Tag Archives: identity

Why RJI is helping create 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.

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

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

Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt

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. He was responding to a question from Kara Swisher about why Google had not partnered with Facebook.

“”Facebook‘s done a number of things which I admire. Facebook can be understood as a great site to spend time with your friends and photos and postings and social updates. But another way to understand it is that it’s the first generally available way of disambiguating identity. And identity
is incredibly useful because in the online world, you need to know who
you’re dealing with. Historically on the Internet, such fundamental
services are not owned by a single company. They’re multiple sources. I
think the industry would benefit by having an alternative to that. From
Google’s perspective, if such an alternative existed, we would be able to
use that to make our search better, to give better recommendations for
YouTube, to do various things involving friends.”

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.

June 23-25 “congress” gathering aims to establish trust, identity, commerce services for news

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Three U.S. newspaper trade groups and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute are teaming up to seed ideas and a possible solution to how news and other information can be managed and sold online.  “From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information,” is being billed as a three-day “action congress” to discuss issues of trust, identity and Internet information commerce.

 The June 23-25 event at the University of Missouri-based research center will include unveiling of a 148-page business plan for a proposed news-industry collaborative, according to Bill Monroe, director of the Multistate Digital Task Force, an ad-hoc group formed by state press associations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa with support from several other state trade groups.

 Details of the public event, and links to participant registration, are at http://www.infotrust.org .

 “This is not a conference, or a summit,” says Bill Densmore, a consulting researcher to the Reynolds Journalism Institute. “ It’s a public congress of news and information service providers — organized by U.S. state press associations. The intention is to move beyond talk, and to launch one or more enterprises or collaboratives.” Reynolds is an ideas-experiments-research center affiliated with the nation’s oldest journalism school, at the University of Missouri.

 Densmore said the gathering has two intentions:

  •  Consider establishing a non-profit collaborative that will specify standards, platforms and protocols for a digital information marketplace; supporting investment and partnering with operating companies and,
  • Define and start raising money for an operating company or association that answers to, and primarily serves and benefits, all America’s newspapers — and is focused on profitably sharing, protecting and managing their digital content. Monroe, who is working from the Iowa Press Association in Des Moines, said the working name for the new entity is the American Newspaper Digital Access Corp.

“Newspapers are working to make the transition from a product-based culture — the daily paper — to a service-based one — helping people manage their privacy, identity and information needs in a web and mobile ecosystem awash with more information than we can intelligently assess,” says Densmore. “News organizations need to become our trusted  information valets  rather than our information gatekeepers.”

“From Blueprint to Build,” is an outgrowth of a December, 2008, summit also convened by the Reynolds Journalism Institute as part of a fellowship undertaken by Densmore called the Information Valet Project.

Trust, identity, commerce: Inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information

Trust, identity and commerce –they’re inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information. The Journalism (or Information) Trust Association proposal brings together three vital threads. Unless they are woven together, the Internet will fail to embody the best — or at least most useful — relationships of the physical world. READ MORE.