Formulae for online news success

Posted on October 24, 2007 
Filed Under Journalism

Jay Rosen on the new success model:

  1. High quality aggregation within a strong editorial focus. (Like the Huffington Post nationally, or Twin Cities Daily Planet locally.)
  2. Blogging platform with the best posts filtered to the front page. (Like Daily Kos)
  3. Original reporting with hybrid strength: amateurs with pro support (training, production values, copy editing, editorial oversight, and traffic), pros with amateur support (like Regina Lynn; see also my Idea Lab post on beat reporting with a social network) and pros doing what pros have always done.
  4. Features with narrow comprehensiveness: everything about something. (Lisa Williams: “That is, a site with some Denver restaurants is OK; but a site with ALL Denver restaurants is better.”)
  5. Forums that allow a previously atomized group–people sharing interests and problems–to connect and converse with each other.
  6. Crowdsourcing projects that gather information impossible to get any other way. (Like WNYC’s efforts, or the News & Observer’s speeding investigation.)
  7. Find, prepare and place online data sets that are “available” (but not easy to use), and of strong interest to a user public; let people access and interact with the information by framing it properly and providing the bigger narrative that the data is a part of. (See
  8. Reverse publishing: web-to-print, for the highest quality content generated online. (Read Dan Barkin: “Every day except Sunday, we take photos, forum comments, user-submitted school news, user-nominated volunteer stories and publish it on Page 2.” See YourHub.)
  9. Absolute commitment to breaking news in the coverage area by any means necessary: pro, am, aggregation, blogging, crowdsourced.
  10. Geo-tagged information: organized so people can access it by location, or via a map.
  11. Headlines and summaries optimized for search; open archives and permalinks.
  12. Put-it-all-together key topic pages that combine… aggregation, original reporting, blog posts, data, forums and crowdsourced information on something big and of intense interest, like a bridge collapse.


Compare to Howard Owens’ 12 ways to save journalism post:

  1. Become a blogger. By this, I don’t necessarily mean “start a blog,” but that is never a bad idea. More importantly, become an avid blog reader. Blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist. They should read every blog related to their beats. They should read blogs about their own interests and hobbies. They should read blogs about their profession. To get blogging is to get how things have changed.
  2. Become a producer. Pick up a digital recorder, a point-and-shoot camera or a video camera and start producing content beyond text. Do this as part of your job, fine, or do it on your personal time. The goal is to understand DIY. Post stuff on YouTube, Flickr or any number of other UGC sites.
  3. Participate. As you read blogs, leave comments. If your has comments on stories, read the comments and add your own. Become known as somebody who converses on the Internet.
  4. Build a web site. It will greatly expand your mind about how the web works if you go a bit beyond just setting up an account on Blogger or WordPress. Learn a little HTML. Better yet, learn some PHP, Cold Fusion, JavaScript or other web development language. You should own your own domain, anyway.
  5. Become web literate. You should know what Flash is, and how it differs from AJAX. You should know the meaning of things like HTML, RSS, XML, IP, HTTP and FTP. You should understand at least how people use applications and tools to build web sites. You should know the potential and the limitations of each.
  6. Use RSS. You need an RSS reader and lots of RSS feeds to consume. This will help you better grok distributed media.
  7. Shop online. Part of your goal is to become immersed in the digital lifestyle. You will learn stuff about the digital life if you shop on Amazon, Ebay and other ecommerce sites. As you do, think about how these sites work and why they’re set up as they are.
  8. Buy mobile devices. Get a video iPod. Get a smart phone (an iPhone, Treo, Helio Ocean or Nokia N-series are all good places to start). Learn about distributed, take-it with-you-anywhere content. Buy a laptop and tap into some free wi-fi while you’re out and about. Learn what digital life is like when you’re not shackled to a desktop machine.
  9. Become an avid consumer of digital content. Watch videos on YouTube. Download video and audio podcasts (take them with you on your iPod). Visit the best newspaper sites in the world and watch what they’re doing. Turn on your TV less and your computer more.
  10. Be a learner. Technology and culture is changing fast. You can’t keep up unless you’re dedicated to learning. I love this quote from Eric Hoffer because it is so appropriate to what our industry is going through now: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
  11. Be a change agent. Talk about what you’re learning with your co-workers. Get other journalists excited about the new digital communication/media tools.
  12. Finally, read Journalism 2.0 (PDF) by Mark Briggs. You’ll learn about the stuff covered above and how it is changing modern journalism. Brigg’s book is the best primer on the topic you will find.



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