Gold pill

'Beware of the sudden golden pill,' says Jeff Jarvis

Credit: Image by Bill David Brooks on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Jeff Jarvis used the keynote presentation at the World Editors Forum in Bangkok today to discuss his views on the "relationships, forms and models" news businesses should focus on.

"Do what you do best and link to the rest," Jarvis, a well-known news industry commentator urged, (a view shared by Anthony de Rosa who recently suggested news outlets stop "matching" and re-writing 500-word news stories already online).

By linking rather than re-writing, news outlets can be more efficient, and move on to what they are best at. "Think about what the real value is to the community," Jarvis said. But to deliver what the community wants demands that you know and understand those individuals.


And individual relationships are what news outlets should foster, Jarvis said.

"What if we are not in the content business?" he asked. The news industry is good at manufacturing things, but needs to move beyond doing just that. "Content is only one of many things we do."

News is a service, Jarvis argued. And that changes the relationship news providers have with the public, with individuals.

News businesses need to understand those people as they become more valuable to advertisers the better they are understood. The "myth of mass media" was that all readers see all adverts, and in the old model media companies charged advertisers the same amount to speak to each reader, Jarvis said.

But users can have different values, he said, and offering the same product at the same price to everyone "doesn't make sense any more".

He urged delegates at the conference to think in terms of "small data" and how that can be used to target goods and services to individuals. Unique users and page views are old media metrics, he said, and the industry needs to focus metrics on relationships.


Lots of players are now part of our ecosystem, with bloggers and other people and companies operating in the online space. "We can no longer be isolated," Jarvis said, suggesting that news outlets become collaborators: with other news organisations, with readers, and even with governments if they are able to provide source material.

In his speech Jarvis referred to a conversation he had with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. "You don't make communities," Jarvis said, but you can enable communities to do what they want to do, to share information.

Jarvis suggested news outlets should involve and transform in other ways. "We should be incubators for start-ups," he said.

He also discussed reorganising the inverted triangle way of telling a story. There are "assets and paths", Jarvis argued, citing Circa, a mobile news app, as an organisation that tells stories in new ways.

He also alerted delegates to Repost.Us, a site which allows you to add text sources to an online story, where the "article becomes embeddable, like a video".


Journalists add value to the flow or pool of information, Jarvis said, giving the example of how NPR's Andy Carvin curates social media information.

And news organisations can create the structure to allow audiences to share and elegantly organise stories.

"We are no longer gatekeepers of information, we add value," Jarvis said.

Business models

Paywalls are not our salvation. Beware of the sudden golden pill that is going to solve all our problemsJeffJarvis
Jarvis does believe users should pay for content, but does not think paywalls are the solution.

"Paywalls are not our salvation. Beware of the sudden golden pill that is going to solve all our problems," said Jarvis.

The biggest problem media has, in Jarvis's view, is engagement. There is a "paradox of engagement and Facebook has 30 times the engagement we have". He said the move to "slap on" a paywall does not make sense when we consider this fact.

He proposes a reverse paywall (something that he has previously written about). "Reverse the pay meter," he said. The more people engage, the more valuable they become and therefore should pay less, he explained. "Value your reader," he said.

Media businesses must also understand the changing media landscape. Snow Fall, a multimedia presentation from the New York Times which takes about two hours to consume is entertainment, he said, adding that the New York Times is now competing with the entertainment business, including providers of film.

"We need to give services to people, we need to give services to advertisers," he said, and encouraged news outlets to look for new opportunities. He gave the example of research that found small businesses in New York were frequently not active on social, and just 9 per cent were found to have a web presence, according to Jarvis. He proposed that news outlets provide that service by connecting the businesses with customers in the online space.

"Beware of the sponsored content trap," Jarvis said. "Just like paywalls, sponsored content is not a sudden golden pill." He said the style of advertising, which is sometimes called native advertising or content marketing, "is going to devalue the brand, diminish our credibility and confuse readers."

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