Gore: In search of a business model for sustaining journalism

Al Gore

Gore

Back in November, former Vice President Al Gore gave an interview to to All Things Digital maestro and Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walter Mossberg.  The details never showed up in print, but the video is online and today we expert a portion in which Gore — who began his career as a newspaper reporter — talks about the need for a business model for investigative journalism.

As posted in video Nov. 18, 2011 at the AllThingsDigital.com website And excerpted from an October 2011, interview in Hong Kong with Walter Mossberg:
http://allthingsd.com/20111118/former-vp-and-apple-director-al-gore-on-steve-jobs-and-more-the-full-asiad-interview-video/

IN RESPONSE TO AN AUDIENCE QUESTION:

GORE:  “Before I went to the House of Representatives in the mid-.70s, I was a journalist for five years, two years before that in the Army . . . I have watched the evolution of this business as a former practitioner.

“The most important part of the problem your getting at with your question is, in the transition to digital journalism and internet-based journalism, the medium is inherently so centrifugal — with billions of web pages — that you don.t get enough centripetal, critical mass to support business models that throw off enough revenue to adequately compensate large numbers of good investigative journalists. And the crowdsourcing fills the gap somewhat but there is really no substitute that I know for well trainee, excellent, investigative journalists who can make a decent living for themselves and their families by doing what they do best.

“And the rating of advertising — that has put a lot of newspapers in trouble around the world, has led to layoffs of these journalists and the
opportunities for journalists in the news space, they are there, but as I say the business models are still being defined. And I see Walt on television now and on the Internet TV and of course the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, some other papers are edging into this space and doing an excellent job.

“But where will it go? It’s literally impossible to predict because it is by definition an emergent process. We.ll probably have some mobile, smart-phone journalistic model that really works. I consume a lot of news on my iPhone 4S and the iPad, but most of the high-quality stuff is still derived from newspapers and magazines and it is an urgent challenge to find new models to support high-quality journalism on the Internet. There are a lot of great examples of it, but it needs to be in every city, in every community and there needs to be a new standard business model that can be easily replicated to support journalism.”

MOSSBERG: You don’t have that model, you just think somebody needs to figure it out?

GORE:  “Well I think that some people are hitting around it and CurrentTV is I think doing an outstanding job of it. We have one every journalistic award available in television. The Peabody Award, the DuPont Award, twice for the best journalist in America under the age of 35, two Emmies. I’m really proud of the quality. Our Vanguard series has been just been praised to the skies, rightly  in my opinion, of course I.m biased. These men and women do a fantastic job. But its rare to see, you  know you have 60 Minutes, you have some other great outlets, but increasingly programs that used to be focused on news will do polling of their own and blur the line between news and entertainment and drive toward a lowest-common-denominator because they are seen as profit centers and if they are not contributing enough to the bottom line then the orders come down, OK, find out what.s going to glue more eyeballs
to the screen. And so a program in the morning that used to provide news, I.ll turn it on in the morning it will be a feature about some kid who has been hiccupping for 30 days. And I have  to say it.s very interesting.”

MOSSBERG: But you’re rather be hearing about something substantive.

A: “Yea!”

LINK: Soros’ Open Society paper asserts privacy is the dominant issue for online media industry

Miguel Castro, the London-based head of the Media & Society Program at the Open Society institutes, writes that the George Soros-based NGO has published today “a paper on the origins, evolution, and impact on privacy of advertising.” He continues: “Over the past decade and a half, advertising has become a fundamental element of the internet’s economy, the paper does not touch on the ‘consumerism’ issue, a discussion beyond media and the Internet, but argues that privacy has become a central topic for industry and policy discussions.”

HERE’S THE LINK:
http://www.mediapolicy.org/online-advertising

ays Castro: “Advertising fuels most prominent services and platforms, including search engines, social networks, and news sites. In all its forms relies on data about users and the paper examines the privacy-related issues that any serious policy in this area needs to address. It foresees that online advertising will be shaped by the struggle between proponents of government regulation on the one hand, and of self-regulation on the other.”

http://www.mediapolicy.org
Miguel.Castro@osf-eu.org

Report: News orgs must help users with identity, privacy; consider non-profit collaboration to share tech, users, content

BRANSON, Mo., Aug. 4, 2011 — A non-profit collaboration to share technology, users and content could help news organizations find new revenues and become better at serving the public, according to a report by a Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute researcher at the University of Missouri.

The report, “From Paper to Persona: Managing Privacy and Information Overload; Sustaining Journalism in the Attention Age,” was published on Thursday and presented to the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association Managers Inc., meeting in Missouri.  It’s the result of more than two years of study by a Reynolds fellow and consultant, Bill Densmore, a career journalist, publisher and entrepreneur.

“As news and the economics of newspapers come unglued, what will sustain journalism?” Densmore asks. “The answer involves a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is how to do a better job of helping the public find knowledge they need, amid a glut so huge that the scarce human commodity is now attention, not information. The Internet provides the opportunity to do so.”

The report advocates forming an industry collaborative,  tentatively called the “Information Trust Association” by Densmore. It would define and foster a common technology playing field that respects consumer privacy, and makes rules for the exchange of both content and users’ identity information.

“Such a system might allow news originators of any size – possibly including bloggers – to exchange payments among each other and with public users for news information and sponsored material,” says Densmore.

Two thirds of the 55-page paper chronicles what Densmore says is the end of mass markets as a viable strategy for selling the advertising that has largely supported American journalism.  Instead, he says, the Internet is increasingly able to deliver commercial messages targeted to specific users’ interests and profiles – or personas.

As a result, the paper says, publishers and broadcasters have to learn how to use technology to become expert at personalizing information services. And that, says Densmore, requires them to help consumers with their privacy and personal information. They might help users to earn rewards, or pay for specialized information.

The last third of the paper argues that the Information Trust Association is the best way to help with this change. The idea is potentially controversial because the U.S. news industry has not typically cooperated on technology standards,  instead being buffeted and shrunk by services originated elsewhere such as Craig’s List, eBay, Facebook or Google.

“The point of the Information Trust Association would be to foster collaboration that increases convenience and choice for consumers,  allowing multiple service providers to compete on a common playing field,” says Densmore.  The paper offers nine examples of industries where this has occurred, including railroads, cable TV, the electric grid, electrical equipment, banking and stock exchange, and the Internet itself.

The genesis of the paper was Densmore’s 2008-2009 “Information Valet Project” fellowship at Reynolds.

“Our challenge is no longer how to access information, but how to manage our time and attention amid the glut. News organizations have the opportunity to move from being paid to deliver one-format products (broadcasts, print stories, to providing trusted multimedia, personalized services with unique insight, knowledge, curation, and aggregation. They can help users manage their privacy and identity — their persona,” says Densmore.

The white paper is now available to view and download online. Rich with more than 230 live links to additional resources and reading, “From Paper to Persona” can be found here: http://rjionline.org/news/paper-persona

To comment, join a discussion or learn more about next steps for the Information Trust Association idea, read Densmore’s blog post at:  http://tinyurl.com/persona-blog

Response to Gillmor: With Facebook and Google+ now dueling for your ‘persona’ — is it time for the Information Trust Association?

Arizona State journalism professor and Knight chair holder Dan Gillmor is calling for an effort to “federate” identity management on the web:

“What I’d like to see, and would support with my money, is a collection of open-source, community-driven, federated services that achieved the same goals without putting our data and content into the hands of a few large and increasingly powerful companies. I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this. Are there enough of us to matter? And if so, are developers listening?”

He wrote that as the last paragraph to a blog post at The Guardian (U.K.) entitled: “Google+ forces us to question who owns our digital identity: Are enthusiastic users of social networking sites giving up too much control?”

In the post, Gillmor warns that putting too much of your “persona” — data about your friends, your “likes,” your interests and demographics — in a large social-networking service may be handing over too much control over your privacy without much in return. He’s correct, and it’s a key ongoing topic of the Information Valet Project. It’s also a key challenge addressed by our call for the formation of a global Information Trust Association, which would help establish protocols and opt-in business rules for trust, privacy, identity and information commerce on the web. I replied:

Dan:

Responding to your last paragraph: In a more detailed post I’m sure you would have mentioned Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM work at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. Broadly, what we need is an infrastructure that supports multiple places where you can lodge your “persona” (demographic and personal data), and which vouch for you as you use resources on the web. Today Facebook Connect is the default commercial identity provider for the web. Clearly G+ is making a play to be No. 2, and the fact that Facebook blocked it is at one level a welcome sign of competition.

What we need is for there to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of identity service providers — so that users can choose the one they are most comfortable with. These could be banks, telcoms, ISPs, publishers, affinity groups or even new enterprises (such as Azigo.com or Personal.com) formed for this purpose. The key issue is that they be willing — and able — to cross-authenticate their users so that they are silos, but silos which are unwalled from the user perspect.

We’re in the early stages of a four-party approach to trust, privacy, identity and information commerce — users, the user agent who helps with identity, the outfits that rely on the trust provided by the user agent (retail and content websites, eventually health-care providers perhaps) and a fourth party — the service which authenticates all of this activity.

The fourth party — the authenticator — best not be a for-profit or government entity. I’ve sketched out an idea for a global Information Trust Association which starts to get at a possible solution.  And the white paper http://www.papertopersona.org details the idea.

Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., a group of about 15 people met to work on a response to the Obama administration’s call for a private-sector let approach to Internet federated identity. They were responding to the National Strategy for Trusted identities in Cyberspace.  The government effort may be a catalyst for the work you are asking about.

– bill densmore
http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/Disclosure

With Facebook and Google-Plus now dueling for your ‘persona’ — is it time for the Information Trust Association?

Arizona State journalism professor and Knight chair holder Dan Gillmor is calling for an effort to “federate” identity management on the web:

“What I’d like to see, and would support with my money, is a collection of open-source, community-driven, federated services that achieved the same goals without putting our data and content into the hands of a few large and increasingly powerful companies. I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this. Are there enough of us to matter? And if so, are developers listening?”

He wrote that as the last paragraph to a blog post at The Guardian (U.K.) entitled: “Google+ forces us to question who owns our digital identity: Are enthusiastic users of social networking sites giving up too much control?”

In the post, Gillmor warns that putting too much of your “persona” — data about your friends, your “likes,” your interests and demographics — in a large social-networking service may be handing over too much control over your privacy without much in return.

He’s correct, and it’s a key ongoing topic of the Information Valet Project. It’s also a key challenge addressed by our call for the formation of a global Information Trust Association, which would help establish protocols and opt-in business rules for trust, privacy, identity and information commerce on the web.

I replied to Dan’s post:

Responding to your last paragraph: In a more detailed post I’m sure you would have mentioned Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM work at the Berkman Center at Harvard University.

Broadly, what we need is an infrastructure that supports multiple places where you can lodge your “persona” (demographic and personal data), and which vouch for you as you use resources on the web. Today Facebook Connect is the default commercial identity provider for the web. Clearly G+ is making a play to be No. 2, and the fact that Facebook blocked it is at one level a welcome sign of competition.

What we need is for there to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of identity service providers — so that users can choose the one they are most comfortable with. These could be banks, telcoms, ISPs, publishers, affinity groups or even new enterprises (such as Azigo.com or Personal.com) formed for this purpose. The key issue is that they be willing — and able — to cross-authenticate their users so that they are silos, but silos which are unwalled from the user perspect.

We’re in the early stages of a four-party approach to trust, privacy, identity and information commerce — users, the user agent who helps with identity, the outfits that rely on the trust provided by the user agent (retail and content websites, eventually health-care providers perhaps) and a fourth party — the service which authenticates all of this activity.

The fourth party — the authenticator — best not be a for-profit or government entity. I’ve sketched out an idea for a global Information Trust Association (http://www.infotrust.org) which starts to get at a possible solution. And the white paper http://www.papertopersona.org details the idea.

Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., a group of about 15 people met to work on a response to the Obama administration’s call for a private-sector let approach to Internet federated identity. They were responding to the National Strategy for Trusted identities in Cyberspace. The government effort may be a catalyst for the work you are asking about.

Web would benefit from indentity service not ‘owned by a single company’ says Google chairman

Eric Schmidt

Eric Scmidt

Writing at the All Things Digital (ATD) tech blog site, John Paczkowski quotes Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in seeming to support the premise of a non-profit Information Trust Association consortium — creating a new web infrastructure for trust, identity and commerce that isn’t controlled by a single company. Schmidt was speaking in Q&A format at a May 31 event organized by ATD.

In context, Schmidt was discussing the importance of user identity as a web service, because “in the online world you need to know who you are dealing with.” His remarks also came a minute or so after he said he admired some of what Facebook has done. Facebook’s “Facebook Connect” service is used by thousands of websites to provide single-sign-on identity. As quoted by Paczkowski, Schmidt added: “Historically, on the Internet such a fundamental service wouldn’t be owned by a single company. I think the industry would benefit from an alternative to that . . . . “

Paczkowski’s post is HERE. Schmidt was at the D9 Conference at Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. There are video exerpts, but the part quoted by Packowski of the Schmidt interview by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher didn’t make the edit for the video archive.

Android as a moat protecting Google’s (advertising) castle; “advisor-tising” and the Infovalet

InfoValet mark

Infovalet mark

We exchange email yesterday with my CircLabs Inc. colleague, Jeff Vander Clute, about a blog post written by venture capitalist Bill Gurley. Gurley’s post  (LINK) argues that Google is giving away the Android operating system — and many things around it — because no one can compete with free and the mass adoption of these free services is making Google’s advertising business unassailable.

Vander Clute remarked about Gurley’s thesis:

Fascinating points leading up to the legal destruction of wealth. It stands  to reason that the marginal cost of software development going to zero in the  long run means upside going to zero. Entrenched players for whom software > development is cheap or a byproduct can choose to give away a version of  *your* product for free or less than free.

Right. So one begins to realize this essential truth — Google is neither a technology company, nor a search company. It has become a marketing company. Currently its business is the selling of advertising. It didn’t start out that way. It started out intending the organize the world’s information and make it useful and accessible. But now Wall Street expects it to feed its advertising juggernaut first.

For the advertising to remain effective, Google is going to have to learn more and more about us. The looming battle: On what terms does it learn about us and operate in what I’ve begun to call the “advisor-tising” space? For Google the engineering and software — Android, maps, apps, wallets — is now focused on drawing more and more of us in, and learning more and more about us, so that we can be better and better packaged and presented to people who want to sell us something.

At least in the world I come from, there is the intention to provide a service — civic information — that rides atop advertising and is served by it rather than vice versa. At least that’s been an aspiration for the news industry and the continuing focus of its best thinkers.

The good news: Gradually, Google — and Facebook — are going to figure out that being the “infovalet” requires a new kind of trust relationship with the user if you want to remain their most-favored agent. And that will involve providing something of value beyond a lot of free, ad-supported services. How about news? Google has for now one of the must trusted and recognized brands in the world. It will need to adopt the role of infovalet to keep that enviable position.

Figuring out that relationship is the next phase of the web and what fascinates me and why I crafted our RJI white paper as “Paper to Persona.” And it’s a playing field where news organizations have strength — if they can just learn to use technology as adroitly and innovatively as do Facebook, Google and Amazon.