Here Comes Everybody: Journalism and Ease of Publication [en]

I’m reading “Here Comes Everybody“. I’m taking notes.

In the chapter “Everyone is a media outlet”, Clay explains very well what is the matter with the journalism industry. (He has since then co-authored a report on the future of the news industry, which I need to read.)

In a world where everyone is a publisher, journalism is becoming an activity rather than a profession — activity which can be carried out both by those employed by the news industry and the “amateurs” (oh heck). A profession serves to solve a hard problem, that requires specialisation. Reproduction, distribution, and categorisation are now orders of magnitude easier and cheaper than before: professionals are no longer required for these activities.

Look at iStockPhoto and professional photography: the price of professional photography not so much due to the incredible quality of the professional’s work, in many cases, but comes from the difficulty of finding the right photo. iStockPhoto helps solve that problem, so the photo now costs 1$ instead of 500$, can very well have been shot by an amateur, and be no lesser in quality than a more expensive, specially-commissioned professional one.

As it has become easier to publish, public speech and action have become more valuable and less scarce, just like the ability to read and write became more commonplace with the invention of movable type, and scribes lost their raison-d’être.

Journalism is a profession that seems to exist because of accidental scarcity of published material due to the expense of publishing in the physical world. Scarcity (and therefore cost) is not an indication of importance: water is more important to life than diamonds, but that doesn’t make it expensive (The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith).

When everybody had learned to read and write, and scribes weren’t needed anymore, we didn’t call everybody a scribe, we just stopped using the word; reading and writing is ubiquitous and so not rare enough to pay for, even if it’s a really important skill. Scribes as a profession died out.

As for music and movie industry: the service they performed was distributing music and movies, but now anybody can move music and video easily and cheaply. The problem they were solving does not exist anymore, and so they are trying to maintain it by turning on their customers and trying to make moving movies and music harder artificially.

Because it’s so easy to publish, making something public is less the momentous decision that it used to be. The general criticism of the low quality of online content has to do with the fact we are judging “communications” content (conversation, often) by “broadcast” content standards of interest and quality. We look at Facebook statuses and think “was that really worth broadcasting?” — not realising that it was never intended for broadcast in the first place. It was not meant for us. If you eavesdrop on a dining hall conversation at the table next to you, doubtless you’ll find it uninteresting, but you won’t think “why are they speaking so loud I can hear what they’re saying?”

There used to be a distinction between communications and broadcast media, which has now broken down. Broadcast is one-to-many, a one-way megaphone which attempts to reach as many people as possible of a target audience. Communications, on the other hand, are two-way conversations for specific recipients, one-to-one. Now we also have many-to-many, communications tools which enable group conversation. There is a continuum between broadcast and communications rather than a sharp break neatly following the lines of the technology used (TV/radio vs. phone/fax). Communications and broadcast are mixed in the same medium, and we make the mistake of judging communications by the standards of broadcast.

Interview with Serbian Magazine [en]

[fr] Une interview que j'ai accordée il y a un mois environ au magazine serbe InfoM pour leur numéro de décembre.

I gave this interview to the Serbian magazine InfoM about a month ago, for their December issue. I thought you might be interested in hearing what answers I gave to their questions.

1) What do you think about serbia and serbian bloggers?

Honestly, I haven’t seen much of Serbia or Serbian bloggers, besides
what I saw at BlogOpen. The people I met were nice. It seems to me —
from the outside, but as I don’t understand a word of Serbian, this
has to be taken with a grain of salt — that blogging in Serbia is
only beginning to make itself known. For example, the whole
“journalists vs. bloggers” debate seems very old to me.

2) What needs to be done to make this kind of communication more

More people need to blog 🙂

3) What is your opinion on recent comments that bloggers are not
“serious” journalist?

It’s an old and tired debate. Being a journalist is a profession,
particularly if you think of high-quality investigative journalism.
Not all bloggers are interested in news or commentary on the world, so
what they do has not much to do with journalism. For the bloggers who
do, however, comment on the news or even break it, they are doing a
job similar to that of journalists, though they often aren’t being

More and more, people are turning to blogs as their primary news
source — if “journalism” is just the re-hashing of press releases,
then yes, journalism is right to be “afraid” of blogging. Serious
investigative journalism will not disappear, but superficial or
manipulative journalism is directly challenged by the work of some
bloggers — and I think this is a good thing.

4) What is commercial potential of blogging in small countries like

I think it’s like everywhere else: people won’t make money “with”
blogs, but “because” of blogs. Freelancers can use a blog to
demonstrate their expertise, whether they live in a large or small
country does not change anything to that. Companies can use blogs to
engage differently with their customers and users. They can use blogs
internally to build new relationships with their employees.

5) Could you give me definition (and example) of successful blog?

A successful blog is a blog that has an influence, in a very general
way. People write blogs for different reasons, so their measure of
success will vary. If I want to connect with other people who have the
same interests as me, my blog will be successful if it allows me to do

Things like counting comments, visitors, incoming links are in my
opinion very superficial (and sometimes dangerous) ways of measuring
how successful a blog is.

Blogging is about opening conversations, and building relationships.
How do you measure that?

6) What is blog consulting and where emerged the need for this kind of
experts from?

Blogging (and the rest of social media) is a new media. Not everybody
understands its characteristics — actually, only a rather small
number of people really do. A social media consultant like myself
steps in when there is a need for specialised knowledge about blogging
or other social media.

For example, if you have a company, and you’re wondering “how could I
use blogging in my company?” or “what are the advantages of blogging
for somebody in my situation?” or even “I want to start blogging, but
how do I do it?” — that is where a social media or blogging
consultant will be able to help you.

7) Where bloggers want to see themselves? Is blogging just the road to the
goal or goal itself?

One important aspect of blogging is passion. You need to be passionate
about the things you’re blogging about. In that respect, blogging is
the goal. You’re passionate about something, and you want to share it.

But blogging is also a means to an end. However, if it is done /only/
as a means to an end, without real, authentic passion, it will fail.

John C. Dvorak and Om Malik: Blogs vs. Journalism [en]

[fr] Conversation entre John C. Dvorak et Om Malik sur les similitudes et différences entre blogging et journalisme. Intéressant.

These are my notes of this session. They may be inaccurate. Check with people who actually said the words before jumping up and suing them. Thanks.

WordCamp 2007 John C. Dvorak, Om Malik, Matt Mullenweg

John C. Dvorak thinks there is no difference whatsoever, and bloggers should be given credentials. The mainstream media are not taking bloggers seriously yet. *steph-note: I remember Dvorak from 2002 and the kitty-heads.

Om Malik: Shift… blogs have a different dynamic, do not replace mainstream journalism. Careful not to lump all bloggers in the same category.

steph-note: arghl, going to sleep. Please, wake me up.

JCD: bloggers cover crap stuff like Paris Hilton’s lost PDA or Tom Cruise doing something silly, just like the mainstream press. Problem. “Quote posts” amongst bloggers (quote, + “what is this guy thinking?”, and that’s your blog post). Driving mainstream media nuts. The blogging world will be rejected by the mainstream because they are an annoyance.

At one point, JCD had to fight to stick links to outside sites in his column (“OMG! if we link outside people will see how crap we are!”)

OM: comments can be good/bad. Important feature. You have to assume that your commentors care. They’ve spent time on your site. Respect that.

JCD: asking readers to fill in the blanks of your story steph-note: like I’m doing for my 2002 Dvorak article — very interesting, the whole of the information is in the post plus the comments.

OM: comments are what makes blogging different from mainstream media, tapping into the collective intelligence. Engage every single comment. Single most important lesson learned.

JCD: hey, you can moderate comments without killing the blog (JCD uses Spam Karma). Some comments don’t contribute much (“You suck!” doesn’t really add much to the conversation). Recommends moderating to make sure comments have value. Need critical mass of readers to have enough comments. Moderation should be the responsibility of the post author. In this new world, you make a post, these comments are part of your job as the writer.

OM: you set the tone. There are good bars, lousy bars. People choose. steph-note: blog gardening is really important. what you accept or not will influence the way people act in the comments.

WordCamp 2007 Om Malik

JCD: also need to relax. Not a national disaster if things go downhill in the comments. JCD has been called an idiot for 25 years, but he’s still up there ;-).

OM: you can rate comments.

JCD: doesn’t like rating comments, except restaurant reviews. steph-note: I don’t like comment rating very much either.

OM: One trick is to step away from what you wrote for 15 minutes before posting.

JCD: journalist trick: read out loud (really!) because your ears and eyes don’t work the same way. Catches a lot of errors.

OM: Actually, you can have your mac read it back to you.

Q Ben Metcalfe: “no difference about bloggers and journalists” — could you explain more? Investigative journalism, holding government to account… More thoughts on the mainstream stuff.

JCD: Importance of layout. If it “looks too much like a blog”, you may lose credibility (people go “ah, it’s a blog“). Cf. The Onion. NYT redesigned after the Onion (challenged!) Neo-blog style: credibility goes way higher, with same content. Same old templates, different flower, different pink, place for cat photo… Same old tired layouts.

WordCamp 2007 John C. Dvorak

BM: Is it really just a question of layouts?

JCD: What I’m saying is valid for first impressions.

Q: ??

JCD: “Citizen Journalism”: artificial construct steph-note: what is it with Dvorak and cats?

OM: Bloggers should call people. Try to get information directly from people. At least you can say you tried to get in touch.

JCD: Maybe take one course in journalism so at least you have a clue how it works, and study libel law, that’s important (you can’t call people a “crook” for example, you can get sued into oblivion — “douchebag”, however, is OK!)

OM: Actually, “douchebag” might even have a greater effect in the post. The English language is wonderful, has many ways of describing the same thing.

JCD: You need to be careful, and I think bloggers haven’t had the lecture on libel law. You don’t want to get sued for a minor comment or something.

OM: blogging uptake directly related to broadband penetration steph-note: not sure about that!!

Ben Metcalfe: places blogging is catching on are places where there is not really much free press (e.g. Eastern Europe, Iran — not necessarily lots of blogging). Absence of free press more valid correlation than broadband.

OM: Lots of blogging in USA etc.

JCD: yeah, countries with a lousy free press. We don’t have a free press.

J'aime les portraits [fr]

[en] I'm really quite happy about the article about me in the paper today. I like these "portrait" articles. The journalist has the time to talk, and it's (until now) a very nice experience.

Je crois que le portrait d’aujourd’hui dans 24heures et la TDG est le troisième que l’on fait de moi dans la presse écrite. Le premier dans Migros Magazine, fin 2004 (voir billet)et le deuxième dans 24heures il y a un peu plus d’un an (malheureusement plus en ligne, mais voici une photo de l’article papier et le billet de l’époque).

Whole Page Article

J’aime bien les portraits. En général, le/la journaliste a le temps, alors on parle, on parle, on parle. Sans vouloir passer pour outre-mesure égocentrique, je trouve intéressant de parler de moi dans ce genre de contexte — essayer de se raconter, c’est un peu, aussi, essayer de savoir qui l’on est. La quête de l’identité, celle qui durera toute une vie…

Comme toujours, il y a certaines choses dans l’article que je voudrais expliquer, développer, nuancer. (Je l’ai relu avant parution, on a corrigé certaines choses, mais parfois, à cause du format, on est obligés de laisser passer certaines choses.) Juste là, pas le courage — mais n’hésitez pas à poser des questions dans les commentaires si le coeur vous en dit, ça m’aidera peut-être à me lancer (je vous répondrai, à moins que ce ne soit personnel, bien entendu, mais essayez toujours).

Edit: oh, je viens de voir qu’un morceau de la vidéo était également en ligne. J’ai beaucoup aimé cette petite opération multimédia improvisée. J’espère qu’on aura l’occasion de voir la vidéo en entier lundi!

BlogCamp: Bruno Giussani — Bondy Blog Story [en]

[fr] Bruno Giussani nous raconte l'histoire du Bondy Blog. Naissance d'un média qui est devenu national, mais de la perspective des banlieues.

notes from presentation. may be inaccurate.

Bruno Giussani: special projects for l’Hebdo => involved in Bondy Blog thing.

Bruno Giussani speaking about Bondy Blog

The Story

Riots for 3 weeks. 9000 cars burned. 2921 people arrested. Outskirts (suburbs).

Special reporters flocking there from everywhere, and then disappeared (as soon as the curve of violence started going down).

Suburbs: journalists stay in a nice hotel in Paris, eat there, go out reporting during the day, then back to nice hotel. Don’t actually stay there.

L’Hebdo did things differently: chose Bondy, one town in France, to do old-fashioned reporting. They sent their 20 reporters there (weekly rotations). Set up an office in the local football warehouse thing, slept there, with a DSL connection.


  • write about the situation in that city for the magazine
  • blog between magazine issues

What happened?

  • journalists used to a weekly rythm started reporting on stuff on the blog they would never have talked about. “Smaller things” which are part of Real Life and never ends up in the press. Or big things (“Les filles de Bondy parlent”) which fired national controversy.
  • journalists would come back completely enthusiastic (journalistic freedom recovered) when they left because they “had to”

Everybody wrote about this story. Old media. Curious about what is going on in the blogosphere but don’t know how to handle it. And suddenly this small magazine does something and everybody wants to copy/learn/understand. (Here, being “Swiss” had an advantage.)

Once the newsroom ran out of journalists, what to do? Successful blog, tons of comments… can’t let it die. Instead of sending people again, reached out to young people in Bondy to see if they would take over.

Brought them all to Lausanne for a week of blog/journalism training, then were given the password to the blog and were sent back. Midway between classical blogging and journalism. Have a weekly meeting, etc.

About a dozen bloggers now, covering their life. For the first time, this 50’000 person town has a local publication. Telling their story in their own voice.

Started doing reverse reporting (sending their people to rich neighbourhoods in Paris, for example).

Financed by turning part of the content of the first year of blogging into a book.

Important consequence: the banlieue had a voice at the beginning of the presidential compaign! Dec. 15, Bondy Blog guy asks Sarkozy for his phone number at a press conference, and actually gets it!

Sponsored by Yahoo France now. Have been building a network of correspondants in 15 different banlieues in France. A national media from the banlieue perspective!

Journalism in the P2P world is not about antagonism (old vs. new, professionals vs. amateurs, paying vs. free, controlled vs. open) but it’s hybrid, being complementary.


Roughly 6000 visitors a day when they switched to Yahoo.

Background: where did the idea come from? came up during a news meeting, but the year before they had a kind of blogcamp for the newsroom.

New projects in this direction? L’Hebdo launched 8 blogs since then. Has influenced how the journal thinks.

Bruno is a little more radical about how magazines should do things (steph-note: hope I understood this right): shouldn’t have a traditional website (but journalists should blog, of course, and put the magazine content online for free), but should invest heavily in this kind of operation, including training. (Throwing blogs at people doesn’t work, we’re starting to know it.) Big problem in the newsroom: publication brand vs. personal (journalist) brand.

Bondy blog (network) become a sort of training ground for banlieue people to become recognised as contributors, and Bruno guesses that probably some of them will be hired by “old media” once the elections are over.

Bruno: l’Hebdo never planned for all that. It just happened, organically.

German Article in Migros Magazin [en]

Material from my interview with Migros Magazine was re-used for an other article in the German-language counterpart, Migros Magazin. Should I be unhappy about how it was done?

[fr] Un morceau d'interview et la photo prise pour mon interview dans Migros Magazine ont été réutilisés dans la version allemande, pour un article assez différent sur les blogs. Devrais-je m'offusquer qu'on ne m'ait pas demandé mon autorisation?

Last month, an interview of me was published in the French-speaking Migros Magazine, under the title Born to Blog. It was a pretty good article, and I was happy with the photograph.

This morning, I noticed an incoming referer from the German edition of the same magazine: Wie Blogger den Tsunami-Opfern Halfen, with my photograph. If my German isn’t too rusty, this means “How Bloggers Helped Tsunami OrphansVictims“.

Well, at first, I bypassed the title and started reading the text, assuming it must be a translation of my initial interview. Not so. The first and last paragraph have something to do with me, but the middle of this small article is about something I don’t even know about.

Exploring a little more by looking at the PDF version of the article, I understood that it was in fact part of a larger enquiry on blogs.

Right, so they re-used part of the interview I did in December, and the photograph to illustrate it. It’s nice to be in the German-language press, of course, but I can’t help thinking they should at least have asked me before re-using the interview and the photograph.

I was in for a bit more surprise when I tried to see where the article was linked from on the main page of the site. Here is what I saw. (Screenshots coming later.)

Now, I’ll agree that my photo is a good one (my thanks to the photographer for her patience, by the way), and that I have a slight tendancy to think others try to take advantage of me all the time, but it does strike me as a little strange that my photograph is used to illustrate the link to the other article in the enquiry. Try clicking around, you’ll see what I mean.

Should I be unhappy about this, or do you just give up any hope of what your words or image are used for once you start dealing with the press?

As an aside, a three-part interview of me will be aired on the RSR1 radio next week. More details about that in a later post.

Update 11.02.2005: after writing this post, I also sent an e-mail to the journalist who interviewed me. He called me straight away to apologize. Neither he nor his boss knew about the German article, so they were also a little annoyed. This was clearly an internal communication problem, and from what I understand it wasn’t the first time.

He assured me that even though the photo could in theory be re-used, it shouldn’t be taken out of its context. The present case was a bit on the limit, he admitted — the article was about blogging, but from a whole other angle. I suggested they get the web people to put in links between the two parts of the enquiry on weblogs.

Update 01.06.2005: photographer’s name removed at her request.

IT Conversations: Dan Gillmor [en]

Some notes on IT Conversations show with Halley Suitt and Dan Gillmor (audio available online).

[fr] Interview audio de Dan Gillmor par Halley Suitt. Quelques notes.

I’m currently listening to Halley’s interview of Dan Gillmor on IT Conversations. I’m not used to listening to stuff through the internet (the whole podcasting hype hasn’t really caught my interest… yet) — so here are a few notes and comments, mainly for myself.

First of all, I’m always slightly shocked to hear people I know from the Internet actually speaking. When chatting, or reading blogs, I forget that people have accents. So, my first reaction upon hearing Halley speaking was “Gosh! She really has an American accent!”.

After a first part on American politics that went completely over my head, the topic turned to “Journalism and blogging” (already more interesting) and finally, more webby stuff. A few random notes:

  • Strive for objectivity in journalism still a valid aim.
  • 9-11, elections, tsunami: made blogs visible as a media, rather than “made more people blog” (I’ve finally managed to name the confusion that irritates me so much.)
  • Camera phones (and digicams in general) have a highly disruptive potential. Towards more transparency. Harder to hide nasty things.
  • Podcasting: most people not trained to produce the kind of audio we enjoy listening to.
  • Blogs with small readership (target audience=family and close friends): very important sociologically.
  • Internet allows to bring readers closer to source material.
  • Probably lots of source material for historians gathering now on the web. Web stuff as potential replacement for the letter, which used to give lots of information on people’s lives and current events. (Biographies, History.)
  • Not holding people accountable (in future) about silly things they wrote on their teenage blogs…
  • About writing the book online: retaining authorship, while having thousands of “eyes” to give feedback and comments. (And the eyes in question will be those interested by the topic.)

Next one I’m listening to is Joi’s.