations are starting to request user generated content. However, in my opinion, the full realization of news organizations using the internet comes from leveraging the strengths of a news organization-- article research, sources, timeliness, and audience. Let me define my terms:

  • article research: All of the data that was synthesized and edited to produce the article. This could include written notes, photos, videos, books, websites, audio interviews, etc.
  • sources: Especially for breaking news, having people or organizations that are accurate authorities on a topic are so important.
  • timeliness: Being the first or getting fresh news out quickly and accurately is something that people truly value.
  • audience: Through years of trusted, accurate, and meaningful reporting, people will rely on an organization for data. These things do become personalized and the bonds can be strong.

In my opinion, utilizing Kaleidoscope to leverage these resources will be quite powerful. In such an information dense area, a free-form database (similar to Freebase) that Kaleidoscope provides would be a wonderful way to organize data and use its peer-to-peer structure to allow people to interconnect with it. Imagine the different ways that an article could be consumed by readers/users-- HTML/PDF version, grammatical annotations (could be used by reasoning systems to deduce and to synthesize new facts), user annotations (e.g. News Mixer), translating a table of numbers into a graph, etc.

Going beyond just the article, the journalist could share his article notes into an organized Kaleidoscope data share that interconnects with her/his existing notes from past articles or upcoming articles. These notes could interconnect with other people or other sources. Even the sources that contributed to the article could have their own Kaleidoscope databases available for browsing. Because of access to sources that most people do not have the privledge of knowing, the journalist can break news more quickly than most ordinary people.

Through the distributed trigger mechanism available in Kaleidoscope, consumers of the article could be notified quickly (like current news alerts) to react to some changing data/news. Likewise journalists could be monitoring various sources and have triggers when some important news changes. One thing to note, triggers are not just simply alerts delivered by e-mail or text message, these can be web services that perform various functions on one's own data or on remote data...which in turn could trigger other data.

Finally, the audience or subscribers to this publication could interconnect their Kaleidoscope databases in a way that traditional commentary feedback never could. Journalists for a news organization could actually acquire new sources of information after passively or actively exploring which subscribers might be experts in a particular area...and this is probably the key point. The publication from the news organization becomes an ongoing dialog and not just a data push service...or perhaps the new social network.

How to monetize this wonderful service...well, specific details will be for another blog post. But to give you some idea-- it has to come down to micropayments (which is pretty obvious to a lot of people). Micropayments can be collected on Kaleidoscope triggers as well as accessing various types of data and resources. Of course, remixing and reposting the data could also be a source of micropayment if it is fairly easy to do. Finally, since data sharing from the journalists and subscribers is encouraged, subscribers who become contributors to articles or new data could receive micropayments for being microproducers of content. And herein lies a key point, ad and subscriber revenue is no longer the only revenue options, rewarding microjournalists and syndicated data for remixing will be the new revenue streams for news organizations.

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