Crowd Sourced Journalism

This internet newspaper deathwatch has been exhausting. I can’t even pretend to keep up with it all, but I’ve been pretty fascinated to try and keep up.

Jeff Jarvis had a really good post yesterday that reminded me about the Associated Press and their relationship with newspapers. The newspaper thing is fascinating to me because it’s a slow disintermediation of that whole value chain. The local newspaper is basically the confluence of a few forces – advertising, syndicated news, local news and distribution. I know I just keep going on and on about it, but the newspaper thing is fascinating to me because it’s a slow disintermediation of that whole value chain. The local newspaper is basically the confluence of a few forces – advertising, syndicated news, local news and distribution.

The thing that hit me yesterday is that the internet may have undone the viability of physical newspaper distribution, but what it really screws is the Associated Press. Basically any story written in the thousands of newspapers around the world has he option to be put on “the wire”, AP and Reuters being the two big ones. As those stories are picked up, publishers pay sources for the content and the AP takes a bit of change for the transaction. As the paper gets close to press time, the editor sits down with the local stories, page mockups (based on ad sales), and a list of the current wire stories….he uses the AP to patch his content holes. The less investment in local news coverage, the more wire stories you see, (around the holidays it’s all wire stores b/c everyone’s on vacation…they call those stories ‘turkeys’).

The internet basically trumps the AP service because any global news shows up on the web just as fast. And Google news isn’t even sourcing the AP, they feed directly from the main papers on most cases (and they post several versions of the same story from several papers). So while the papers are feeling the pain from physical distribution costs, they pay for content as much as they pay for printing papers, so the AP has to be sweating bullets over this whole thing. Fewer journalists means less content for the wire, which means it’s harder to subsidize things like foreign war correspondents.

So during this whole deathwatch, I ran across Propublica.org and spot.us (which you really should check out). If I was the Associated Press, I’d be killing myself trying to figure out how to deal with these models. This will, in some form, be the next syndicated news service. Either a massive fund that will float lean journalism orgs that skips having to support the capital intensive distribution side (propublica), or a pay to play journalism model (spot.us).

Spot is ESPECIALLY interesting because if a service like this went nationwide, it could truly be capital controlling the news…they’re investing on a certain angle of a story, so it’s almost where news and PR converge.

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