Live blogging at the Milken Conference…

Moderator Tina Sharkey at AOL cites the usual statistics…37% of people engage in blogs on a regular basis, bloggers spend 4 hours a week blogging, 42 million page views a month, etc. This is the generation making its own content. What is the impact on traditional journalism?

Panelists are Rafat Ali of, Dave Sifry of Technorati, Dean Rotbart of Newsroom Confidential. Jonathan Weber of New West
Dean asks when the idea for Weblogs was first seen in the media, and answers that in 1690, Public Occurences where the 4th page was blank so that the reader could add his or her own news and idea before passing it on. This idea of citizen journalism has grown out of each new technology. Always been citizen journalists. The other interesting thing is that the rise of the blogosphere is causing the decline in circulation of the old media. Not true. The first mention of the Internet as we know it comes from 1989 in PC Week. First blog mention is from Dan Gilmor in May of 1999 that said that Slashdot might be a prototype of Web communication. In the Times in 1976, a report stated that declining readership is a problem for newspapers. Then it was television, then cable. He is a skeptic that these two worlds are in competition and that one is winning out over the other. Moderator asks about the role of the traditional reporter. He says that role won’t change. Just because there are 75,000 blogs being created each day doesn’t mean anyone is going to believe them or that Wall Street is going to invest in them. Some very narrow focused blogs do have some respect.

Jonathan says the decline of newspapers and the decline of journalism are two different things in fact this is a golden age of journalism. The rise of new ways of publishing and dissemintating is a good thing.

George Siemens(Picture of George Siemens blogging at the event as well.) Rafat says is that tradional journalism needs to unlearn much of what it’s done for centuries and that they have to learn to do good journalism at a tenth of the cost. None of our reporters have been edited in the last five years. We thrive on speed, which is the key. Journalism is no longer once a story is done it’s done, it’s evolving.

Jonathan says at his time at the LA Times, a story would go through five editors before it hit the page. Now, we don’t need all of that in the process in reporting. Much more efficient than it used to be. But many large media orgs haven’t grappled with that.

Sifry says that he realized we are starting to use the Internet in a fundamentally different way than even in the 90s. The fundamental metaphor about the net is starting to change. Two big trends are a proliferation of tools and broadband/mobile access. The way that we use the Internet has begun to change. THe traditional way to think of the Net is the world’s biggest library. The shift is that the Net is very much more an always on, real-time media. The way we use the net today is a communications form as well as a reference form. So, if you could build an engine that understood time and be extraordinarily timely it would be significant. Cites the London bombings and the tsunami. This was fundamentally an increase in the scope of reportage that had not come to fruition in the past. By incorporating the ability to have people who are not working under big J journalsm but by a group can inform us in an expanded way that this can serve as a supplement to traditional media and in some ways scoop the story.

Tina gives example of how Technorati works. Less about information and more about conversation.

So Dave says, how do I know who to trust? How do I know this person isn’t a nutcase?

Jonathan talks about how in one sense the blogging thing is due to the low cost and easy access of the tools, and the online advertising market is very strong and will continue to be strong. Online media has a good future. New West is an ad model. Branded media properties will have a place.

Rafat talks about three models, the big media trying to incorporate, sites like New West, and other individual bloggers. There is no business model yet for the individuals. In the middle level, it’s about passion and somewhat philanthropy.

Dave says there is an enormous 90% return from blogs that isn’t about ad revenue. Writing books, consulting, etc. Jonathan says that there will be much more of a mix for ways for networks to find revenue. (I’m starting to fade a bit here…) Talks about blogvertorial which is a sponsored post, essentially. The success of AdSense and the networks depends a lot on the content. Works for highly specialized key words and niche topics. Most bloggers will just get pocket change from that. Tells some stories about AdSense. Google takes most of the money, so it’s not really the answer. Moderator asks him how he balances paid writers and citizen writers. Talks about unfiltered part of site, and when things come through that are relevant, he promotes them to the main part of the site. Things filter up. You do get what you pay for. The contribution that citizen journalists will ultimately make will be limited. Photography/video is another story. We get far better visuals than text. Journalism as we traditionally think about it will still be done by people who are paid to do it. (Paused to take a really bad picture and send it to Flickr…anyone still reading?)

Dave tells the Kryponite lock story and how they missed the whole buzz about their locks being broken. He’s starting to hear those conversations again where the companies are waking up to the fact to their consumers are talking about their products in blogs.

Dan pushes back. You need a dozen Kryptonite lock stories a day to make him believe that mainstream media is being threatened by the blogosphere. He’s not sure it’s citizen journalism because we don’t have people putting in the time to write stories. Dave says no one is saying it’s traditional journalism. Dan wonders if it’s journalism at all. Dave says if you search school board (Whoa! Someone said something education related!) on Technorati you’ll get thousands of hits from people who are writing about their communities. Dan says the blogosphere needs some good pr.

Rafat talks about fake news. And, unfortunately, I have to catch my plane…