News Leadership 3.0

October 06, 2009

From ONA, a hot list

In a guest post, Reynolds Journalism Fellow Jacqui Banaszynski lists seven forecasts from the Online News Association’s annual convention

(Jacqui Banaszynski, my friend, fellow RJI fellow and Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism, brought back from ONA a nice list of items that may be among the next big things for online journalism.)

By Jacqui Banaszynski

The web-hip folks of the Online News Association were an oasis of optimism last weekend in the drought-stricken landscape of newspaper journalism.  ONA members, who celebrated their 10th anniversary at a sold-out conference in San Francisco, don’t seem to fear the future, as so many traditional journalists have come to do.

Not that the future is clear, even for the ONA crowd.  Before we even grasp Web 2.0, it’s being eclipsed by dreams of Web 3.0.  Social media is a “beast still to be understood,” says Facebook designer Lee Byron.  And Twitter has yet to make a profit.

“Trying to pick winners in the next five to 10 years of the media landscape is hard,” says Om Malik, founder of GigaOM Networks. “We don’t know what’s going to stick.”

With those caveats, below are a few forecasts gleaned from ONA, credited to those who made them.  They don’t represent the totality of intelligence at ONA - just the workshops I attended.  Please add any of your own below.  And this important consumer message: These are not rated or handicapped. Anything I once had was invested in newspapers and real estate, so you’re best making your own bets.

1. GoogleWave could be the next, well, Google. Barbara Iverson, a professor at Chicago’s Columbia College and publisher of says Google’s soon-to-be-released real-time sharing tool is the latest blockbuster in the communications journey that has taken us from phone to Napster to Facebook to Twitter. It will apparently make the hiccup of time spent waiting on Twitter or IMs seem limiting.

2. Facebook Connect got multiple bangs. (FYI, a “bang” is Yahoo-speak for what the rest of us call an exclamation point.) Salon editor Joan Walsh and social media consultant J.D. Lasica both predict it will be a powerful tool to build online communities around your product or message.  Their reasoning: It will lower hurdles to registration by letting people log in to your site directly through their Facebook accounts.  Those users will have real identities, boosting transparency, accountability and civility (and, I expect, making advertisers giddy).  And it will boost chances for viral distribution.

3. Twitter, already the stud of the online world, is taking steroids. Co-founder Evan Williams mentioned three specifics: Twitter lists to let you more easily aggregate and organize the Twitterverse, and send group messages; location information embedded into every tweet; and an as-yet-to-be-defined “reputation system” designed to make tweets more transparent and verifiable.

4. The New York Times is also pumping up its open source software, and inviting readers into the gym.  A document reader already lets readers access original source materials linked to a story.  What’s best, says information architect Elliott Malkin of is that those documents are wrapped in “a journalistic layer,”  such as a reporter’s explanation or editor’s synthesis.  Future versions will make it easier to sort and read both source documents and the journalistic annotations, Malkin says. But get this wiki-esque twist: readers will be able to add their own observations and questions directly into the document stream. Those comments will be moderated by the Times, but once approved, will no longer be segregated into a comments box.

5. Podcasting is all but dead. “It’s too hard to use, and growth has stopped,” says guru podcaster-turned-Tech TV guy Leo Laporte.

6. This from Lasica, without elaboration: By 2012, 95 percent of content on the Internet will be video.

7. Finally, women rock - and rule.  “Women are ahead of the general population in (Internet) use patterns,” says Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer.  Barely 10 years ago, Stone couldn’t square her single-working-mom life with the widespread sentiment that women would never be a force on the Web.  Now BlogHer - a company run by “three chicks with credit cards” - ranks No. 7 in overall use numbers among all blogs, Stone says. (It trumps Gawker.). BlogHer publishes 2,500 bloggers (and pays them a bit to boot) and reaches 15 million women a month.  Stone cited these stats from a 2009 survey the company commissioned: Of 109 million women in the U.S., 79 million are online. More than half of those use social media at least once a week.  And 85 percent of them have bought something based on the recommendation of a trusted blogger.  They continue to embrace “soft” lifestyle topics (BlogHer started with a handful of parenting blogs), but have what Stone calls an “unbelievable appetite ... for hard news.” Stone credits her traditional newspaper and CNN principles as core to the site’s success: Bloggers have to sign strict editorial guidelines.  Paid editors police the posts for everything from plagiarism to hate speech, and violators are booted.  BlogHer declines disguised marketing, or pay-for-post blogs. As Stone puts it: “You have to separate chocolate and peanut butter, church and state.”



Excellent summary. (Steve Myers at Poynter has his take on the conference, too:

And I like your description: “in the drought-stricken landscape of newspaper journalism.”

But as an ONA board member, I must point out that ONA is emphatically NOT a newspaper-focused organization. Only four of the 18 board members and officers currently work for newspaper companies, and I suspect this is true of the membership at large.

Ken. Thanks for comments and nice words. I realize ONA is not newspaper-focused. (Conference wouldn’t have been a sold-out gala if it were.) My point should have been clearer… that I found a refreshing big of energy and possibility in an otherwise fairly discouraging discussion that has been dominated by the newspaper industry crisis. (And, truth be told, it’s personally hard to see so many bright lights either leave newspapers or decline to go there in the first place.)

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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