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« Like they have tar on their heels | Main | Support your local festival »

May 14, 2012


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I just watched Man on Wire over the weekend, a fascinating documentary about Phillipe Petit who, as a young man, when he first hears about plans to build the World Trade Centers, thinks it would be amazing to walk on a tightrope between the two, so he sets out to teach himself tightrope walking in pursuit of doing just that. I recommend the film.

At one point, he talks about that moment when the wire walker has one foot on the wire, but still maintains his weight on the platform behind him. He cannot remain there. If he is to proceed, he must make the conscious decision to shift his weight onto the wire. That's where the N&R is, they have a foot on the wire and have been standing there for seven years unable to commit to shifting their weight.

JR says, "ask people where they get their news and many will respond Facebook and Twitter," but does he really mean that or does he mean that they link to news sources from twitter and facebook? (God help us all if it's the former.)

I cast a pretty wide net for news, but my most frequented now is Pulse on my Nook. (I think it probably conforms to the "river" metaphor Dave speaks of.)

There is no reason with a commitment and some programming, that the N&R couldn't make something like a local Pulse: a variety of content specific streams; and, per my comment to which you linked, Ed (thanks), it would be in conformity with the efficiency gains of organizing digital assets for a variety of distribution channels. (I remember having a conversation about this with JR several years ago, it amazes me how stuck the N&R is.)


When people say they get their news from Twitter and Facebook, we ought to find out exactly what that news is. Something tells me those folks aren't getting smart about, say, the Euro crisis or climate change.

Also, a purely digital local paper could be produced and distributed online by the NYT or another large paper that manages to turn a profit from its digital side. If the N&O or N&R went belly up, the Times could hire a core staff of ex-employees to generate the content, try to sell local ads, and distribute it as a supplement to the paid digital edition.

Or, the Times could just move in, undercut local ad rates, and put out a product.


"Also, a purely digital local paper could be produced and distributed online by the NYT or another large paper that manages to turn a profit from its digital side"

And then there are the internet savvy who would never pay for anything when it can eventually be found online somewhere else.


Hugh, that assumes someone steals it from the NYT or some other source.

The bottom line for me is that if we aren't willing to pay for news, we won't get any and we'll just get dumber and dumber and more pliable. The people who produce news won't do it for free.

The NYT seems to be doing OK selling its digital product. I don't think local newspapers can do that. There's a very good chance we will find ourselves with a few national and regional papers who manage to turn a profit digitally. If, then, there is going to be local coverage in places like North Carolina's large towns, it will be produced by locals on the payroll of the national paper and delivered to local subscribers as a section in the national product.

Account Deleted

I'm not buying the river of news concept. Lists have already added to the destruction of intelligent conversation and in my view the river concept boils journalism down to headlines and leads to the detriment of nuance and context.

Also, I like photos and design.


Justcorbly, that's an interesting prospect.

JS, that's why I like PULSE, it's a headline/thumbnail "river" (well, many streams, actually), but one engages by jumping into the deeper pieces, where there is context, photos, video and, at the user's option, slimmed down mobile or the more designed web.

Ed Cone

People seem willing to pay for unique, valuable, original content.

But that stuff is not cheap to produce.


Jeff, I've played with Winer's River of News. To my eye, it's another kind of RSS reader. The autonomy of running it on your on server and geting at it via a browser from any location is a big part of its appeal. The downside is you have to tend to the care and feeding of a remote server. Personally, I don't see any real advantage over an client-side RSS reader that synchs with Google Reader. I have synching readers on my Mac, my iPad and my iPhone, so there's no real advantage in using a river.

But, the thing to remember is that a river of news, or any other kind of RSS tool, is an aggregation tool. They collect links to news other people have published. They won't contribute to news production unless their use by a newspaper and its readers generates feedback that encourages that production.

Dave Winer

Jeffrey -- I don't think you have looked at a river.


If an article is interesting to me, I click on the link and read it, and see the pictures.

It's like saying you don't like a table of contents because it doesn't have all the words of a book.

Billy Jones

The N&R has missed the boat, Greensboro already has a river. What? No paddle?

Account Deleted

Dave: I'm a fan of yours, read your tweets daily and enjoy your work. But I am not sold on the idea of the river being the future of local news. I have a tweet list to work through, one for Facebook, one for Google Plus, a Google Reader list, all of these feeding in to my Droid when I'm not on the laptop, and most news sites I visit these days have multiple RSS lists proceeding to infinity on one side of the page or the other.

I feel overwhelmed at times with the amount of news I am able to absorb ... or should I say the amount I am exposed to. I feel at times as if I am exposed to everything and digesting nothing.

Just my view. Maybe I have the problem. I do know we have a great example of a river of news in Greensboro 101 and no one has been able to significantly monetize that effort to date. So my doubts remain as to how the river of news concept improves the financial lot of local newspapers and their staff.

I freely admit that I could be missing the big picture.


Jeff, I've been accused of being a geek, an artist and a dreamer, but nobody has ever mistaken me for a salesperson.

There are some bright minds out there who think the modern internet has killed the opportunity for advertising around audiences aggregated by geography. I can sort of see that. Need tires? You search for tires and Google automatically knows you need them in Greensboro. Advertising to that ready-to-buy consumer is gone for newspapers or Greensboro 101.

There are other types of advertising that serve different purposes, like creating top-of-mind awareness and goodwill, persuading consumers they want something they don't yet know they want or that now is the time to act. I think those kinds of advertising still remain opportunities for sites with geographically aggregated audiences (although, a "column" of ads is probably not a good way to go about it). A one-man geek shop is not going to be the thing that puts those ideas to the test though.

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