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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.)

Why wikis can save local democracy

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I’ve been away from OFNT while I spend time on the front lines, but I took some shore leave (or whatever) this weekend to give a short presentation and eat some collaboratively decorated cupcakes at yesterday’s delightful PortlandWiki barnraising, which also featured Brian Kerr of ArborWiki and Mark Dilley of AboutUs and WikiIndex.

Here’s a slightly improved version of the short presentation I gave. I’m an unusual advocate for wikis because I approach them primarily as a way to deliver information and only secondarily as a way to collaborate. I think this is a fairly good summary of the basic reason I chose a wiki as the main web component of Portland Afoot.

Why a viral radio show owned the story of the financial crisis

Friday, September 18th, 2009

From the most important essay about the news business I’ve read this year:

“Among the assumptions I wanted to test … was the idea that news consumers really are looking for context rather than merely the latest news. After all, during years of working in online newsrooms, I’d seen plenty of deep, contextual news packages ignored by our site users in favor of weather updates and crime reports.

“The financial crisis provided an early test of this assumption. At the time, news about the crisis was ubiquitous. All at once, every news organization was unearthing news about a different aspect of the meltdown—the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the role of the Community Reinvestment Act, the status of the bailout plan wending its way through Congress. Amidst all this news, would people choose context?

“The answer was yes. The breakthrough news item of the year wasn’t an investigation that yielded some hot new scoop, it was a piece of on-the-record explanatory reporting by ‘This American Life’ and National Public Radio that went wildly viral. ‘The Giant Pool of Money’ went on to become the most downloaded episode in the history of ‘This American Life,’ garnering the award trifecta of a duPont, Peabody and Polk for its producers. Many listeners said they’d been tuning out all those crisis-related headlines until they heard the episode. For them, ‘The Giant Pool of Money’ was like a decoder ring for this news story. And once you heard it, you wanted more.”

Online news should be replayable

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Follow-up thought on yesterday’s iTunes for news defense: When analysts say things like:

Newspaper content is ephemeral by nature … It isn’t the same as downloading a song and keeping it and replaying it. It loses its value almost instantaneously.

…the speaker is not describing a problem with iTunes. She’s describing a problem with the way news is traditionally presented.

It’s a problem that can be solved.

Update 7/26: Jackie Hai makes a similar point, except phrased better and with extra insights. Read it.