Journalism Needs to Listen to Tim O’Reilly

Thanks to Roo, just found this excellent, excellent little video. Tim O’Reilly explains what Web 2.0 is.  

Tim says:

“Web 2.0 is the understanding that the network is the platform, and on the network as a platform, the rules for business are different. And the cardinal rule is this one: users add value. And figuring out how to build databases that get better the more people use them is actually the secret sauce of every Web 2.0 company.”

This is a lot of thinking in 30 seconds. But it’s made some pennies drop in my mind (finally!). I’ll try and get my thoughts straight – comments and corrections welcome:

The network is the platform. Working on the internet is not about individual web sites or computers. It’s the fact that you can invite people to join a huge group of other people with something to share. That’s what’s attractive, that’s what’s different online. This page is static, no different in content terms from what you’d get if you had the version printed on dead trees. But this has added content, added value, which is impossible in the dead tree version. It doesn’t just reach more people – it’s qualitatively different. It’s got another layer of meaning through other people. In this paradigm, web developers aren’t publishers. They’re community enablers. 

The rules for business are different. Well, yeah – ’cause if you’re creating a Web 2.0 app, you’re not creating a product – you’re enabling a process. A community. So if you’re a journalist working online, doesn’t this mean that your chief purpose is to enable, empower and incentivise a community around the topic of your research?

In a journalism context, we can rephrase O’Reilly’s words: 

Networked journalism is the understanding that the network (of informed citizens) is the product, and on the network as a product, the rules of journalism are different. And the cardinal rule is this one: users add value. And figuring out how to make journalism that gets better the more people use it is the secret sauce for every journalism organization that doesn’t want to die a lingering death.

Thanks, Tim, for the penny-dropping moment.

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