I’m just settling in to the beginning of this week’s meeting of the Internet: Issues at the Frontiers seminar I’m taking this semester in the law school. This week we have two guests—Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine and the City University of New York, and Russ Stanton, editor of the Los Angeles Times. I’m going to post some notes and thoughts as we continue over the next two hours.
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—Graham, 5:10 p.m.
Stanton: LATimes.com launched in 1995. “We basically treaded water for the next 11 years.” “it wasn’t until january of 2007 that we finally hunkered down and got serious about the Internet.” —5:19
Stanton: Innovation department when first fully established was about 5 percent of editorial staff, mostly volunteers. Formed a copy desk then to handle production for the web. Photo editor started training people on video. Today over 50 percent of photo staff trained on video. Expanded web editorial staff, and launched training effort he says is “what we believe is the most comprehensive in the industry.” —5:22
Stanton is going through the story of the incredible efforts the Times went through to get their online operations up to par. No comments so far about what it means that the parent company declared backruptcy. Meanwhile, notes 40+ blogs account for more than 15 percent of web traffic. —5:27
Notes LATimes.com revenue now covers the newsroom, and that the convergence of web earnings and newsgathering costs has indeed been a result of reduction of newsroom staff as well. —5:32
Stanton mentions the fact that the industry has not yet taken full advantage of geotargeting for advertising. This is how a large operation can also deliver local advertising. —5:34
Stanton answering question on what type of model would be good, given that he doesn’t believe in micropayments/iTunes model. Short answer: He doesn’t know what’s good, just what’s wrong with what we’ve heard of so far. —5:39
Question for Stanton about people who might want to use BugMeNot.com to avoid being accurately followed for advertising purposes. “We make our living nosing around .. every place we can probably get away with.” And that they’ll need some sort of user data to make this work. —5:42
Jarvis Goes On
Jarvis: Journalists need to become aggregators, organizers, educators. And it’s based on the link economy. He’s talking about shaping and using citizen data. —5:45
Jarvis to those unhappy with losing revenue to web: “I’m sorry that the printing press is now an albatross of cost around your neck, but that’s what it is.” —5:50
Jarvis: Putting up half-baked news is like Google releasing a beta version of something they’re working on. He thinks this is what we should do with journalism. I think he’s trying to get everyone in journalism sued for libel: It’s dangerous to publish when you don’t know the story yet. —5:56
Jarvis says an important thing here is that The New York Times is enabling other people to create content. This is a model for the organization to develop stringer-type relationship, but in Jarvis’ telling this would not be stringers so much as part of the network in the “link economy.” —6:01
Zittrain asks Jarvis to address Stanton directly
Jarvis: He says the efforts so far are impressive and promising. The blogs are great. But to go further, go further into networks. So later they “sell ads on content that they only owe 20 percent of” etc.
Stanton: About 10 percent of content is stuff that is not created by their staff. So during wild fire season two years ago, they ran a photo from a reader on the homepage for a bit over an hour since that was the best one. The photo staff definitely noticed. —6:04
Stanton: Notes more efforts they’ve had, including L.A. Now, which links to news all over the state. To which Jarvis pushes him on how he can encourage more people to participate and contribute. The question from JJ’s side is how can they help them do this. Stanton mentions that they have people look at almost all content on the site for legal reasons. The Wikitorial exposed them legally. —6:08
Now we’re joining Josh Cohen, product manager of Google News
Cohen summarizes what Google News does. Zittrain takes first question. “How is Google News supposed to make money?” —6:14
Answer? Indirect benefit to Google because people will come for many things. Possibly advertising. Seems like another part of Google where the business model isn’t clear yet. —6:15
Jarvis: In the link economy it’s the endpoint that has to monetize it. —6:26
Q: Harvard Law Record publisher asks about people’s concerns about the permanence of contributing to publications. Does this scare away people? How can we get high quality free contributions of information when people are concerned about reputation? —6:28
A: Stanton: We’ve done a lousy job of educating the public on what’s important about them—about the value of trustworty media. —6:29
Q: “When will you turn off your presses?”
Stanton: “Well, I hope never.” Betting on another 30 years or so they can bank on the baby boomers. “You can’t beat the paper for portability and readability right now.” It’ll be smaller, and different, but he wants to keep print going.
Jarvis: “If we invented the newspaper today it wouldn’t be on paper.” Even if it’s not the LA Times, we’ll be seeing someone shut off the presses soon. Will they survive online? —6:35
Q: Who do I sue when your collaborative, process-based journalism libels me?
Jarvis: People now have the “means of response,” and the law should change. It needs to develop along with the industry. —6:37
Q: What about the bias of readers and issues that “drive clicks” toward sports, specific topics—not democracy’s meat and potatoes?
Jarvis: Indicates he doesn’t really have an answer for this other than continuing the cross-subsidy somehow. —6:42
Ending for now. —6:55