The biggest encyclopedia

From an excellent Pew background article on “digital natives”, the generation now seeking employment in companies and organizations:

Our research has found consistently that the dominant metaphor for the internet in users’ minds is a vast encyclopedia — more than it is a playground, a commercial mall, a civic commons, a kaffee klatch, or a peep show.

For all the praise of the natives’ multi-tasking, content-creating and -sharing, the article notes that the youngsters aren’t necessarily media literate. Or you could say “be-critical-to-sources-literate”. All sources. Media literacy. We are going to talk more about that.

UPDATE: Encyclopedia of Earth, a new source the natives can check. A project involving the Digital Universe Foundation and Larry Sanger. See more about Sanger and his projects. (via Readers Edition).

“Future/death of newspapers” inflation

Someone should construct a “death of newspapers” inflation index. There has been a surge lately:

Michael Kinsley asks Do newspapers have a future? in Time Magazine. Arguably the funniest so far, especially about the alternative, seen from the desperate newspaper man’s perspective:

Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports.

Kinsley proceeds to kill the print, but keep the news.

Then there was The Economist asking who killed the newspaper – expertly dissected here.

I’m not forgetting the home front. Newspaper consultant Erik Wilberg recently presented scenarios for the newspaper, and they were refreshingly different in the way that none of them predicted anything else but fast and furious change for the newspapers. Superbly analyzed by Andreas (in Norwegian, the original scenario material not online…).

And from May this year, Dagbladet weighed in with a death verdict.

If that isn’t enough, you can subscribe to a relevant Technorati search. Eureka – the death of newspapers index will generate itself and be updated forever!

Does participation generate loyalty?

A group of researchers at the University of Oslo have interviewed 37 Norwegian media executives about their motivations for experimenting with different kinds of audience participation (allowing comments on news articles, reader forums, text messages published during TV debates, among others). These are the top 10 reasons, according to

1. Audience loyalty

2. New revenue streams

3. Innovation

4. Building the brand

5. Access to more sources

6. Immediate response

7. Political legitimation

8. Round the clock service

9. Democratization

10. Meeting need to participate

19 out of 37 respondents put “building loyalty” on top of the list. 31 of 37 had this as one of the top three. The researchers are not certain if the strategy of building loyalty through participation will work. But is there an alternative? I think the quality of the participation will be important decisive. Of course, participation can be achieved or channeled in many ways. It doesn’t even have to happen online. At in-depth magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly or Mandag Morgen, an important “interactive” element is talks/conferences/meet-ups. At Mandag Morgen that works exceptionally well.

By the way, the interviews mainly took place in 2005. It would have been nice to link to the original material, but it’s not online on the research project’s website… Just another piece of invisible knowledge?

Let go

And I thought newspaper publishers had accepted a life in co-existence with search engines. Not so. The business through The World Newspaper Association is just as obsessed as ever with the idea of somehow reconciling their old business model with the web. The latest result is the “Automated Content Access Protocol”, whereby publishers will “teach” the search engines to index and use their “content” in specific ways:

In one example of how ACAP would work, a newspaper publisher could grant search engines permission to index its site, but specify that only select ones display articles for a limited time after paying a royalty.

To this Undercurrent can only say – good luck! Or maybe look to Norway. Newspaper owners can search too! (via Ben).

Full speed ahead


The graph shows the development of households with broadband internet connections in Norway, by household income in 1000 NOK (source: Statistics Norway).

By 2014, or maybe as early as 2010, all Norwegians will have superfast broadband connections “anywhere” – at home, school, work, cafes, librarian blogger Plinius predicts. Then at least the purely technical side of the digital divide will be bridged.

The development is encouraging, as the overall growth rate is increasing. But bear in mind that “broadband” is very liberally defined here, as “more than ISDN” capacity. As users want to download and view video more and more, and upload their own content, demand for capacity will grow.

There are some astonishing numbers in the material. For instance, although low-income households are lagging behind as expected, still one-third of all households with under 200000 NOK income own a laptop. And of those online (70 percent), 79 percent of unemployed have been online the last three months, 39 percent every day.

Journalists – thin-skinned besserwissers

Jan Wifstrand, soon to leave his post as editor of Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, offers some valuable and tough criticism of journalists in an interview in his own paper. His four points are easily recognisable if you’ve been in the business:

  • Need a better world? Ask me!: “I am a journalist, I’m capable of improving the world” – a finer version of a besserwisser mentality, according to Wifstrand. Often it is presented as a good thing that journalists generally are reform-oriented people. But what happens when that attitude is combined with arrogance and limited knowledge?
  • Desperately seeking correctness: Critical thinking, skepticism towards seemingly self-evident truths – journalist ideals, right? Not exactly, Wifstrand thinks: Journalists are very anxious to represent a “correct” views.
  • Tyranny of simplification: Journalists need to simplify the complex, highlight what’s important in the stream of information. But often the simplification goes too far, and we end up being imprecise or just plain wrong.
  • Thin-skinned species: Many journalists are very jumpy when readers or sources dare to criticize us. Wifstrand: “We have to come to terms with our responsibility, because what we do can influence hundreds of thousands of people. We should have a deeper understanding of our ethics and reveal more about ourselves.”

Medicine against disappearing URLs

Anyone quoting web documents, especially when writing scientific articles, is familiar with the problem: The URL might change or the website disappear completely sooner or later. So the citation won’t work. The WebCite project offers a solution by caching a copy of the cited document and giving it a unique URL. Based at the University of Toronto, the project has many member journals. (via Lessig, see also interesting discussion in the comments to his post).