Rebooting the News #35

In Podcast on November 30, 2009 by Jay Rosen

Dave thinks we should have a programmable Twitter client, so that users can “teach” Twitter to do things the users want it to do.

Jay: “I’d love to teach Twitter to do things I want it to do.”

Dave: “They may be so particular to you that no developer is going to do them.” And that’s why we need a programmable Twitter. “The developers of the clients are as much in the way as Twitter, Inc. is….”

Uses of RT button

Jay finally found a use for the Re-tweet function.

Dave: “What I love about the way re-tweet works is that… it absolves me of the feeling that I have to say something. There’s poetry that goes with that.”

The demonic Demand Media

Jay: Years ago Doc Searls warned us about the word content. Now I’m starting to see what he meant. Witness this company: Demand Media, basically an algorithmic spam content business that targets not our in-boxes but the web itself.

What Demand has realized is that the Internet gets only half of the simplest economic formula right: It has the supply part down but ignores demand…

Pieces are not dreamed up by trained editors nor commissioned based on submitted questions. Instead they are assigned by an algorithm, which mines nearly a terabyte of search data, Internet traffic patterns, and keyword rates to determine what users want to know and how much advertisers will pay to appear next to the answers.

And now AOL is moving to something similar.

Jay: “I think part of the re-booted system of news would be to build a tool for editors and journalists that would give us really good information about what people are interested in now… and begin to produce high quality work ‘into’ that demand.”

In newsrooms there is a familiar and exhausted debate between: give people what they’re interested in vs. give them what they need to know. But neither of those views gets it done in the rebooted system of news.

Dave: “This Demand Media thing may just be a transition… It’s a fluid situation.” Because advertising itself may go away. “In a way an ad is a query… They try to guess as to what I’m interested in. And the better they guess, the more it becomes information.”

The backstory: Frontline on credit cards and debit cards

Dave: The Card Game is an eye opener from Frontline explaining how people get screwed with credit and debit cards. “These are things people need to know.”

Jay: Credits cards are “familiar everyday objects but the system that lies behind those cards is very opaque to us. That is where professional journalists need to apply themselves.”

BitTorrent and PBS

Dave: The most popular BitTorrent (file sharing) indexing site, mininova, basically shut down this week. Now why wouldn’t PBS fill that vacuum and just declare all its stuff legally available for file-sharing?

Jay: Nothing prevents them from doing it except lack of vision. They need to break out.

Dave: “NPR did it.” They helped podcasting break out. “This is the moment of opportunity” for PBS to do the same.

Jay: “They should say we are going to go all-in on the open systems.”

Studio 20 and the geeks

Jay: Programmers and participants in the geek culture at NYU are starting to come ’round and ask about my new graduate program in journalism, Studio 20, which is good because we need them.

Dave: “Well, technology is about what’s new and so is news.”

Here’s the MP3 for Rebooting the News #35:

11 Responses to “Rebooting the News #35”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by davewiner: MP3 for Rebooting the News #35.

  2. Great show!

    By the way, PBS has already taken the halfway measure of offering a decent amount of their programming as audio and video podcasts.

  3. You don’t specifically say what this programmable Twitter client could do that makes it so vital. My assumption is it might save a few key strokes-that correct? Unless I’m missing something, we are in “dancing on the head of a pin” territory here. How repetitious must a person’s tweets be that this would actually solve any problems?

    • Hi Steve — well, I don’t of course think we’re in dancing on the head of a pin territory, but what difference does it make if we are?

      I’m not asking you to do anything — unless I’m missing something.

      Also, in Jay’s synopsis, he pointed to a roundup piece I wrote yesterday morning that answered some of your questions. One of your responsibilities is to click on the links and read the pieces before saying we left something out! 🙂

      • Yes, you are asking me to do something. If you are saying that listening to an extended podcast discussion which focuses on a particular point is not enough? You really don’t believe specifics are merited in that context?

  4. Meant to ask in my earlier comment: Of the tools that currently exist, what would you say is the closest to the journalism hotline model described in this week’s podcast?

  5. Could you explain what you mean by “the journalism hotline model.” Which model to you refer to?

  6. re: Demand Media: you see a similar approach to healthcare – SemanticMaven is a tool developed in the U.K. which scrapes healthcare provider information and uses this information to better target these providers in order to provide them with pharmaceutical information. Of course the pharma industry drives the medical industry, but it is a shame that this sort of technology works this way.

  7. I’m using “journalism hotline” as a label for the vision you described of a place where someone could write in with a question and journalists are standing by to answer them (or at least the good ones). Sounds like a hotline to me, but I don’t care about the name, I just want to know if there is anything like that currently existing.

  8. Yes, a version of this idea–scaled to the local level–can be see at:
    . The site is explained a bit here.

  9. […] Jay Rosen made it (or, more specifically, calling attention to how “demonic” it is) his cause du jour following the publication of this Wired profile of the online content factory. Early this week it […]

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