Newspaper 2.0 was a one-day workshop to explore challenges and opportunities in the new Internet-enabled newspaper marketplace. The workshop brought together journalists, scholars and leading thinkers who shared a common interest in the future of daily and weekly journals — with a particular interest in Santa Barbara as a region where new approaches might be explored.
The workshop was sponsored by the Center for Information Technology & Society (CITS) and the Transliteracies Project. It was hosted by Doc Searls, a CITS Research Fellow and journalist with feet in both the print and online domains.
The Open Space Meeting Format
The conference was conducted using an open space meeting format wherein all participants have the opportunity to generate discussion session topics. Following introductory remarks and introductions bythe participants, the group broke to generate topics. Topics were posted on the whiteboard. As the conference progresses, participants can attend (and leave) any session. One person in each session will keep notes and, at the close of the day, report out to the larger group about each session’s discussion.
The open space format is founded in the belief that intelligence is widely distributed and the group can learn more together when all are involved in setting the agenda.
Introduction by Doc Searls: What hope is there still for print?
The News 2.0 conference began with an introduction by Doc Searls and opening remarks by J.D. Lasica and Dan Gillmor.
J.D. Lasica is a veteran journalist with over 11 years at the Sacramento Bee, the author of Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation, and the founder of Ourmedia. In his opening remarks Lasica identified the importance of journalism, pointing to the passion emerging at the local level, with the common goal of keeping the public informed.
Dan Gillmor is a former technology editor and writer for the San Jose Mercury News, author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People for the People, and founder of the non-profit Center for Citizenship which is affiliated with Harvard and the Berkeley School of Journalism. Identifying himself as a “recovering professional journalist,” Gillmor spoke of the importance of quality journalism especially as “traditional media has lost its way” and local journalism has grown. Gillmor suggested a shift from asking who is a journalist to asking what is journalism.
So, asked Searls, what hope is there still for print?
Gillmor: Yes, there is hope, certainly in the short term. The portability of traditional print media is a plus and the business infrastructure of traditional media continues to be financially successful. However, as a “technology determinist,” Gillmor believes that the online arena holds great (even better) potential for advertisers.
Lasica: In his own experience, different media are serving different purposes, with traditional print media providing certain information and online content (e.g., blogs) offering other sorts of interesting & desired information.
An audience participant suggested the importance of habits in answering the question of whither print media. That is, reading print media is incorporated into daily routines and behaviors in a way that new media is not, and that is not so quickly abandoned.
Searls: In thinking about the role of advertising in the future, the future holds a solution to the inherent inefficiency of advertising. “The gravy train of advertising is going to change.” And, at that point, advertising as a driving force in the print business model will disappear.
Gillmor: Advertising streams are getting “nibbled away.”
Peter Sklar (founder and editor of edhat.com): The real question here is what is news? Does print media give us news?
Break-out Session: Who is the Audience?
In a breakout session on the topic of “Who is the audience?” participants discussed the question of who uses (reads) online content.
The discussion covered two general areas of content: what users want and what news providers are generating.
With the Internet, we have the ability to gather large amounts of data about user habits. We can, to a degree, understand who the audience is. What we know, however, is limited to some demographic information from user surveys and counts on their click-through rates and time spent on specific pages. Participants reported their finding of a low interest in news items by online readers.
Coupled with the issue of what readers are seeking is the second issue outlined above: the dearth of local, investigative reporting. Among the reasons cited for this situation were the investments inherent in investigation reporting, both financially and in terms of time.
Questions generated in this session included:
- Has the goal of journalism changed? Is it about exposing the reader to different ideas/discourses or about advocacy?
- What civic & social needs are being met by news 2.0?
- What are patterns of online reading: do users do the equivalent of channel surfing during ads? If that’s the case, do news providers need to create “covert” ways of delivering news to users?
- Are users loyal to writers (posters) or to content (topics)?
- Who are the users now? Who should be the audience? Just because these are the users going to the site, it doesn’t mean they should drive the content
- How do you build a reading community, a group of people that habitually read and plan to read specific content?
Other session topics included: Politics/Political Activism on the Internet; The Role of Advertising on the Internet; Legal Issues & Journalistic Standards and Ethics; Web Video.
Break-out Session: Social Networking & News
The second session of the conference included a session on Social Networking and News. During the session, participants discussed several levels of the relationship between social networking and the news, including:
- Social Networking as traditionally understood
- Social Networking as it occurs online
- Social Networking websites
- The connection of social networking websites to news
There are a number of websites that allow the posting of news content and then the ranking of particular contributions by users/the audience (e.g., www.digg.com). Some users follow the contributions of a particular poster, some trust the content voted most highly by the larger audience.
In these cases, most of the content posted is not actually user-generated. Participants noted the lack of user-generated content, particularly at the local level.
Questions generated by this session included:
- is audience ranking better than what an editor does? in some instances and not others?
- how do we evaluate social networking beyond just links or hits? How do we know these are “meaningful” connections?
- what is the relationship between online and offline social networking?
- what is the role of trust and credibility in online social networking and/or news?
- is credibility transferable?
- how similar is the relationship of a community member to an online news site to the relationship between community members who are friends?
Other sessions included: Net Neutrality; Monolith v. Portal; What is “news”?; Narrowcasting v. Broadcasting; Website Projects.