Saturday, March 17, 2007

MSM vs Google: News Follows Music?

(this is a re-post of a blog post I originally published elsewhere on Mar 17 2007)

It was bound to happen – Viacom is suing Google for a billion dollars for hosting uploaded clips of their stuff on Youtube. The prelude occured only a few weeks ago, when a group of newspapers in Belgium won a court case in Brussels against the search giant, barring Google from re-publishing any snippets of their news on the search engine. Google is now in danger of becoming a main target for the struggling main stream media.

The news industry has been facing tough times for a several years now, and it is steadily getting worse, as Craig’s list and other web companies are taking over ads that have been the backbone of the news industry for over a century. The foundations of the fourth estate are shaking, well respected newspapers are downsizing or being sold off. No more Mr Nice Guy, as the saying goes, Hollywood-style. The victory in the Belgium court raises hopes among traditional media houses that pay-back time may be coming, and their lawyers are most probably sharpening their knives.

This can lead to a very very bad development for us all, I’ll tell you why.

A lot of people want your attention, but it’s limited. The more competition for your attention, the more it’s worth. The news industry are “attention workers”: they catch your attention on a page by putting catchy stories on it, then sell parts of the page to people who are willing to pay for getting your attention diverted to their own stories. That’s ads. It was working well for 150 years. Enter the Internet.

In the beginning, many in the news industry thought it was a good thing to be visible on Google search, because it directed attention to their news stories on the web. Google was a young company, smaller than the news giants. They decided to stay out of content production, perhaps they thought this would keep them away from competing with the news industry. But the news industry does not sell stories, they pay for stories. They sell ads. Google sells ads, too. Google is now earning better than the news industry.
OK, they are not direct competitors to the news industry. Instead they are rapidly becoming the “alien invasion”, and that is not necessarily a more favored status.

Tourist guides like kids to direct customers to them, and they don’t mind if the kids get some pennies from the tourists while doing it. Replace the kids with grownups, give them more contact with the tourists than the guides have, and let them earn more than the guides. Now the guides will be less happy, they might even feel exploited. This is what is happening between Google and the news industry.

The news industry is paying for making stories, but is having a tough time selling ads. Google is not paying for making stories, and is selling ads like crazy. “Foul play”, says the news industry. “The stories are ours. If you sell ads on links to our stories, the ad revenues are ours, too”. Now it has reached the court rooms, and the battle might be long and bitter, like with the music industry and the Internet.

That will be too bad, because there is a fundamental common interest between the news industry and Google that can bring them to the same side of the table: both want to maximize the value of your attention, because this is the source of their income. They are only lacking a way to work together on it, and don’t have a working way to split the costs and revenues.

The larger part of the news industry does not know how to earn big on the Internet. Most of them don’t have the resources, the mindset or the traditions to innovate. For them, news is a commodity, innovation is a threat. Google is all about innovation and Internet, and they are earning more money on it all the time. No big match there at this time.

The old fashioned news industry has lawyers. So does Google. Match! It’s a big risk it’s going to end up in the court rooms. Once the parties dig into the trenches, people on both sides will be restricted from working together on a constructive future. It will be war between the main stream news and the web, like it was with the music industry.

In order to spend human time and resources on building value, not destroying it, the following is required: The news industry needs to become innovative and find other business models than paper. It will both provide them with a future and will save scores of trees from the axe. Google needs to realize that they are the big guys now, and that they will be put to blame by the echelons of society for the demise of the business of journalism, whether it is reasonable or not. High class content is good for their business, why not see what they can do for supporting its existence?

There are two types of deals that Google and the news industry can focus on. The first type is a fictitious zero-sum game, with endless fights in court rooms over how to split the pie, where the deal might even be obsolete by the time it hits the street. The other type is where the parties agree to work together on finding new ways of doing pies, or even doing other things than pies that might taste even better.

Isn’t it obvious what the choice ought to be?

Friday, March 09, 2007

New concept: Innovation Requires New Words, Requires Journalism

By David Nordfors and Turo Uskali

When SRI President Curtis Carlson first heard about the concept of Innovation Journalism, he said injo is important, because it will establish a common language for discussing innovation processes. This makes it possible for society to discuss innovation.

Chuck House, Stanford Media-X executive director and former head of ACM, independently made a similar reflection: A reason to why HP back-then could spearhead innovation was that many of the engineers came from Stanford, sharing a unique set of vocabulary for describing electronics, which made it possible for them to efficiently communicate ideas with each other.

Language is at the core of innovation!

We suggest journalism is even more important in innovation societies than in traditional societies!

Here goes:
  1. Innovation is the introduction of something new
  2. In order to introduce something, it needs to be communicated
  3. Communication requires shared language
  4. New things need new words or word combinations to be a part of the language
  5. The News makes/spreads the new words to us so that the new things can be included in our language, discussed and introduced.
  6. Therefore: Journalism enables society to discuss new things and introduce innovations.

This applies for all journalism covering innovations.

Injo - journalism about innovation processes and ecosystems - is a special case, but a very important one. It disseminates language for discussing how innovation happens in society. So innovation journalism enables society to improve innovation processes, which can affect the rate of innovation even more than the journalism about the innovations themselves.

If you agree, and have a bit of an academic mind - here is the word to hook up with injo: neologism. "Neologism", according to the dictionary (Wikipedia), is "a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created ("coined") — often to apply to new concepts, to synthesize pre-existing concepts, or to make older terminology sound more contemporary. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The term e-mail, as used today, is an example of a neologism." It continues, "Neologisms often become popular by way of mass media, the Internet, or word of mouth (see also Wiktionary's Neologisms:unstable or Protologism pages for a wiki venue of popularizing newly coined words). Every word in a language was, at some time, a neologism, though most of these ceased to be such through time and acceptance."

So innovation journalism and neologism form together a new key concept.

We are presently preparing a paper, to be presented later this year, that will develop this concept further.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

InJo Fellowships 2007 Kickoff @ Stanford

Here are photo albums with pictures from the kickoff week with the Innovation Journalism Fellowship Program 2007 at Stanford.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

New InJo Book

(by David Nordfors and Turo Uskali)

Erkki Kauhanen and Elina Noppari at the University of Tampere have now released the results of their research on innovation journalism in Finland, a project that has been going on for two years with funding from Tekes, the national Finnish agency for technology and innovation.

The study is the largest single compilation to date of empirical research on innovation journalism, setting a benchmark for future research. This seminal Finnish research has more emphasis on social innovations than previous work. This is clearly its most important achievement, and contribution to innovation journalism research.

Erkki and Elina argue for a wider definition of the concept of innovation journalism than the orginal one (which they call "Nordforsian" InJo). The focus is not on the innovation ecosystem, rather on the future of society. We agree that more emphasis may have been put on social and cultural aspects in the original work, and it is definitely key for innovation journalism to be able to discuss the future. Still, it seems constructive to limit the definition of Innovation Journalism to journalism about innovation, covering innovation processes and ecosystems. Yes - all innovation affects the future and all innovation causes change, this is true. But not all change is innovation and not all of the future is set by it. So it does make sense to keep some distinction between innovation journalism and forward-looking journalism, and to journalism of change. InJo is a subset of these wider scopes. With this said, we are happy about this book and the discussion it raises.

The Finnish study points at important issues, such as that journalism covering innovation in Finland today does not present the future perspective very much. Another interesting finding is "the hyperdominance" of ICT themes among the technology innovation related topics at the cost of all other fields of technology. Furthermore, the emphasis of the stories are centered on Finnish perspectives on innovations, and not on the international dimensions of innovation processes. The study identifies several needs of improvement.

The report is available for download on the Finnish innovation journalism site and at Tekes official site.