I was reading Jeff Jarvis’ post reacting to the news that BusinessWeek is up for sale, and it got me thinking. It seems to me that The News Media have two editorial/journalistic paths to address what the Web hath wrought:
1) The Vision Thing — Have an editorial vision and express it. Deliver great journalistic product. Build community around “fans” of that vision. See The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and many, many independent news blogs.
2) The Crowd Thing — Have a brand that attracts an audience. Have a brand that attracts and engages those readers — and encourages them to contribute. Deliver content that drives community reaction and builds audience.
The Vision focused media will need to see getting people to pay for their content as their primary source of revenue.
The Crowd focused media will need to view delivering an audience to advertisers as their primary source of revenue, whether that is through links and clicks, affiliate relationships or advertising.
The Vision folks will reduce costs by not being over concerned with perfect alignment with their readers, as Stephen Baker recounts the typical editorial process at BusinessWeek. They will create ways to listen to readers, and for readers to interact with each other and the editorial staff, so that editorial is inherently in touch with readers, readers feel “a part of something. And the product may challenge and annoy the readers as well.
The Crowd folks will play the vital role of filtering the news to meet the perceived interests of their audience. They will give up a measure of control to the audience itself — putting journalistic effort behind what interests the crowd and and bringing editorial standards to crowd-sourced reporting.
Newspapers cling to a Vision while dipping their toes into the chilly waters of the Crowd. Media with a Vision risk trying to hard to activate a Crowd that would prefer to be engaged.
And since these days, every organization is a media organization — what path will your company take — will you drive your Vision, or run with the Crowd?