Oktober 10th, 2015

Please note that this Blog will expire due to my retirement end of June latest at the end of the year.

Many thanks to all of you who shared links and discussions concerning the future of publishing.
I wish you all the best in these challenging times.


Into the brave new digital order

Juli 23rd, 2015

In conversation with Alan Rusbridger, former Editor of The Guardian. By SASHI KUMAR



If we look at some of the premises of the shift to digital, and if digital were to play out fully in journalism as well, it would be a big departure in the way you narrativise, in the way you tell your story. For instance, would the linear form of story telling be valid any more?

Well, I don’t want to fall in the trap of… a lot of people who come to these things want A or B. You can’t say that linear writing is gone forever because sometimes the most efficient way of telling a story for somebody who’s sitting on a bus is to tell a story; a story is a very effective way of telling it. For another person, you can imagine something more like a tree — you can come in, and you can follow links, and you can see what most interests you about this story and that would be non-linear. Or, you can imagine a blog which lasts all day, which has a sort of temporal plane if we were to follow the subject for a period of time. Or, it may be you didn’t deal with words at all, like I was doing yesterday, you just draw things; or construct something which has filing cards, where the story has a kind of longer tail and you can explore it through different ways of categorising it. So, it’s not that linear story telling will go, but it’s just that it will be one technique amongst many.

You have been speaking about an open journalistic structure, or framework. For instance, you said you’d like The Guardian to be a site from which you can seek out the best news stories even on the sites of other news organisations. Do you think eventually there will be a very thin line between an information aggregator or search engine like Google and a journalistic site, not perhaps of the optimal variety like The Guardian, but say sundry others? Wouldn’t journalism then resemble a Google Plus kind of information seeking?

Well, Google is algorithms and we’re human. I think that’s still quite a big distinction. Algorithms are better at some things and the human brain is better at others. If all you want is an algorithm, then Google will beat us every time. It’s absolutely, astonishingly brilliant in what it does. But, if I wake up in the morning and I think what do I need to read today, Google’s probably not going to tell me the five things that I need. But Andrews Sparrow, our political correspondent, will say: I’ve read these things. This is interesting for the following reason. So Andrew Sparrow is being useful. And he’ll do the same thing at lunch time and again at six o clock, and that’s the only thing I need to read.

Is confidentiality of source under very dire challenge now?

Yes, yes. Mobile phones are tracking devices. They are microphones, they are listening devices. They are an unbelievable weapon of intrusion into our lives. And so, if anybody is interested enough to find out that you and I are having this conversation, then if you’ve got your mobile phone in your pocket, it would be a matter of seconds to work out that we were together at this moment. Or, they can follow our metadata, and they can follow our texts and our emails. So we are in a world in which the assurance a journalist gives to a source, that I won’t reveal who you are, is meaningless; in a world where governments say we are not going to respect that in future. With the British government, the implications might be that you just lose your job. If I am going into Pakistan or Russia or China, and the dissidents are going to talk to me, then lives are going to be at risk. So, I do think that Western democracies, in so cavalierly abandoning the protection that journalists offer sources, are setting a terrible example for the rest of the world.

Sashi Kumar is Chairman, Media Development Foundation and Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.«


Is the media becoming a wire service?

Juli 23rd, 2015

by Ezra Klein

But my guess is that within three years, it will be normal for news organizations of even modest scale to be publishing to some combination of their own websites, a separate mobile app, Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat, RSS, Facebook Video, Twitter Video, YouTube, Flipboard, and at least one or two major players yet to be named. The biggest publishers will be publishing to all of these simultaneously.

This sounds stranger than it will feel: Publishing to these other platforms will be automated. Reporters will write their articles, and their content management system will smoothly hand them to Facebook, Snapchat, or Apple News. There’s nothing new here, really — this is already how RSS feeds work.

But there will be more of them, and they will matter much more. The RSS audience is small. The off-platform audience will be huge. The publishers of tomorrow will become like the wire services of today, pushing their content across a large number of platforms they don’t control and didn’t design.


London hosts global media expansion as US companies beef up presence

Juli 14th, 2015

By Emily Bell

New York Times leases Bloomsbury office space, Buzzfeed UK expands and HuffPo growth continues

In one of the most closely watched developments in web publishing, the New York Times is expanding its European presence in general and its London presence in particular, after leasing new office space in Bloomsbury, to accommodate up to 100 staff, and adding significant new numbers on both editorial and commercial sides of the business.

London is playing an interesting role as a battleground for growth which is gripping both the native web businesses. The Huffington Post’s British site, now an established part of the London scene, was in fact only set up four years ago. BuzzFeed UK, an even more recent entrant into the market, has added dozens of staff and former Guardian deputy editor Janine Gibson takes over as editor-in-chief in September, as a marker of serious intent. The NYT seems to be attempting a reverse BuzzFeed, in that it is bolting a more viral news operation on to its credentials for serious journalism, while BuzzFeed has fine-tuned the business of growth and is now reverse-engineering animal videos and dog news letters (yes, it has one of those) into a much more serious journalistic mission.

How to Survive the Death of the Book

Juni 27th, 2015

By Matt MacInnis

It looks like the software industry is eating publishing for breakfast. To survive, every publisher must find its path to reinvention as a software company or else decline into irrelevance. If you once sold books to customers to help them solve problems like getting a degree, to entertain them or to help them do their job better, you now had better find a way to do it ten times more effectively with software. Otherwise someone else will. The flaccid argument that software companies don’t understand content is mere hubris.

Of course, this isn’t new news. But the software landscape, and what’s possible within it, is in a perpetual state of new. It expands every year, which makes ›becoming a software company‹ a notoriously difficult thing. New technologies haven’t changed the publishers, they’ve changed the customers. And those fast-changing customer expectations set the rules, not the start-ups themselves. …

So what’s new? Over the last five years, software products have become increasingly integrated and narrower in scope. They’ve moved entirely to a subscription model, and they’re mobile-first from the start.


After the Web was Over

Juni 23rd, 2015

… It is all about how and why and where we carry our massive computing power around with us. I am typing this on an iPad Air, which is a powerful machine. Next to it stands a laptop which was as powerful as my original iPad of three years ago. … Are they the foundations of Web disruption?

… When the machines in those young hands become as powerful as today’s portable devices – and there is nothing more certain than the fact that they will, time and screen size will dictate a major change in modality. We shall all be App publishers then.

But perhaps not publishers of Apps as we now know them. Think for a start that these Apps will have to be solutions engines. They will need to customize to user practice. They will need Cloud support for memory and computation. They will need to be up to date at all times. … Above all, though, I would wager that in this phase we do cross a last frontier. While we provide the shell, the storage and some algorithms, the reader/ user populates it and shares it, becoming in every sense the ›publisher‹ in the process.«



Mai 18th, 2015

by Brian O’Leary …

[The 2015 Publishers Forum featured four conference themes – strategy and goals, the role of information technology, customer focus and new business models. Closing the conference, I moderated a panel that considered those themes from the standpoints of a publishing startup, a digital-only imprint and a publishing innovation lab.

Titled ›Outlook: Perspectives On The Road Ahead‹, the panel explored what works, and what doesn’t work, for those laboring at the leading edges of our industry. To frame the discussion, I provided a brief overview that returned to my persistent call for a shift in our approach to creating, managing and distributing content. Those remarks are presented here.]

Three years ago, the first time I joined the conversation at Publishers Forum, I gave a talk titled ›Context First‹. In it, I talked about the ways that moving from a mindset of ›product‹ – a book – to ›service‹ or ›solutions‹ would change at least four things for publishers:

– …

So, that was three years ago.

Two years ago, Helmut von Berg asked me to develop a new talk, ›Disaggregating supply‹, that built upon some of these ideas. Toward the end of the talk, I invoked the words of a colleague and friend, John Maxwell, who had suggested that ›we needn’t take boundedness and completeness as a prescription for what serious media ought to be. Our challenge is to look beyond that.‹

“Context first” had proposed that we not use containers as the primary source of information. Instead, I asked that we consider them as vehicles to transmit what Hugh McGuire calls an “internally complete representation.” But, “internally complete” is not the same as “complete”.

I argued then that we’re inevitably moving toward what I called a “pre-book world”: a living representation of the development, refinement and extension of a particular work. That’s what we get with the web. At various points, an object – a book or an eBook, as examples – may be rendered, but as a subset of the greater representation.

Last year, I joined the conversation at Publishers Forum to talk about what I called ›An architecture of collaboration‹ – 12 things everyone here can do to prepare for a web-enabled future. Those 12 things included calls to:
– …

More than thirty-five years have passed since punk poet laureate Joe Strummer sang ›If you’ve been trying for years, we’ve already heard your song‹. Maybe that’s the case with my ideas, as well. To safeguard against that, we assembled a panel of three people working at the forefront of publishing innovation – a Publishers Forum collection of ›courageous new publishers‹, including:

Zoe Beck, Culturbooks
Benjamin Wüstenhagen, K-Lab Berlin
Jörg Rheinboldt, Axel Springer Plug and Play

A set of questions about the opportunities and challenges inherent in working at the leading edge of publishing guided that conversation. The questions were:
1. …
A future post will capture the content of that discussion.


Up and About in Amsterdam and London

Mai 17th, 2015

… they were around those tables because of a shift in power that has taken place throughout the media, and I slowly realised how little we have taken that shift into account and what it means for creativity in our businesses.

And who in our information business is organising this new creativity? …

If this is the case then some will feel that the creative role of the Data Architect is grossly under-recognised. I would agree, though the power in these roles, derived at once from a networked economy and from the rapid proliferation of intelligent ways of organising data like MarkLogic, is shown both in the scramble to recruit talent in this field and by the growing influence it has on budgets and expenditure. And this also raises a worry. If these people are the creative cadre of the future, are information businesses exposing them sufficiently to their customers. And given that customers never entirely told the truth in the long history of market research (a bit like political opinion polling?) do the designers of our solutions get enough observation time inside the customer context to discern where value may lie? We have the project development strategies (Agile et al) and we have the tools and structures, but do we have the evidence upon which to make decisions that will add value in contexts where our customers expect ever more customized responses from us?«


Facebook post by Wolfgang Blau (Director of Digital Strategy, The Guardian, London)

Mai 15th, 2015

»I had (the privilege) to give a couple of interviews to media journalists these last days and keep wondering: why are eight out of ten questions about the future of journalism predictably negative and why do they seem to keep asking the same questions over the last seven to eight years?
Here is the usual set of questions posed by so many European media journalists:


The Deniability of the Blog

Mai 12th, 2015

»Back in Germany after a weekend, I find that everything has changed. …

The speaker of the event, for me, was Anya Smit, the challenging university librarian from Utrecht. Designing a library which will soon be an entirely digital concept, she and her colleagues set aside the format limitations of ›book‹, or rather reconstruct them so that a blog becomes a ›book‹. I loved the openness of her approach and her disdain for limitations as to what a library might contain and how its knowledge exploration might be bounded. … in many ways this made an admirable book-end to Anya Smit’s talk, illustrating how completely we have removed ourselves from the age of format and how completely the chain of scholarly communication in a digitally networked world values contributions by impact and timing, and not by process and format.

And will this be exacerbated by the impact of Open Access? Deni pointed to the relative lack of impact of OA on publisher revenues, less than 1 % of which were derived from author publication fees. Given that publishers were the recipients of prophecies of doom and extinction from OA fundamentalists like Professor Stevan Harnad some years back, I had the temerity to tweet this at #fiesoleretreat15, wondering if that great warrior was prepared to acknowledge predictions unmet. I had the reply immediately: ›umm,where did I predict OA by (any date)?-Did say it could be provided overnight, was greatly overdue, optimal, and inevitable‹. Which demonstrates both the glories of the global conferencing of Twitter and my need to apologise to the Professor. I clearly misunderstood him to mean that it was coming before it was overtaken by other inevitabilities like the death of the journal, the end of the article and the decay of peer review!