Journalism is becoming a high-tech industry

Live from the ONA conference in Toronto…

Lisa Williams, founder of H20Town and Placeblogger, says journalism is becoming a high-tech industry that is moving toward the way technology firms operate.

“You guys have mooched much closer to me,” said Williams, a veteran of the technology industry.

When Williams began H20Town, she took delight at working faster than the local newspaper and gaining an audience “because I could hit ‘Enter’ first.” But now, she says, the local newspaper is publishing breaking news and implementing more Web 2.0 tools.

Williams offered several strategies for media organizations trying to navigate the online world. Among my favorites:

-Take something that used to cost money and make it free. Why let the next Craig Newmark steal your readers?

-The Web rewards “narrow comprehensiveness.” Create a product that is “everything about something” very specific.

-Limits are good. Because newspapers try hard to be all things to all readers, media organizations subsequently port that same mentality to their online products. Instead, focus on creating great, key features that will gain many fans, such as Twitter has done with their service.

I think most mainstream media organizations have slurped the Kool-Aid and realized that we need to embrace technology. But how?

Sitting in this room full of journalists from some of the biggest news organizations in the world, I can’t help but realize that we just might be somewhat like the blind leading the blind. Nearly every group of journalists I come across asks the same questions. We desperately need to seek out the wisdom of other industries to help us navigate through the dark.

Let’s be totally shameless and emulate the ways technology companies operate. Let’s start swiping great talent from Apple, Microsoft and Google. Let’s gain some street cred among technology enthusiasts so they can help us evangelize our journalism. Let’s become educated about the techniques used to develop software. And, as many others have said before, let’s nurture real entrepreneurship in our news organizations backed with actual rewards.

About Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.
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