Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 4, 2006

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

Your--Face-Here.jpgI've been really enjoying my job lately. I've been writing a lot about the open source movement and the changes it is having on the enterprise software market. Ingres is an excellent example of how the most innovative business model thinkers are taking advantage of the market opportunities.

I feel that I am often in a unique and fortunate position to move quickly on stories. And that is great for a journalist blogger--which is how I define myself.

What is also very interesting is that I don't have a business model to defend, or a boss looking over my shoulder. That means I am free to call things as I see them.

For example, I've been taking on the least progressive elements of the PR industry in my attack on the press release in its current format. I've offered a design for "new media" press release which has inspired many people to create totally new types of news releases.

The role of journalism - professional and citizen

It's not that I'm the only one that sees things "as I see them" because many others understand my positions. But I often am able to give voice to those that cannot speak directly. And that is one of the major failings of "citizen journalism."

There are members of our society that need to have independent journalists tell their stories. And that is what professional journalists do every day--they help our communities tell their stories.

That is our mandate as journalists and nothing has changed in this new media world--except that the delivery mechanism doesn't rely on a newspaper delivery. It's all about the content not the delivery mechanism: paper or plastic (or digital)? It sounds ridiculous to make such distinctions when you think about it.

Dan Gillmor, the great champion of citizen journalism is right when he says his audience knows more about a news subject than he does. But they cannot tell the story. They would get in so much trouble if they wrote about what goes on at work under their own names. That is why journalists cultivate contacts over many years, so that those contacts feel safe in telling their stories.

Yes, there is no transparency in such cases, I will not reveal sources to whom I have pledged anonymity. But it is an important way that journalists can communicate news and information that could not come out into the open in any other way. And the more information is open and shared, the better it is for all.

Media is how society solves big problems

Media is how society thinks, it is how it debates and discusses important issues. That is why it is important to have a professional media class--supported by a citizens media army in the form of blogging and fact checking. That is a scenario for a high quality mediasphere.

And we need a high quality mediasphere because we have some towering problems ahead to solve. Avian flu is the most immediate, but there is a long line of equally disturbing challenges ahead for us that require high quality information widely distributed.

We have one Mediasphere

A couple of Sundays ago, Al Saracevic, deputy business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle was at the CyberSalon in Berkeley. He asked the assembly, [which featured many of the blog/media demi-gods of our times,] can you figure out a way to pay for him and his editorial teams? Al is now a blogger, and he understands that both blogging and newspaper journalism share one mediasphere--and they share the lack of a viable business model.

Blogging is not disrupting journalism--that is a false comparison. Blogging enhances journalism, it contributes to journalism, and it helps disseminate important information in a way that no other way has managed before. This combines to produce a higher quality mediasphere -- at least for now. The problem is the decimation of the professional media by the marketing money flooding toward search engine marketing.

Our current media business models cannot carry the information load because they are being decimated faster than the ice caps are melting. What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk is something that I have been warning about (thanks to Sam Whitmore) for almost nine months. And it is getting worse.

I know we can solve the challenges that face us, because humanity has incredible capabilities. But we must solve the most important Internet problem: how do we recover (pay for) the value of high quality media content? Right now, all the money is in aggregation of news/content, such as Google News, and pennies for the creators of content.

This is the Gordian knot of the Internet, figure out the value-recovery-mechanism that rewards high quality content and pays for more high-quality-content. Are there any Alexanders out there?

This is a virtuous cycle--one that Google AdSense took a baby step towards solving and then stopped.

We need a Super-duper-supercalafragalistic-AdSense that can reward quality content with real $$$ that can lead to investment in yet more quality content.

We don't have that value-recovery-mechanism and without that we are in serious trouble. Because we have no sponsor for journalism.

Selling products by advertising around journalism used to be a cost of sales. Now, it is far, far cheaper to sell products/services around the search box.

How will we pay for the professional journalism that we need? Solve this problem and you will inherit a chapter in Wikipedia. And I'll commision a statue in your (best) likeness.

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Update:

- What about a virtuous trackback? - Could this be one way to pay for content?[Read]

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