State of the Media 2009 Signals Need for Citizen Media

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The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the Media 2009 report released this week has a clear message: most existing news media are in trouble. But in the special sections, and fine print, there are suggestions that could end up leading to less risk for news organizations that must move forward. It is time to look for other models — models that involve citizen media.

Take a risk and look into something like Newsgarden. This platform can be dropped into an existing Web site, and it adds a customizable Google map that displays the locations of your news stories in an inset on your site.

Readers can add stories, places on the map, photos and other content. The big breakthrough is the “…self-service ad placement system.” If local business people can use a browser, they can create a geo-tagged ad for themselves [and] choose among options for reach and cost in a way that “is cost-effective, highly efficient and scalable.” This is important, given that the report found Google and other aggregators are attracting more local advertising than news organization Web sites.

“Power is shifting to the individual journalist and away, by degrees, from journalistic institutions,” the report said. So loosen your hold on your news stories. Tag them, organize RSS feeds, go mobile.

Think of your reporters and each individual story as your brand and product. The Associated Press and Reuters seem to be moving in this direction. If a reporter’s stories draw lots of eyeballs, why not charge for a compilation of the work? Take a risk and push your content out; don’t keep it tied to a mental model of newsprint pages.

Link out, freely, frequently, but intelligently whether you think it is risky or not. Legacy media don’t use links to all the other news out there as readily as citizen bloggers or citizen news sites. On the other hand, legacy media do excel in creating innovative ways for people to download or receive content. Let users create custom content packages and download them for free or for a fee.

Not using social media is risky because, as the citizen-based media section of the report found, “…social media and citizen video broadened in important ways as a means of distributing news, not just for social interaction and entertainment.”

With the State of News Media 2009 so bleak, it is more than cold comfort to understand that taking risks is going to be less risky than trying to hold the status quo.

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