Rebooting the News #46

In Podcast on March 29, 2010 by Jay Rosen

How big is a nugget of news? Dave has an answer. It’s about 185 characters. But to be safe you’d need about 250.

Jay: what is the status of the loosely coupled 140-character message network? Dave: kind of stalled, waiting for other players, especially the makers of Twitter client apps. “If they want to offer their users independence from Twitter…” then it will happen.

Jay: The arc of an idea like that is long, and broken. It stops and starts and disappears and returns.

Here’s another case of audience atomization overcome. For the next few months, Jake Tapper is hosting ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning. He began live tweeting the show this week, and he was also very active in soliciting ideas and suggestions for the program. You can see some of it at this feed. “Bit by bit the interactive system is becoming overlaid on the old one-to-many system.”

Dave: A good example is Robert Gibbs tweeting immediately after Vice President Joe Biden was heard whispering to Obama, “this is a big f*cking deal” about the health care bill getting signed. Gibbs: “And yes Mr. Vice President, you’re right.”

Meanwhile, CBS’s Face the Nation was forced to adopt my simple fix for the Sunday shows by the distortions and inventions of Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.

A question Jay posed went viral on Twitter: The Wall Street Journal will charge $17.99 a month for the Journal on the iPad. That’s $215 a year. For the print edition delivered to your home or office plus online access to, the yearly rate is $140. Does anyone understand this pricing?

Dave: “It’s what we call in the tech industry the Steve Jobs reality distortion field.” Doc Searls explained in 1997. Sure people will pay for convenience, but “what they pay a lot for is lust.” And the iPad is right now an object of lust.

Dave: what the newspaper firms should do is get Apple to bundle their content in for free with the iPad. “The one that gets installed first is going to have a huge advantage over the ones that come second or third. A newspaper is an advertising platform, and the iPad probably will be a hot reading platform, and the apps (ads) will seek out the hot newspaper the same way guys like me bet on PC-DOS and ignored CP/M and UCSD. So the best price for a newspaper on the iPad is $0. (Sorry. I know this isn’t what the news guys want to hear.)”

Jay: Across the ocean, the Times of London announced recently that their paywall will go up in June. I had a visitor from the Times of London in my office last week. Based on my conversation with her, the staff is not ready for what this will shift to a pay site means. They don’t realize that they will have to produce way more value.

Dave: It kind of reminds me of when I started DaveNet in 1994-95. Everyone thought I would turn it into a paid subscriber product. But my goal was to have influence, so why would I do that?

Jay: Lots of people don’t understand the logic of the gift economy.

Dave: Is that what I’m doing? I don’t see it as the gift economy.

Dave: “Why am I interested in news?…. So that I can base my view of the world on something that’s accurate.”

Jay: “Part of the reason I love news is I was raised in a chaotic household where you could never establish ‘what happened’… It is very important to me that there is some force in the world that can say, No, this is what happened.”

Dave: “I couldn’t agree more.”

Here’s the show; please listen and, if you feel like it, comment.

8 Responses to “Rebooting the News #46”

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for this show. I really enjoy listening – the last few episodes have been grand!

    One quick technote: this most recent episode (as downloaded from iTunes) had some wonky audio. I’m not much good with audio, but it seemed like there was a lot of peaking, and it might need to be normalized? The soft sounds were very soft the loud very loud so I had to keep turning the volume up/down.

    Thank you both!

  2. As usual, I very much enjoy listening to the show each week and find it incredibly informative. Two things struck me though:

    1) On the “loosely coupled 140-character message network,” I am surprised to not hear any mention of the work being done with StatusNet, OStatus, Salmon Protocol, ActivityStreams, and WebFinger to build such a distributed system. I understand that they are using Atom and PubSubHubbub (and not RSS and RSSCloud) to build much of the syetem, but not even an acknowledgment on your part that things are progressing? Hmmm.

    2) Also, I would love to hear a more detailed discussion on the “gift economy” and how it could be leveraged to continue building a rebooted news system centered around open source software. Obviously, the long-term system will not be sustainable if everyone is expected to work for free, but encouraging donations of time, opinion, and code (as part of a larger effort) could go a long way in moving things forward.

    • I don’t think they’re headed toward a 140-character message network. Not really sure where they’re headed.

      And recently supported rssCloud — so you’re wrong that I have a bias. That’s the problem when people do excusive work like the Atom guys are doing yet again. It makes people who support the widely popular format look like they have a bias, when they’re just supporting what most people use. My software implements Atom — why doesn’t their software implement RSS? I’ve tried asking that question, over and over, and they just ignore the question. So please if you’re interested in peace, love and understanding (as in what’s so funny about) why don’t you ask the Google guys why they don’t throw some love RSS way. It would make them look a bit more sincere. Imho, ymmv, etc.

      • Dave, I really, really appreciate that you read these comments and take the time to personally reply.

        From : “OStatus is an open standard for distributed status updates. Our goal is a specification that allows different messaging hubs to route status updates between users in near-real-time.” (I believe their use of “near-real-time” was chosen to indicate that this is not XMPP-based and that these actions may take a few seconds to propagate through the system.)

        As you point out, they are not heading toward a “140-character” messaging network. The spec supports msgs of any length that is chosen by the maintainer of each network (something I believe both you and Jay support.) If somebody wants shorts msgs, they can set it to 140. If somebody wants longer msgs, they can set it longer.

        I envision a final use to be something like: post status update via any oStatus-supported site, msg is distributed to a wide variety of inter-operable msging networks, friends and followers comment on networks of choice, replies and comments are routed back upstream to the original post as well as across-stream to all of the connected networks. This sounds revolutionary to me and quite a change from the silos we currently have.

        The main criticism I have heard of rssCloud in such situations is one of latency and scalability. I am not familiar with the technical issues and can not back this up myself, but will ask for clarification and real-world tests that show (or don’t show) these issues.

        I thought that Kevin Marks had a very good point recently when he advocated building such a distributed system with both Atom and RSS in parallel, and then allowing developers to choose which implementation they would like to use at each step. Obviously, a system such as this would offer much more flexibility, but would also be much harder to maintain over the long term.

        Personally, I’m not sure where the balance should be, but I do know that end users don’t care about the technical underpinnings; they just want it to work. FWIW, I see much promise in the open framework that oStatus is building to distribute social msging across multiple hubs so that we are not entirely dependent upon a single service provider (e.g., Twitter) for the entire system to work.

  3. Anybody looking for that Calendar blog post Dave talked about, here it is: More ideas than time: Logarithmic calendar view (Marco Arment)

    Besides working @Tumblr, he works on this here too.

    Anybody got the URL for the ‘Pandora for News’ right?

  4. Thanks for all these comments.

    Michael: It’s and described here:

  5. Another terrific show — Rebooting the News is still my favorite podcast — and like you said in the beginning, don’t get too professional.

    I have a comment on the gift economy item.

    There are many dysfunctions in our economy caused by third party payer systems. One of those is the news/advertising. I know the retort here is advertising has always been a third party system. I argue that the indirect relationship between the publisher and the reader is what ails the news business.

    The free business models are not really free. There is usually a third party that is paying the way. Dave has a clear way of saying he is buying influence by giving away his content. I can agree with that as it seems like a pretty straightforward transaction — and I don’t see a third party.

    Could it be that we would all be better off paying directly for the services we get. I know this would be true in healthcare, same with real estate agents who often represent both sides (how can that be?), and it possibly could be the cancer in our public education system. You pointed out about Consumer Reports — very clean relationship — customers pay for content.

    I wrote a post about the third party payer issue last week:

    Now I like getting the news for free just like the next guy. However, the more specialized the publication — the more I question the independence. And even the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are slanted. But at least we know which way.

    I applaud the work you guys are doing and I hope you do in fact reboot the news.

    And, no I am not buying an iPad (not for a while anyway) and I agree that the WSJ price for the iPad is crazy.

  6. @DW & @JR – found great health care review over at TNR:

    Things Jonathan Cohn picks up resonate very much from with what you were saying over the last episodes.

    – on-off blogs/destinations for events, occasions
    – Internet/Blogs, Internet journalism as new journalism which has many cornerstones (ongoing discussion and debate). JR talked about this about this guy who misinformed a paper and JR tried to follow-up things to the amazement of the editors of the publication.
    – how much can somebody be in the trenches, without being compromised. Report both sides of the table, and not just the truth he considers to be the truth and picking two quotes to rest his case.
    – the new forms of explaining things the Internet & technology offers, ie clips, series, formats, interaction, infographics,
    – being open about imperfect knowledge, which WE should ALL write at the end of articles and reports etc. You both do that, implicitly by saying ‘we reboot the news, we don’t know how it will look like, so we discuss and explore options’.

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