From Ben Wagner on behalf of the Networking Group.
If “the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of endpoints,” then one task as digital journalists is to scale our networks — be they organically-grown, hyperlocal blogs or corporate-driven, international communities — as quickly and effectively as possible.
In a broadly-ranging, nearly consensus-free conversation, the “Networks” break-our group explored one case study, factors necessary to support network growth, and inherent challenges.
Tom Evslin provided two key points for our discussion of Debby Galant’s Baristanet, a blog covering news specific to Montclaire, NJ.
- The best Editorial networks grow organically from the bottom up. Individual entities tend towards expertise and passion, but lack platform or ad sale expertise.
- The best Tool networks tend to form top down with standardized platform tools and metrics, plus centralized ad ops.
It stands to reason, then, that a top down initiative like Microsoft’s Sidewalk — possessing platform, metrics, and ad ops standardization lacking editorial expertise, flexibility and voice (see “The Cracks In Microsoft’s Sidewalk“) – might fail.
Likewise, though Debby’s Baristanet is a local success, her network value is less than it could be. Moreover, she is forced to spend resources on platform and ad ops, instead of pure content creation.
Baristanet, then, would benefit from a broader, hyper-local site-supporting platform.
- Egos: We’ll make you a star!
- Revenue: My ads on your page.
In the waning minutes of our conversation, Harvard’s Thomas Eisenmann connected the conversation to a key question as news organizations continue to decline: If a city’s primary paper disappeared, would hyper-local coverage replace the centralized, enterprise-journalism oriented newsroom?
In the end, Thomas’s question lingered alongside a number of others:
- What are the best examples of journalism networks?
- Are journalism networks fundamentally niche?
- Can niche networks serve investigative journalism?
- How does a historically corporate, top-down infrastructure grow a network?