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The Changing Landscape of News
by
Posted On April 2, 2007
Several recent announcements from news providers have caught my attention and caused me to reflect on the many changes we've experienced with news—from both the producing and consuming sides. It's a topic that I've been chewing over for several years. A confluence of factors has lead to a continuously changing landscape for how we get our news, including new players, new partnerships, new technologies, and changing expectations.

For example, many newspapers are now experimenting with variations of hybrid print/online models. Personally, I find the news delivery vehicles to be quite complementary, and I want both. While I get a tremendous amount of my daily news online, I still subscribe to and enjoy my print newspaper. (I may be a dying breed, however.) As syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington put it in a recent blog post, "So stop writing teary-eyed eulogies for newspapers. The only thing dead is the either/or nature of the musty print vs. online debate. … The hybrid future is kicking down the door."

Examples of some of these hybrid experiments caught my eye. The McClatchy Co., the third largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., has announced it will provide international news for the Yahoo! News platform. The project, to be called Trusted Voices, will offer in-depth perspectives and coverage from McClatchy foreign correspondents based in select regions, including Iraq, the Middle East, China, and Latin America. The coverage will include traditional news stories from McClatchy newspapers and will further tap the regional expertise of the correspondents through exclusive blog reports designed to guide readers in understanding the news from these regions. It is scheduled to launch early in 2Q 2007.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT) provides news stories, photos, and graphics via Voxant's TheNewsRoom portal, which just officially launched. Voxant's Viral Syndication Network is designed to make it easy for news publishers to distribute fully licensed video, print, audio, and still-photo content to thousands of Web sites and blogs across the Web. The content may be obtained from TheNewsRoom and redistributed to an infinite number of sites through "viral mashing," Voxant's proprietary process of embedding news content and advertising.

Other participants in Voxant's TheNewsRoom include the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, PR Newswire, Business Wire, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and The Denver Post.

These are great ways for McClatchy and other news organizations to extend their distribution channels and to build upon the diverse content they offer. (And, of course, it offers a way to replace revenues lost from declining subscriptions and print advertising.) Online news syndication is clearly a growing market.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal implemented a major redesign that enables its print and online products to work better together and to operate as complementary rather than competing.

And, the smart newspapers and news sites are finding creative ways to leverage valuable blog content and contributions from independent reporters and citizens on their own sites. Here are just some of the recent examples I've noticed.

The Gannett newspaper chain is now incorporating elements of reader-created citizen journalism. Its USATODAY.com site just relaunched with new social networking features and the ability for readers to contribute comments, reviews, photos, and more.

The Associated Press is now collaborating with NowPublic.com, a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, that claims to be the world's largest participatory news network with more than 60,000 contributors from 140 countries. The initiative is designed to bring citizen content into AP's news gathering.

Another project is NewAssignment.Net, which calls itself "an experiment in open-source reporting." It is partially funded by Reuters. NewAssignment.Net is collaborating with Wired magazine on a new "crowdsourcing" experiment for journalism called Assignment Zero.

Reuters also has a partnership with Yahoo! News to showcase photos and videos submitted by the public.

Last week's NewsBreak (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=35755) covered Congoo, a startup that has forged agreements with many subscription-based news sites to provide limited, free introductory access to articles. It recently introduced its News Circles feature to let users build custom news portals.

Finally, here's an interesting twist on changes to the creation of news. Thomson Financial is reportedly finishing the development of a global news service targeted at financial professionals. But, here's the surprising part: The Financial Times reported that Thomson is using technology that allows computers to "write" basic stories. "The plan is to have about a third of the stories automatically generated by computers from standardised earnings releases, a third of the stories will come from news partnerships such as with local language news services and the rest will come from Thomson's own network of reporters."

Even more interesting is that this follows the move by The Thomson Corp. to dismantle its Thomson Business Intelligence operation. (For details, see our January NewsBreak: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=19055.) It plans to discontinue TBI News Research (a spinoff of Dialog NewsRoom) by the end of 2007, and it is currently in the middle of discussions to sell NewsEdge. Watch for our reports on these upcoming developments.

So, we're seeing a lot of experimenting with different production and distribution models for news. Changes are certainly in the wind—no (April) fooling!


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.



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