Monday, July 28, 2008

Only twits ignore Jarvis on links

When Jeff Jarvis dies (and I hope that's a long time from now), perhaps the best choice for an epithet would be "Do what you do best and link to the rest." In that short phrase he has summarized much central, essential truth about media in the new globally networked world.

As we struggle with reshaping our operations to fit into new revenue realities, you need to understand these issues at a fundamental level. There is much more here than an argument for aggressive aggregation (though it includes that, in spades). Surrounding that specific issue are concepts like shifting from scarcity and abundance, and questions about to protect the value of expensively produced content when perfect copies can (and will) be made instantly available.

And aside from the economics (a hard subject for us to get beyond, at the moment) there is this ultimately more important question: What is best for society? How can we serve audiences best as we advance the public service mission of accountability we have so long espoused?

There is no better place to start exploring than with Jarvis, whose prickly style (he sometimes dismisses those he disagrees with simply as "twits") and politics-on-my-sleeve digressions will discomfort traditionalists. But only a twit would fail to appreciate what a wide swath of fertile new ground he is plowing.

This useful summary is from a recent Jarvis column in The Guardian:

Links are the currency of the new media economy. We bloggers think we're doing AP and papers a favour when we link to their articles. I teach my journalism students that their headlines and intros are more important than ever because these are the advertisements that will draw people to click links and read more.

The problem for AP and other syndicates is that they are trapped in an old-media economy, selling their content to publications to support their work. In print, we needed countless copies of an article. But now, online, we need only one copy with countless links to it.

Update: I was reminded to write this post this morning when I watched my not-so-webbish wife click on a story at our national website, read the three graphs there and then click again to go to for the remainder. Win, win, win.

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