Wick Communications

Mind. Blown.

In Ideas on April 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm

It’s been a generally mind-blowing week for me. Consider the explanations of news bots over at NiemanLabs, for instance. But the thing that set my hair on fire the most was Jimmy Wales’ plan to reinvent journalism as a symbiotic relationship between journalists and everyone else. If you think a crowdsourced news site is something that has been tried before (and failed), consider Wales’ Wikipedia. It wasn’t so long ago that people thought there would never be a crowdsourced encyclopedia that could compete with, say, Encyclopedia Britannica, and when is the last time you reached for that shelf of books your mom bought in the 1970s?

He’s calling the new venture Wikitribune and you should really read about it yourself. In a nutshell, the idea is to have subscribers hire journalists who will then work on stories the crowd wants to see. The results would be vetted by the community. They hope to hire 10 journalists and launch in September.

The key here is a role for professional journalists who can ask questions, take the story where it goes and provide appropriate context. The crowd will, presumably, call out bias, check the facts and basically wiki the heck out of it.

To be sure, there are questions. How do you keep the thing working in real time, when the crowd can pivot before a story ever develops? How do you keep it civil? What if the community is more interested in the Kardashians than Afghanistan?

We shall see. I highly recommend keeping an eye on NiemanLabs. It will keep your world spinning with new ideas.


SaaS and what it means to us

In Innovation on April 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Ever seen the funny-looking acronym SaaS? Last week, I read a fascinating post by David Skok that explained those four letters might be the future of our business. I figured I had better get up to speed.

Skok is on the board of directors of the Online News Association and is formerly of the Toronto Star and Boston Globe. He’s been a Harvard Nieman Fellow and is one of the thought leaders of digital news. SaaS normally stands for “Software as a Service” and refers to companies that license and deliver their software on a subscription basis. Think of the way you can pay for the Adobe suite monthly, for example. (Tech geeks also talk of Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and other such things.)

Skok wants us to think of Stories as a Service. In fact, he says that describes the current era, one that supplanted the “social media era” that he says sort of ended in 2015.

From his piece:

Those who own the relationship between the story and the reader will be at a distinct advantage over those who own the production and platforms of newsgathering and distribution.

This journalism era, paid for by readers, for readers, will result in quality journalism, trustworthiness and the building of new communities. For almost a century, journalism — in all its forms — has been funded by advertisers, and not by consumers. By having readers pay for their own journalism and using the data publishers have to listen to what their readers really want, news organizations can focus on accountability metrics like loyalty, retention and churn in ways that resemble SaaS instead of a singular focus on CPMs…

He suggests that traditional media companies like ours are now positioned to disrupt the disrupters who earlier provided platforms and search capability. What they did was amazing, but we own the relationships. …

Satisfaction in the scoop

In journalism on April 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Green Valley News Facebook page

This week, the staff at the Green Valley News hit one — or two — out of the park. As often happens, the local newspaper was at its best when something terrible happened in the community.

In this case, it was the Sawmill fire in southern Arizona. At this writing, the fire was only 20 percent contained and had consumed 40,000 acres. It has cost taxpayers $1.6 million to fight so far. The fire is big news throughout the region. Hundreds of firefighters were involved at the scene and smoke and fire was on the mind of people from Tucson south to the border.

There are a number of ways to cover something like this and Wick newspapers in Green Valley, Sahuarita, Sierra Vista and Nogales (that I know of) did it all. Reporters went to the scene. They diligently reported on press releases from authorities who marked the progress of the fire. They took eyewitness accounts and photos from readers. And they worked longstanding sources. This is where local news organizations have the upper hand when big news breaks at home. And this is where Dan and Danielle and the entire GV News team kicked some butt.

Several sources confirmed to the Green Valley News that the fire was started by a target shooter aiming at explosive targets. (As an aside, if that doesn’t sound like a fire waiting to happen, I don’t know what does.) The sources said the target shooter was a man and that he called in the fire and turned himself into authorities. Within 24 hours, Wick’s Arizona newspapers were reporting that the suspect was an off-duty Border Patrol employee.

Official sources were saying none of that. Initially, at least, all they would say is that the fire was “human-caused.”

As a result, we had the extraordinary pleasure of being the source of information for the Arizona Daily Star in the region’s biggest city: …