April, 2011

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OFNT: Coming to a town near you (assuming you’re in Oregon)

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

road trip by Nicholas_TOld Forest New Trees is hitting the road.

Starting this summer, I’ll be leading a series of talks for the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project, a kick-ass initiative that sparks interesting cultural conversations around the state. Here’s the elevator pitch:

Two years after Clay Shirky predicted that "every town in this country of 500,000 or less" was likely to "sink into casual, endemic, civic corruption" fostered by the death of local newspapers, what’s the score? The continuing collapse of the media sequoias has created openings into which small-scale innovators, from MyEugene to BikePortland, are sprouting. But tomorrow’s news outlets, whose audiences and incentives are dramatically different than yesterday’s, will put new pressures on local civic culture.

 

"Old forest, new trees: Oregon’s new economics of local information" will use a hands-on exercise to explore the forces behind the shift from mass to niche media; sketch case studies from innovators around Oregon and the country; and highlight a key social problem faced by the new news media – the deep and growing asymmetry of information between rich and poor.

TOTALLY FUN, amirite? All my presentations, research and appearance schedule will be posted here on the blog, so expect to start hearing more around midsummer.

(Road-trip photo by Nicholas_T.)

Where are all the local-stock-photo services?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

greententEvery local-news company needs stock photos from their coverage area. Every local-news company takes stock photos in their coverage area.

Somehow, nobody has figured how to give all of us an incentive to let each other use the stock photos we’re already taking.

A couple months back I failed to fully communicate this concept to a friend at The Oregonian. Here’s another attempt:

  • Any news organization, large or small, can add photos to the pool.
  • Anyone can buy photos from the pool a la carte, or pay for a long-term membership.
  • Photographers get a cut for each download.
  • Regular contributors get discounted memberships.
  • Marketing types could buy and use the photos, too – though they couldn’t contribute, because only documentary-style work could be uploaded.

Click to continue »

People are looking for people

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

It’s an obvious rule of thumb: Journalists should be creating information that’s scarce. Some information is scarce because it just popped into existence.

That information is called news. It’s quite scarce and it’s very useful.

But news isn’t the only kind of scarce, useful information. Ever since the local wiki I manage started pulling in search traffic, I’ve noticed something pretty interesting: about 30 percent of our search traffic comes from people’s names.

We’re not talking about Britney Spears here. We’re talking about Patricia McCaig, a political aide to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, and Ted Buehler, a bicycle safety activist. They aren’t boring; they’re just not at all famous. They’re the most interesting hand you shook at the church picnic. They’re people who make it happen (whatever it is) without talking to the press or keeping a website of their own.

They’re people people are looking for.

Check out this chart of the 110 most popular Google searches leading to PortlandAfoot.org in the last 60 days:

Thirty-seven of those, or 34 percent (marked in red), were searches for people’s names. (For visibility’s sake, the vertical axis is a log scale.) If you don’t count Portland Afoot’s #1 search phrase, which is just the name of the site, people’s names accounted for 30 percent of Google-driven visits, too.

It turns out that people are looking for people quite a lot.

And – especially on the local level, I suspect – people are scarce.

(Extremely clever photo by an unknown photographer.)