Misreading the tea leaves

By Steve Outing

Since writing my recent Editor & Publisher Online column on the lessons learned about grassroots media from the demise of my company, the Enthusiast Group, a number of commentators seem to have seized on that to suggest that “citizen journalism is dying.” Combined with the demise earlier this year of hyperlocal grassroots news network Backfence.com and other failures in this realm, we now have a new wave of media people professing that this proves the concept is a failure.

Good grief. My company’s experience proves no such thing. As is clear to anyone who read my column, I suggested that grassroots media is a mega-trend that won’t abate, but I believe that what user content needs to succeed as a business is professional editors to be the ones to sift through it all to find the stuff that people will care about, and technology to identify and distribute content that matters to very small groups of people (e.g., everyone who lives in your neighborhood).

And there’s great potential for news companies to combine user content and user effort in crowdsourcing (aka, pro-am journalism). That will enhance the news product of existing media companies, and perhaps drive new ones.

Also, as the many older “web 1.0” niche discussion forums demonstrate, unadulterated user content and conversation can drive large online communities. I can think of several in the niche sports space that have been around for years and have developed large and thriving communities. But such forum websites don’t tend to grow into large businesses or attract a lot in the way of advertising; the participants have to be willing to put up with sorting through a lot of crap to find the good stuff, or willing to search for what they want or need. (Good example: Letsrun.com, the premier online community for runners.)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

8 Responses to "Misreading the tea leaves"

  1. Mark Potts
    Mark Potts 9 years ago .Reply

    Steve:
    We saw a lot of the same sort of opining on the death of citizen journalism when Backfence shut down this summer. Most of it seemed to come from mainstream media folks, and it was reminscent of the same level of analysis from mainstream media that gleefully pronounced the Web dead when the first wave of Intenet companies crashed in 2000–you know, “Phew, good thing we dodged THAT bullet.”

    In fact, we’re at the very earliest stages of this revolution (I think that makes you and I the pioneers with the arrows in our backs). The business model remains unproven (another flashback to the crash of 2000), but smart people are doing very interesting things in this space, and it’s just a matter of time before somebody figures it out. Citizen journalism–or whatever you want to call it–dead? Nothing good be further fromt he truth!

  2. Mark Potts
    Mark Potts 9 years ago .Reply

    Steve: We saw a lot of the same sort of opining on the death of citizen journalism when Backfence shut down this summer. Most of it seemed to come from mainstream media folks, and it was reminscent of the same level of analysis from mainstream media that gleefully pronounced the Web dead when the first wave of Intenet companies crashed in 2000–you know, "Phew, good thing we dodged THAT bullet." In fact, we're at the very earliest stages of this revolution (I think that makes you and I the pioneers with the arrows in our backs). The business model remains unproven (another flashback to the crash of 2000), but smart people are doing very interesting things in this space, and it's just a matter of time before somebody figures it out. Citizen journalism–or whatever you want to call it–dead? Nothing good be further fromt he truth!

  3. Amy Gahran
    Amy Gahran 9 years ago .Reply

    Steve, moving beyond the mainstream is always difficult, and it takes a lot of experimentation to find the best way to make it work.

    IME, people who are too chicken to stick their own necks out by trying something different tend to be the first (and loudest) to criticize those who do, in order to justify their own inertia and fear.

    – Amy Gahran

  4. Amy Gahran
    Amy Gahran 9 years ago .Reply

    Steve, moving beyond the mainstream is always difficult, and it takes a lot of experimentation to find the best way to make it work. IME, people who are too chicken to stick their own necks out by trying something different tend to be the first (and loudest) to criticize those who do, in order to justify their own inertia and fear. – Amy Gahran

  5. […] Steve Outing » Misreading the tea leaves “Since the demise of my company, the Enthusiast Group, several people have seized on that to suggest that “citizen journalism is dying.” Good grief. My company’s experience proves no such thing.” (tags: citizen+journalism media+evolution trends shortsighted perceptions business business+models) […]

  6. Steve
    Steve 9 years ago .Reply

    The problem with using Jott for blogging is that you\'re limited to 30 seconds of talking. It\'s well suited for micro-blogging or \"presence\" services like Twitter, however.

  7. Ben
    Ben 9 years ago .Reply

    Pretty cool! Did you write out what you were going to say beforehand?

  8. Brian Cubbison
    Brian Cubbison 9 years ago .Reply

    I tried it, and it works remarkably well. It even punctuated \"Open the pod bay doors, Hal.\"

    But they probably get a lot of that.

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