Podcast: David Cohn discusses Spot.Us and community funding

David Cohn launched his new community-funded journalism project, Spot.Us, last week to much fan fare.

I don’t know whether or not it can save journalism or if it will fail. My guess is on somewhere in the middle. It will probably be a viable way to fund certain kinds of journalism in certain communities.

In many ways I find the future of journalism to be similar to the future of energy security in the U.S. There isn’t a magic energy bullet for the U.S. Instead, it will be a combination of new energy technologies to wean the U.S. off of foreign energy and hydrocarbons.

Funding journalism will be the same way. We’ll need a variety of ways to fund journalism moving forward. The monopolies of newspapers are done.

I applaud Cohn for tackling the real issue facing journalism — how to fund it. Cohn’s business model might not be the sexiest. No, he won’t become rich by doing non-profit work that is predicated on the altruism of individuals.

But I think it can work. NPR and PBS both rely on people’s contributions. But perhaps the most logical comparison is Kiva.org. Cohn has learned a lot of lessons from that successful micro-lending site.

Cohn and I talk about how he can harness some of the concepts of Kiva to keep his startup running for years to come.

Cohn and I discuss several topics:

  • Why Spot.Us? What need does it meet?
  • How will Spot.Us fund itself after its grant is over?
  • Will Spot.Us be appearing in more cities soon?

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Podcast: Monitor editor John Yemma on the future of newspapers

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

John Yemma, the editor of The Christian Science Monitor, discussed with me his thoughts on the future of newspapers in my latest podcast.

Yemma and I discussed several topics. What’s clear is that newspapers will continue to evolve in the coming years as Web operations become more important for news operations. Some newspapers will see more of a revolution than evolution.

Yemma believes that many newspapers will be changing drastically in the coming years from the products they produce to how they are staffed. He envisions many papers publishing on less days. The first day to drop may be Saturday, because newspapers could make a joint weekend edition.

Sunday is the most popular day of the week, while Saturday is one of the weakest for most papers. The Monitor is looking at either adding a weekend edition or perhaps dropping down to once a week.

Environmental concerns about newspapers have been raised by some people, and Yemma believes the carbon footprint of print is driving away some younger readers. Trees have to be cut down, paper pulp made in factories and then the paper has to be printed with ink and distributed via trucks.

In addition, he also talks about the “guilt” that many people feel because many daily subscribers don’t read the paper daily. A lot of people are too busy to read a newspaper daily, and they don’t like looking at unread newspapers piling up on their floors.

“If you don’t read it because you’re too busy, after five days you look in the recycling bin and you see four days of newspapers that you have at most browsed the front page headlines, all of that makes it difficult to imagine from a user point of view that this is a very friendly product,” he said.

Yemma thinks in the short term we’ll see more newspapers go to once a week and longer term he can envision a future in which future Kindle and iPhone-like products replace printed products. E-Ink products like the Kindle and other E-readers are in their infancy. Color E-Ink will eventually be a reality and the price of readers will fall.

The the Kindle 3.0 might make a very attractive product for reading news content. And, remember, there is a difference between E-Ink and computer monitors. E-Ink has no back light, and it’s easy on the eyes like paper. Many people like me suffer from eyestrain when we view computer monitors for too long.

The Kindle might provide an alternative product for people who don’t want to stare at a computer screen all day. E-readers are also much lighter than even the lightest laptops and can be easily held in one hand like a book or newspaper. As delivery becomes more problematic for newspapers, E-readers might become a more attractive delivery method.

“I don’t know exactly where print goes in the long run,” he said. “Certainly some great brand names like The New York Times and others will keep up the full run of print for a long time to come.”

Delivery costs are weighing more and more on newspapers. Not only have gas prices soared in recent years, but so have paper and ink costs.

“I think print becomes increasingly problematic longer term because of delivery,” he said. “I’m not going to say that print is dead, but it’s not looking great.”

Yemma said many metro newspapers have suffered because they have tried to be a one-stop shop, providing a breadth of topics covered, but not a lot of depth.

“I think everyone knows the model is broken, and I think everyone is going through a fundamental review,” he said about print. “The old way until 2002 was that metropolitan newspapers were essentially monopolies.”

Some other topics discussed:

  • How has the credit crunch and financial situation impacted the Monitor and other news organizations?
  • What are the bright spots ahead for journalism? Why should people be excited for the future of journalism?
  • What kind of two-way communication does the Monitor have right now, and what are they planning for the future?
  • And much more.
  • Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Interview with an enthusiastic adopter, Paula Froke

Paula Froke has jumped headfirst into the world of online and multimedia journalism with her upstart blog, Paula’s Adventures in Multimedia.

While she may not have been born a digital native, she has quickly become an enthusiastic adopter. And as the Deputy National Editor for the AP, she is a manager, not a content producer. So she doesn’t have to learn all this stuff, but she has anyway.

That’s the kind of manager journalism needs. Her blog is helping to inspire other mid-career journalists to try new things. Paula’s blog has been making its way around the journalism blogosphere, and people like Mindy McAdams have been impressed with her work and spirit:

I’m also in love with a new blog called Paula’s Adventures in Multimedia. Paula is a journalist somewhere, I don’t know where, but she’s taking us along for the ride while she and her colleagues learn to make slideshows and do podcasts and shoot video — and it’s really fun!

Below you’ll find an interview I had with Paula recently. The cliff notes of it is this: Learning multimedia and online journalism is fun and not nearly as difficult as you think.

1) I know your time at Poynter in January was one of the inspirations for starting your blog. What were your multimedia skills prior to then?

After 23 years as a print-only editor, I got my feet wet last year by shooting — but not editing — one video and producing one podcast, both as introductory training efforts in what was then our multimedia service for younger readers. That inspired me to buy an HD camcorder and a new laptop. Then I taught myself basic video editing with iMovie and did a couple of personal videos. Howard Owens’ list of 2008 objectives for non-wired journalists gave me more ideas and goals, and that combined with Poynter kicked everything into higher gear at the beginning of this year. Literally. I wanted to start the year off well, so I shot a personal video on Jan. 1, edited it on Jan. 2, and uploaded it to YouTube — a major thrill.

2) What are your multimedia skills today?

My skills are still relatively rudimentary, but I’m confident that if time and my position allowed, I could fairly easily shoot and edit an acceptable news video for Web publication (with iMovie; I still need to tackle Final Cut). I was astonished and delighted when a complete stranger saw one of my personal videos and asked me to produce a video of him for entry in a reality show contest (I declined — I’m not THAT confident — but now he’s trying again and wants me to do part of it.) I could produce audio slideshows and podcasts, again if time and circumstances allowed. I certainly have a far, far greater understanding and appreciation of the power of all of these formats.

3) Why did you end up starting your blog?

I supervise traditional print editors whose job as it’s now defined involves being appreciative of other forms of journalism done in our other departments, but not actually doing it themselves. Like me, I think they were both intrigued and intimidated by the possibilities of the evolving world of journalism — but weren’t at all sure how to get started themselves. As I gained more comfort and appreciation through what I was learning on my own, I wanted a way to share that with everyone on the staff. A blog seemed ideal — I could talk about it in a casual way, and have a multimedia format with which to share the results of my own efforts and theirs. It’s given me a chance to take a “learn as I learn” and “if *I* can do it, you can too” approach and to encourage them to learn in a low-key, fun kind of way. I’ve tried to make it clear that I’m willing to look foolish for the sake of learning, and I think that’s helped. It also gives me a way to let them do guest posts and share their own video, slideshow, podcast and Web site creation efforts.

4) What’s the biggest thing you have learned from it?

How fun, fulfilling and liberating this kind of work is. It’s been absolutely fascinating to learn how to convey stories in ways far beyond what I’ve done all my life. A second thing: There is, in fact, a fair amount of crossover among the formats. A lot, though certainly not all, of what makes a good story and what’s required of a good editor and a good reporter is similar from format to format: compelling detail and quotes, vivid color, strong drama, cohesive structure, and of course, accuracy, integrity and ethics. I think the more you learn in each format, the better you get in all of them.

5) How hard was it to set up your blog and begin producing multimedia content?

The blog itself was remarkably easy to set up. I did it literally in between bites of pasta while hovering over my laptop in the kitchen the night I returned from Poynter. Once I got the idea in my head, I was so excited about it that I just plunged in. After that I just kept plunging. For better or worse, I took a scattershot approach — delve a little into video, a little into audio, a little into HTML, invite others on the staff to share what they’re learning … the result was something not at all structured and therefore perhaps not all that instructive or helpful. On the other hand, it is indeed a recounting of what I learn as I learn it, and I think there’s something to be said for getting a broad exposure to as much as you can in the early goings.

6) How do you see your new skills impacting your journalism career?

They certainly open up a lot more possibilities in every area — as a manager, as an editor and as a multi-format reporter. I mean possibilities for me personally, and possibilities for far more meaningful journalism reaching and touching a far wider audience. It’s extremely exciting.

7) Do you have any advice for mid-career journalists looking to learn new online/multimedia skills?

Short answer: Just do it. And have fun.

Longer answer: While I took a wide-ranging approach, it might be more reasonable to pick one area that’s especially appealing to you, whether it’s creating a personal Web site, starting a blog and uploading photos to it, borrowing a camera and shooting some video, doing a podcast or whatever. Find a knowledgeable co-worker or friend or a cheap intro course — for instance, whatever the local Apple store offers, even if you don’t have a Mac! — to help get you started. Take advantage of a wealth of online resources for tips and techniques. Consider tapping into your personal life for opportunities to practice — I’ve been doing videos of New York Cycle Club rides, which give me plenty of chances to work on shooting and editing. Don’t be afraid to look silly or to fail. Seek feedback from others. Study the work of those who excel at this. And — have fun.

Conversations in Media: David Cohn on Spot.Us

David Cohn discusses his latest project, Spot.Us, which was made possible by a Knight News Challenge grant.

Some of the things we discuss:

  1. What is Spot.Us and what will it mean for journalism?
  2. Why people should apply for Knight News Challenge grants?
  3. How hard is it to apply for a grant from Knight?

Click here to stream the interview. Or you can download the mp3.

I’m still having some problems with the Marantz PMD 660 for phone interviews. I had to amplify this interview and my voice comes in much softer than David’s. Any suggestions for better phone recordings would be most welcome.

Conversations in Media: Kiyoshi Martinez

The inaugural Conversation in Media is with Kiyoshi Martinez, the 23-year-old former journalist who founded AngryJournalist.com.

I will try to have a weekly conversation with a media member about the state of media, journalism and where the future is headed.

Some highlights:

  1. Why did Martinez start Angry Journalist?
  2. “Being a journalist shouldn’t mean you have to be miserable.” – Martinez
  3. “It’s absolutely unnecessary to major in journalism to get a journalism job.” – Martinez
  4. “We’re going to lose a lot of newspapers because they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.” – Thornton

Click here to download this week’s Conversation in Media.

Or stream the file at the Conversations in Media PodShow site.

The audio will be better in the future. This was my first time tape recording a phone conversation with a Marantz recorder. Also, Martinez was on a cell phone speaker phone. But the audio is still pretty good.

Any feedback would be great. Did you like the content? How is the length? How are the formats? Any suggestions would be great.