Steve Ressler, the creative and driven founder of GovLoop.com, calls himself a late early adopter, which makes him a government innovator. Heritage media works the same way, often adapting to trends just as they change. I know, because I worked in small and mid-size news orgs for seven years, as an editor and reporter. I started a work-related blog in 2003 to share the notes about local politcs that wouldn’t fit into my San Francisco Examiner column, The Body Politic.
Today, newspapers are blogging, but my thought has been that while Web 1.0 – just using the Internet to share info, really – crippled the heritage press (or “MSM,” or “traditional media,” or “old media,” I just happen to like the word “heritage”), Web 2.0 – collaborative information sharing in informal and world-spanning communication networks – has the potential to kill it off. Communication, as common observers and academics alike have pointed out, is moving back from the heirarchical structure engendered by press>radio>TV to a more natural state of community. I do like the heritage media – it’s where many of my friend, those not already laid off, work today. I cringe whenever I see a “Save Newspapers,” petition requests on Facebook. Newspapers as a core business are walking dead – don’t use social media to save them, use social media.
But, in the same way that late adopters in government are moving into Web 2.0 (the feds are way ahead of state and local in this area – perhaps due to budgets that don’t have to balance), I’m seeing signs of life in journalism. Newsgatherers are going where the community is. I believe that Twitter.com, sort of an open community of text messagers, is the place to watch for innovation incubation. Look to Fed 2.0 (and consultants like Steve Radick of Booz Allen Hamilton), and bleeding edge media tweeters like John A Byrne and the LA Times. In 10 years, there will be only a few giant news orgs – and, as many of the local papers and micro-targeters as choose to adapt to a world where print is only a small part of your operation and eyeballs. The ads and coupons must move online. Heck, for a deal at Black Angus every couple weeks, I’ll check your paper’s Facebook page or follow your tweets (it was the only reason I bought your paper). The revenue is there, it’s just that Google, Drudge and the like are siphoning it with your own content. It’s time for newspapers orgs to adapt, adopt, and build self-sustaining multi-platform content and ad networks that will keep my smart friends cranking out the copy for generations to come.