Today’s content requires multiple containers

Jay Rosen is up to number six on his list of the top ten ideas of 2004, “Content will be more important than its container.” The whole series is important reading for anybody interested in downstream thinking, and he’s even quoted yours truly in one of the ideas. But this section contains something vital for television people as they look at what to do in the coming year. Jay’s starting point for this essay is Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press, and his ground-breaking speech to the Online News Association last year.

Curley added, “Killer apps, such as search, RSS and video-capture software such as Tivo — to name just a few — have begun to unlock content from any vessel we try to put it in.”

The means are there to unlock content from any vessel we try to put it in. Those vessels are the big media brands themselves, including the flagships of the press fleet. Here’s Admiral Curley telling them that news is becoming unhinged from “brand,” and so we who make news content have to re-locate where we brand it, and think about adding our voice at every step.

Curley also said in that speech that “We thought it was about replicating our news and information franchises online.” Yes, that has always been the problem. The Internet is not a place where you simply replay your core competency. It’s an entirely new world that demands attention, and Curley is an important player who really gets it.

And Jay is right there with him.

One example of this is the “stripping” effect of RSS, which stands for real simple syndication. When users encounter new PressThink posts in RSS form, they aren’t “at” my site, and they aren’t visiting the house of content I have carefully built for them in the nyu.edu domain.

With RSS, readers get my post, the headline, the subhead– but not the blog environment of PressThink. Therefore the content has to be good enough on its own, without the house. It has to “say” PressThink: no logo, as it were. (This is one reason I put more effort into headlines and subheads than most bloggers. I’m trying to write “for” my invisible RSS readers.)

We have to stop seeing our broadcast signal as the be-all-and-end-all of our daily mission. Every individual television news person needs to understand that technology and consumer demand have taken all the rules of what it means to be a TV reporter, a newspaper reporter, a radio reporter, and a freelance journalist and jumbled them all together into one entity — the multimedia journalist. That person’s mission is to use every means available to bring his or her journalism to the public.

That is an exciting — a frightening to some — challenge for all of us.

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