Why RJI is helping to build a non-profit consortium to build a market for news and digital information

Or: Concerning the Future of News: A brief discussion

Past U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been, fatally, about making profits for themselves and there backers —   rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

By Bill Densmore
RJI Fellow

Consumers need a simple, secure way to access, share and pay for valuable information from multiple services and sources. News organizations – legacy and new – would like to be the best-possible source for those users to receive a timely diet of information that matters.

Now, people on the go want to efficiently access the broadest range of multimedia content customized to their needs – in a single, simple action. Achieving this simplicity will require the coordination of publishers, content licensors, aggregator and usage trackers, a range of stakeholders currently unfocused on such collective activity.

When it comes to the future of the news business and, maybe, journalism writ large, there are few folks who would argue that the interplay between and focus on three mega-issues, all sharing a common first letter and perhaps more than that — personalization, privacy and payment — will determine a great number of things. Sustainability is at the top of the list.

If the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) could throw a switch or press a button and create an organization that could weave those issues together and serve as a clearinghouse for payments, a protector of privacy and technological whiz kid for personalization, life would be good.

But there’s no switch to throw or button to push. The amount of coordination, collaboration and overall strategic thinking required is significant. But that doesn’t make the problem go away or lessen the urgency. So, in the spirit of setting out on a long journey, RJI takes today a first step:   Helping defining a solution and organizing a first step toward making it real.

In the last decade, technology-based companies such as Google and Facebook have invented and grown the digital-advertising business, leaving traditional publishers far behind. And Apple has credit-card-based accounts of over 800 million iTunes users. Many experts have concluded the news industry cannot compete for the attention of the public without dramatic new approaches.

Three views:

  • “If you’re going to base your entire business on advertising, we all know how the story ends,” Raju Narisetti, senior VP of strategy for News Corp., said in DigiDay podcast posted June 19. “Growth in digital audience does not equal growth in revenue. That was a classic mistake in digital we all made: thinking we could grow the audience significantly, and somewhere along the way we’ll make more money digitally than we make in print. That has turned out to be completely not true. The supply of journalism on the Web is infinite.”
  • “I think the advertising business has been amazing as far as supporting journalism in the U.S. since World War II,” David Gehring, a former Google executive now with The Guardian U.K., said earlier this year. “We need another economic model that will support journalism in the digital economy for another 100 years. As so it has to be a viable thing for both the platforms and the publisher.”
  • “There is a black hole in the internet universe that is sucking most of the revenue into it,” John Paton, outgoing CEO of newspaper publisher Digital First Media, said of the largest search providers and social networks. “They have 70% of the mobile ad market. And that is only one of the challenges of the industry. The other is simple; the publishers know next to nothing about their customers. And what little they know, they are giving away for free.” Paton added from a stage in Oslo, Norway in mid-June 2015: “Our customer knowledge at this stage, is relatively zero. Legacy business knowledge has not given us the level of data we need to function. We have to rethink those arrangements, because we are just giving it away for easy money. Facebook is building a walled garden, and we are providing them with our data.”

Thus, we may now be at an inflection point. Legacy news organizations realize they cannot continue to exist in shrinking silos with customer relationships controlled by others. They must adopt common technologies, business rules and standards for managing user identity, privacy, trust and information commerce if they want to have the collective authority and scale of the platform companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

The challenge for news and other publishers is not one of technology, but of coordination. In a report, “From Persona to Payment: A Status Report on the News Ecosystem, and a Challenge to Create the Next One,” RJI fellow Bill Densmore reaches eight conclusions, including these two:

  • The news industry lacks a system for variable pricing and exchange of individual items of news content in real time. Yet in the last 10 years, the advertising industry has innovated sophisticated “programmatic” technologies that allow in milliseconds the variable pricing, bidding, selection, tracking and billing of advertisements to targeted, unique consumers.

  • The news industry also lacks a common system for single-sign on or user authentication across multiple news websites. Yet in the last 10 years, Tier 1 U.S. universities running on the Internet 2 network have used open-source Shibboleth and SAML trust technology to achieve single login across 100 independent campuses and institutions.

The original architecture of the Internet identified connected machines by something called an IP number. But it provided no method for exchanging the identity of individual users. User names and passwords provided an initial solution. Then Netscape Communications Corp. invented “cookies” – the idea that a tiny file on your computer could associate your computer with previous activity.   Banks and new financial-service companies introduced ways for using credit cards to purchase online.

User names, cookies and credit-card numbers have enabled remarkable services and features. They have turned the Internet from an academic and military experiment into a vital information superhighway of commerce and convenience. But they have also created challenges to user privacy. And payment services don’t yet economically work for aggregating small bits of information from many sources into a personalized service.

An important reason why legacy news organizations may have failed to embrace some protocols and platforms may be because those platforms were dominated or controlled by a for-profit, investor-owned entity. Either this engendered mistrust from the very start among parties who aren’t sure whose interests were paramount (such as Microsoft Passport), or the equity owners reached irreconcilable differences (as with New Century Network and Newsright).

That’s not what the ITE would be, or do.

The notion of non-equity ownership, shared governance and collaboration in getting the ITE going is core to the idea. It is designed in clear contrast to the emergence of a small number of proprietary Internet “platform” companies – Google, Facebook, Apple and others — that are dominating advertising and commerce, and an alternative to failed U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been, fatally, about making profits for themselves and there backers —   rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

The Future of News: An unwalled garden where the network members –- not the network -– make money?

The notion of non-equity ownership, shared governance and collaboration in getting the ITE going is core to the idea. It is designed in clear contrast to the emergence of a small number of proprietary Internet “platform” companies – Google, Facebook, Apple and others — that are dominating advertising and commerce, and an alternative to failed U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been – fatally – about making profits, rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

By Bill Densmore

Consumers need a simple, secure way to access, share and pay for valuable information from multiple services and sources. News organizations – legacy and new – would like to be the best-possible source for those users to receive a timely diet of information that matters.

Now, people on the go want to efficiently access the broadest range of multimedia content customized to their needs – in a single, simple action. Achieving this simplicity will require the coordination of publishers, content licensors, aggregator and usage trackers, a range of stakeholders currently unfocused on such collective activity.

In the last decade, technology-based companies such as Google and Facebook have invented and grown the digital-advertising business, leaving traditional publishers far behind.   And Apple has credit-card-based accounts of over 800 million iTunes users. Many experts have concluded the news industry cannot compete for the attention of the public without dramatic new approaches.

Three views:

  • “If you’re going to base your entire business on advertising, we all know how the story ends,” Raju Narisetti, senior VP of strategy for News Corp., said in DigiDay podcast posted June 19. “Growth in digital audience does not equal growth in revenue. That was a classic mistake in digital we all made: thinking we could grow the audience significantly, and somewhere along the way we’ll make more money digitally than we make in print. That has turned out to be completely not true. The supply of journalism on the Web is infinite.”
  • “I think the advertising business has been amazing as far as supporting journalism in the U.S. since World War II,” David Gehring, a former Google executive now with The Guardian U.K., said earlier this year. “We need another economic model that will support journalism in the digital economy for another 100 years. As so it has to be a viable thing for both the platforms and the publisher.”
  • “There is a black hole in the internet universe that is sucking most of the revenue into it,” John Paton, outgoing CEO of newspaper publisher Digital First Media, said of the largest search providers and social networks. “They have 70% of the mobile ad market. And that is only one of the challenges of the industry. The other is simple; the publishers know next to nothing about their customers. And what little they know, they are giving away for free.” Paton added from a stage in Oslo, Norway in mid-June: “Our customer knowledge at this stage, is relatively zero. Legacy business knowledge has not given us the level of data we need to function. We have to rethink those arrangements, because we are just giving it away for easy money. Facebook is building a walled garden, and we are providing them with our data.”

Thus, we may now be at an inflection point. Legacy news organizations realize they cannot continue to exist in shrinking silos with customer relationships controlled by others. They must adopt common technologies, business rules and standards for managing user identity, privacy, trust and information commerce if they want to have the collective authority and scale of the platform companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. The challenge for news and other publishers is not one of technology, but of coordination. In a report, “From Persona to Payment: A Status Report on the News Ecosystem, and a Challenge to Create the Next One,” RJI fellow Bill Densmore reaches eight conclusions, including these two:

  • The news industry lacks a system for variable pricing and exchange of individual items of news content in real time.       Yet in the last 10 years, the advertising industry has innovated sophisticated “programmatic” technologies that allow in milliseconds the variable pricing, bidding, selection, tracking and billing of advertisements to targeted, unique consumers.
  • The news industry also lacks a common system for single-sign on or user authentication across multiple news websites. Yet in the last 10 years, Tier 1 U.S. universities running on the Internet 2 network have used open-source Shibboleth and SAML trust technology to achieve single login across 100 independent campuses and institutions.

The original architecture of the Internet identified connected machines by something called an IP number. But it provided no method for exchanging the identity of individual users.   User names and passwords provided an initial solution. Then Netscape Communications Corp. invented “cookies” – the idea that a tiny file on your computer could associate your computer with previous activity.   Banks and new financial-service companies introduced ways for using credit cards to purchase online.

User names, cookies and credit-card numbers have enabled remarkable services and features. They have turned the Internet from an academic and military experiment into a vital information superhighway of commerce and convenience. But they have also created challenges to user privacy. And payment services don’t yet economically work for aggregating small bits of information from many sources into a personalized service.

An important reason why legacy news organizations may have failed to embrace some protocols and platforms may be because those platforms were dominated or controlled by a for-profit, investor-owned entity. Either this engendered mistrust from the very start among parties who aren’t sure whose interests were paramount (such as Microsoft Passport), or the equity owners reached irreconcilable differences (as with New Century Network and Newsright).   That’s not what the ITE would be, or do.

The notion of non-equity ownership, shared governance and collaboration in getting the ITE going is core to the idea. It is designed in clear contrast to the emergence of a small number of proprietary Internet “platform” companies – Google, Facebook, Apple and others — that are dominating advertising and commerce, and an alternative to failed U.S. news-industry collaborations, which have been – fatally – about making profits, rather than about creating a marketplace where all can profit.

Interviewees for “Persona to Payment” who expressed willingness to consider participating in Information Trust Exchange steering committee

By Bill Densmore

When interviewed for the report, “From Persona to Payment” during  2014, the following 33 individuals expressed willingness to consider participating as founding steering-committee for envisioning and planning the Information Trust Exchange.  All affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement of the Information Trust Exchange by the entities cited. 

Alphabetical order

  • Abernathy, Penelope Muse, Knight Chair Digital Media Economics, University of North Carolina.
  • Anderson, Bill, retired CTO, Seattle SeaFirst Bank (Bank of America)
  • Blevins, Ron, vp, Digital Strategy Novus Media division of Omnicom
  • Calhoun, Kristin, Executive Director, The Public Media Platform (NPR-PBS)
  • Chua, Reginald, Executive Editor, Editorial Operations, Thomson Reuters
  • Contreras, Mark, Calkins Media CEO, ex-American Press Institute chairman
  • Costello, Dave, technology committee chair, PAGE Co-Operative
  • Cotter, Dan, former Executive Director, New England Newspaper & Press Association
  • Davis, Kevin, Executive Director, Investigative News Network
  • Eskelsen, Todd, attorney, legal strategist for organization of Bluetooth SIG
  • Filloux, Federic, Monday Note columnist and digital-operations director, Group Les Echos, Paris
  • Fuerst, Mark, Innovation4Media (public broadcasting consultant)
  • Gehring, Dave, global alliances/partnerships, The Guardian, U.K.,   Silicon Valley
  • Getzendanner, Joel, Board Member, Fourth Sector Network, Olympia, Wash.
  • Hamilton, Jay, Stanford University journalism program, author: “All the News That’s Fit to Sell”
  • Houston, Brant, Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting, Univ. of Illinois U-C
  • Kaiser, Jo Ellen, Executive Director, The Media Alliance
  • Kaiser, Marty, Executive Editor (retired), Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • LaCroix, Patrick, Founder/Director, MediaID-Belgium
  • Miller, Linda Fantin, Director, Public Insight Network, American Public Media / MPR
  • Mulligan, Miranda, Creative  Director, NG Digital at the National Geographic Society
  • Nicol, David, Director, Information Trust Institute at Univ. of Ill.
  • Peters, Chuck, CEO, Source Media / The Gazette Co., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Picard, Robert, Research Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford Univ.
  • Raine, Lee, Director of Internet, Science and Technology Research, Pew Research Center
  • Reed, Drummond, Founder & CTO, Respect Network; founder, co-founder OpenID Foundation
  • Schubart, Bill, Founder, Vermont Journalism Trust; retired publishing & fulfillment entrepreneur
  • Seltzer, Wendy, Policy Counsel / tech/society domain lead, World Wide Web Consortium at MIT
  • Shackleford, Tiffany, Executive Director, Association of Alternative NewsMedia
  • Small, Jay, President, Informed Interactive division of Evening Post Industries
  • Stearns, Josh, Journalism Public Media Campaign Director, G.R. Dodge Foundation
  • Taysom, John, private media-tech investor, former head of Reuters Venture Fund
  • Trevethick, Paul, founder Bitsteam, Higgins Project and Azigo, Inc.

Key points about launching the Information Trust Exchange for publishers

 Core benefits for publishers

  • Source of deep user profile information
  • Standardized, shareable, with user permission
  • Take back control of customer information (from platforms)
  • Use it to build ‘network effect’ of sharing with fellow publishers

Why now?

  • One to many doesn’t work any more except at huge scale (Google, FB)
  • Even tech platforms don’t show the same thing to everyone
  • We have moved From Paper to Persona – a one-to-one world
  • Without user profile and interest data (“personas”), you are out of the money

What’s the end-user benefit?

  • Personalization that travels across a network of trusted content
  • A “one pass” for information; one account, one bill, one ID
  • Control over how personal info is used
  • Choice of service providers (“presenters”)

What’s needed now?

  • Federated authentication (single signon) for news
  • Personalization technology for content / lifestyle interests
  • A “viral growth” strategy   (share “personas”)
  • An “everybody wins” structure (nonprofit oversees)
  • Member grants for nonprofit; capital for development of for-profit services

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.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/mapping-digital-media-online-advertising-origins-evolution-and-impact-privacy

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