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The science fiction of online journalism

September 21, 2009

The Espresso book machine – has Google been reading HG Wells recently? (Probably yes if it’s been scanned)

OK, so I’m well and truly out of the loop, having been away for three weeks, but does Google ever stop?

Has it now become too big an entity that it physically cannot stop, and its momentum means there’s no end to its global ambitions.

Perhaps it can’t do anything apart from invent magical printing machines, or virtual newspapers, revolutionise the printing industry etc.

OK, on a more serious note, there’s its new Fast Flip news reader and DoubleClick Ad Exchange which apparently is good for publishing, but I’ve yet to look into this as I’m still going through the last three weeks’ worth of Time Out, and of course Travel Trade Gazette. And I’m a slow reader.

What I’m trying to say is I’m getting confused by the never ending debate over newspapers and online journalism in general. So I was heartened when I read this headline: Are newspapers trapped in a web time warp? from The Observer on September 6 (which our house-sitters kindly left).

It’s made the most sense in a long time, for me, about how newspapers should act online: that they shouldn’t, as it’s either one or the other. Newspapers should stick to being newspapers (and not waste money on chasing web hits), and specialist online sites should stick to doing specific things, eg. “ for gossip or, perhaps, nearer home, the Mirror’s new football site for soccer’s statistical nerds”, Peter Preston writes.

It’s fascinating reading all about digital journalism, but trying to re-absorb all of this after being pretty much “offline” for three weeks shows how repetitive (and perhaps addictive) the topic is. There’s no solution, perhaps that’s why it’s easier to digest all of the academic writing on the subject. It may even be comforting for us, just going round and round.

For B2B publications, it’s a different story. It’s more about communities, relationships, interaction and collaboration. The web is made for this sort of thing, and this is what I find myself thinking about more and more.

From a personal point of view, I’m still fascinated by the “hyper-local” theme of reporting, and citizen blogging, or even “beat blogs” as Adam Tinworth calls them.

It seems online journalism is fragmenting, and for me it is all science fiction at the moment. I just can’t tell if Google is helping to clarify the situation and level the playing field with its new inventions…

READ: The digital future of travel writing
READ: Police shooting at Southwark tube station, and more citizen journalism


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