Building The Next CNN, Online -- The Two Key Ingredients

by: Yankee Group

By Carl Howe

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 has a great article challenging claims that consumer input and voices will make sense of the flood of blogs, news feeds, and comments in today's media landscape. He even takes a whack at our favorite new news site, (invitation only). We here at Blackfriars refer to this tsunami of information and choice as 'the tyranny of too much'. But the article pointedly asks a couple of important questions about the democratization of news editing and story creation:

Who’s got time for all this?

There’s Flickr,, Digg, MySpace – already I’m too tired to list the dozens (maybe hundreds) of collaborative and participatory media. Surfing cable TV could consume an entire Sunday. Now we’re being asked to tag, comment, create, contribute, vote, refer, subscribe, engage, rate, report, add, chat, seed…

When we’re all creating media, who’s going to be left to consume it?

Scott ends the article with his answers to the questions:

Is there a glimmer of hope here for trusted content brands? At the end of a long day, most people aren’t going to collaborate their way through the day’s news. They just want someone to give it to them. Maybe that someone will be the collective intelligence of citizen journalism, but they’re still going to pick one outlet they trust.

Publishers may not control the distribution of content, or even its creation, but they still have brands that people trust. I guess at the end of the day it’s all about control. If you don’t control the creation or the distribution of the content, what do you control?

I may not want journalism delivered in a static print publication. But I also don’t want to be awash in a sea of stories. Even in a town hall meeting (or any meeting), you don’t accomplish much when everyone talks at once.

So who’s going to throw us a life preserver? Who’s going to find the balance between left and right, an American democracy of media?

Whoever figures this out will have the next Google.

I'd take this one step further. Yes, I believe that publishers and brands have a role to play. But those publishers and brands must market themselves to readers to mean something, not just be brands in a vacuum. I believe that successful brands will have two important and necessary activities:

1. Creating a strong point of view and brand through editing. In this era of the tyranny of too much, less choice creates more value. So those publishers who can make sense of the hundreds of news articles and only publish the ten or fifteen quality stories that truly benefit its audience will be the ones that can garner readership, advertising, and investment. This is traditional publishing reborn as editorial selection for a specific audience.

2. Building audiences with personal voices. Audiences relate to people, not robotic feeds. Just as some people read the New York Times for Maureen Dowd or the Boston Globe for Ellen Goodman, others will read their online news for the insights of specific authors. The most successful publishers will host a stable of distinctive writers who tell readers what the news means and add their own personal insights. And unlike in traditional publishing, readers who do have the time can interact with these writers directly and build a public conversation about the issues that they are passionate about.

These two brand attributes -- editorial point-of-view and personal voices -- will only become more valuable as consumers become overwhelmed with choices. These aren't technology features like Google search or Yahoo maps; these are the defining attributes of journalism. And the publishers who figure this out? They won't be the next Google -- they'll be the next CNN.