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

What’s old is new again

Posted on | November 17, 2009 | 2 Comments

Summary: In a world of endless content creation and virtually unlimited storage capacity, there’s an enormous opportunity to repurpose existing content and make it compelling.

A few weeks back I wrote (in “The Future of News (is Pretty Clear)”) about Cody Brown of NYU and his compelling essay about the future of news and his Kommons.com and a vision about collective (automated) news gathering. In this reverie, there’s a world in which everybody’s content can be automatically mashed together to form smart, rich pods of information that go far beyond the traditional “report-post” paradigm. We’re pretty close now thanks to the semantic Web and things like Open Calais (this blog in fact features related posts courtesy of a useful WordPress plug in called Yet Another Related Posts Plugin… YARPP).

The day after I posted about Kommons, I saw an example of that vision, with my own content used by a complete stranger.

Click, post, aggregate, marvel

I was driving through downtown San Francisco on my way to Silicon Valley. Stopped at a light at Market Street, I saw an ambulance and a downed bicyclist. I pulled up my Blackberry, took a shot and sent it into the Twitpic ether. (Journalistic habits formed over a quarter century die really, really hard).

Later that day, a site called sf.streetsblog.org runs a story about the downed cyclist, written by an eyewitness and featuring that photo. As they say on the streets of San Francisco, “is that cool or what?”

We’re that close to having really intelligent content-mashing capability. It can be done today with a fair amount of elbow grease, but that process will be increasingly automated quickly. Feedly, for example, is a good example of where things are headed.

I’ve struggled for some time now to understand the consequences. There are two categories (at least) to consider:

  • Conventional “news.” If your future RSS feed for “San Francisco bicyclist safety” pulls in smart, multi-media content from independent sources without your having to write anything but those words, you’ll get amazingly rich information. Imagine the example above including the fire dispatch audio, the subsequent policy report and a Google map showing the impact on traffic.
  • Corporate marketing and communications. Most corporate news, especially that outside publicly traded companies, tied to product introduction. During the lulls between product launches, content creation continues, but it’s usually a bland recycling of existing content. How does the new paradigm intelligently repurpose that content, not just from a company’s site but those of its partners and customers? Hmmmm……

There will always be a component of public news and corporate information that garners a premium based on freshness. But in a world of immense content creation and immense storage capacity, there’s an enormous opportunity to re-purpose existing content and make it compelling.

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Comments

2 Responses to “What’s old is new again”

  1. Jackie Damian
    November 18th, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    Interesting, Brian. Of course, the one problem is that you weren’t credited, much less paid, for your photo of the downed cyclist. Information may “want to be free,” but how are its purveyors supposed to eat??

  2. Brian
    November 18th, 2009 @ 11:27 am

    That’s obviously an issue, Jackie. I was credited, but the question remains how do you handle monetization? In the case of Twitpics there’s an un-spoken agreement that because I throw pictures up there at will and make no bones about getting paid that people are free to use them.
    Same thing with blogs, etc.
    That’s not to say that this dynamic won’t change over time as people get more serious about valuing their social content.

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