(My Mac just crashed, and more than half-way into this post, which I’ll now have to re-create. That so sucks.)
As a follow-up to the “future of journalism” post and the great discussion it generated (thank you, all), I’m wondering what the ideal new media venture in journalism should look like, imagining it to be unencumbered by legacy media models (and recognizing that there isn’t one ideal). In other words, let’s dream up a couple of VCs interested in good journalism and open to leveraging new media to both gather and report that good journalism. What would the venture look like? Who would it serve? What kinds of information would it provide, and in what media forms?
A New York Times article on national political news startup The Politico spurred this question. Several aspects of the new news site intrigue me. First, its drill-down on one interest, national politics. Listen to the financier of the site, Robert Allbritton, tell the Times why he’s interested in such specialization:
“Newspapers have to be all things to all people. On the Internet, there is no one site that delivers everything. It’s broken down into mini-mini-subdivisions of interests and they attract people who are passionately interested in one subject.”
He’s describing the Long Tail and one of many reasons why old, big media are having such a rough go on the Net. Lots of niches, specialties, interests. The numbers of new competitors just keeps growing exponentially. Allbritton’s characterization also implies proximity, as we’ve been discussing it. On the Web, The Politico is just as close (or far away) to the reader as both the “national” and “international” sections of the Times, or anything else on the Web for that matter. Hypertext, RSS, tools of customization and good search mean that we no longer need omnibus publications that try to be all things to all people, or even most things to a lot of people.
I’m also interested in The Politico’s leveraging of old media to take advantage of the new. The new publication will have a weekly 30-minute cable TV program, a daily five-minute radio program, and its writers and reporters will appear on CBS News, write for Time, produce blogs and — gasp! — opportunistically promote themselves and the publication. This is entrepreneurism, and old media works very hard to erect and maintain high, thick walls separating editorial from the business side. This cross-platform, multi-channel coverage could really work in Northwest Georgia, which does not have TV stations between Chattanooga and Atlanta. A HUGE opportunity here for video.
So, here’s the exercise: You just got a big bag of money. Your charge is, like The Politico’s, to launch a journalism enterprise online that serves an audience very, very well. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say our audience is Northwest Georgia (not merely Rome, but not Atlanta, either). We have enough money to, as The Politico did, hire some really good journalists and put together a converged newsroom. We have enough money to not worry about debt . . . much . . . at least not yet. Describe your new venture.
(The first draft was so much better, but that’s always the case, right? Alas . . . Gotta start saving more often.)