Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Tyranny of Structure

Posted on | June 17, 2006 | No Comments

The disaggregation of the media business quickens astonishingly. It’s one thing to blog and create a community around your ideas and writings or podcasts. It quite another to create your own publishing outlet–with staff and all. Yet from one flows the next.

Take Chi-Town Daily News. This is a seven-month-old site by and for Chicago residents and, presumably, Chicago ex-pats. It’s run by Geoff Dougherty, editor of the Daily News and CEO of PublicMedia, Inc. Is this some 22-year-old new-college grad running this out of his parents basement while he looks for a real job? Hardly. He’s a 15-year veteran journalist – twice nominated for the Pulitzer–who worked at the Chicago Tribune and Miami Herald. He’s also got backing from Stephen Doig, the Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University.

He’s got a little investment and a lotta heart. The business model is slow to take. They serve Google ads and are starting to pick up local dollars. It’s only a matter of time before this kind of micro-publishing becomes viable for small groups. (Hell, who would have guessed that auctioning off crap online would be such a huge business??)

Geoff tells me his goal is to have citizen journalist correspondents in every Chicago zip code. Think about that: most major daily newspapers claim community coverage but most reporters live in the suburbs and commute in. He’s looking for people living in, invested in and plugged in to their communities. Simple and brilliant.

The Chi-Town Daily News also has a really clever sports report, done by Mike Maguire, Mike DePilla and Andrew Seidler, who use a single camera and mic. The file is hosted on YouTube. Simple, less flashy but far more entertaining than ESPN…and certainly far more visceral to the Chicago fan.

This is where the tyranny of structure comes into place and could quicken the disaggregation of mainstream media. In an integrated media company, every new online project requires a business requirements document and weeks or months of delay. Not so outside the mainstream media. You can create your site or blog in minutes for free. If you have a camera, suddenly you’re Dan Rather. A microphone, you’re Edward R. Murrow. The only catch is developing audience, and that tactic is getting more and more sophisticated.

I gave a speech on this topic last fall to the Society for Professional Journalism Conference in Las Vegas. More on that one later.

So hats off to Geoff and the New-New Journalism.

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