March 10, 2005

Learning from Others: Good Advice from Northwest Voice

One of the great benefits of participating in a collaborative event like yesterday's API Media Center webcast on the "vanishing newspaper" is the opportunity to be exposed to the ideas of smart people.

Mary Lou Fulton, the creator of The Northwest Voice, the grassroots journalism venture of the Bakersfield Californian, provided a terrific on-point summary of the tough situation newspapers are in and offered some strategies for morphing their way out of it. Her presentation is on her web site, Open Source Journalism. Here are some points that struck me (with my comments):

 The End of 'One Size Fits All': The mass audience that sustained newspapers for decades is gone. News companies that survive will serve niches defined by interests, values, age and, yes, geography (although on either a national or a micro-local scale.)

 Embrace "Do It Yourself": Fulton points to the lessons newspapers can learn from Craiglist and eBay. People want control, even over their advertising. Journalism will survive, but it will be more layered, with professional journalists (report for pay) sharing the dais with personal journalists (report for pride or passion or prejudice). The public will decide which they prefer.

 Let's Re-Edit Ourselves: This one I really like because Fulton asks the question: If you could reconfigure Page 1 of today's paper for younger people or for the elderly, what would it look like? Bloggers re-edit newspapers through selective filtering. As Fulton says: "We can re-edit ourselves online through personalization and soon in print to present a more relevant, targeted publication."

 Finally, Fulton emphasizes the need to invest and innovate in new editorial products and to do so without guarantee of success. Change requires risk. Risk breeds failure as well as success. Newspapers must learn to fail in order to succeed in the future.

You can listen to the webcast here. You can read my talking points here. You can follow my chapter-by-chapter review here: Reading the Vanishing Newspaper, A Guide.

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Posted by Tim Porter at March 10, 2005 06:25 AM