Notes from #RJI Talkfest

Jason and I headed down to Mizzou on Tuesday evening to make it for the RJI Talkfest.  (You can review the live blog here.)

I really enjoyed this seminar…which, coming from a web geek was in limited numbers.  With working in the media industry, it was very good for me to hear what the journalist were struggling with to be and think different that I do no.  Here are my notes.

RJI Talkfest at University of Missouri - 01/2009

Notes from Intro

Brian Boyer, one of the newsmixer team had a good comment when discussing “In talking about development and building new things” – half-not half assed.

building community requires all on participation – being part of the deal…not watching.

writing stories “serially” instead of update.  Gives the real time development of a story – in an “agile” way.  – this brought up interesting conversation throughout the day, without a mindset change, journalist are uncomfortable with releasing stories early.

What can we do now, that we couldn’t do before. That is one question going to be answered today at #rji

journalism is becoming more and more intertwined with the “inch-wide”, “inch-deep” #rji

West Seattle ( – good example of a good start for entrepreneurial journalism.  Good stuff.  – this is a site which 2 people are running as a local media company.  They are doing pretty good, but very, very busy trying to keep up.

Notes from the live chat with the couple:

  • using freelances a handfull of times each month
  • to cover when everyone is busy
  • crime is a hot topic
  • marketing:  adwords, freespace (twitter, facebook), sponsor community events, viral – people are talking about them, businesses customers are talking about them and businesses are calling them
  • try to get on media – public access, public radio (they didn’t call)
  • lots of people linking to them – local paper
  • do they pay for content?  they really try for photo credits – but the only thing they have compensated for are meetings and thening they ask people to do
  • likes to leverage local databases to verify information
  • don’t underestimate the idea of “feet on the street” in each area.  tons of stuff gets lost if you are not focused on an area
  • RJIcollab:  Mitch Ratcliffe argues great journalism costs $180k a year. But he suggests a model for subscriber-supported journalism, in which a beat reporter can make $130k a year with 15,000 subscribers paying $1/month.
  • Adam Glenn: It’s OK to be afraid, but we do need people who feel the fear if it motivates, not paralyzes them. If it pushes them to try new things
    we have nothing to fear – but fear itself…and spiders”

Mike McKean – mobile

  • 2008 was the first year people’s technology they wouldn’t give up was cell phone.
  • Problem with mobile development: lots of different platforms, display characteristics. They’ve been doing iPhone development.
  • All mobile talk is about iPhone

Bob –

  • started site after he got fired from TV station
  • got some extra coverage during floods and it went down – but higher than pre-flood
  • doing some “watch dog” reporting
  • shares info with AM radio station
  • first 9 months – $55K…doing OK.
  • $250/450 side ads – $600 for top (per month)
  • coupons are working very well
  • Bob has investors – but no one has spoke about return on dollars.  They invested because they felt the news/investigative news was not being covered.
  • Amy Gahran:  People read & support because “They want their sunshine,” says the publisher.
  • Amy Gahran: founder says that sometimes official sources ignore him, won’t answer his questions. So sometimes he has to eun quotes from MSM, but not for lack of trying to get answers.
  • sales is derived by face-to-face sales
  • how can the community help?  how do they do qn 2.0 inthe most effcient way possible.
  • RJIcollab:  What can Collaboratory community do to help at site like Quincy News: Help understand ramp-up, and what should new staffers do? How to handle logistical issues like benefits? How to go 2.0 in most cost-effective, efficient way possible?

The next thing was a big brainstorm – trying to figure out the boundries we have and need to break through – the heading tell the subject, bullets are the ideas.

Working on figuring out what we can do (before social media)…

  • UGC – user gen content
  • tighter collab between public and “offical”/traditional journalist
  • the before – is before social media
  • databases
  • dicussion, discussion forums
  • changes time and space contraints
  • cost is low

Cool Stuff we’re missing

  • video
  • crime, births and deaths


  • blogs, groups, email, comments, wiki, forums
  • maslow – everyone sleeps somewhere.  by helping with security, home, food and shelter…we can ptu focus here and help
  • hyper-local, citizen watch
  • AK: What can we do? New media development encourages the participation of citizens.
  • RJIcollab: Jane suggests: Video in the hands of everyone. Embed a player – put video whereever.
  • RJIcollab: Maurreen Skowran suggests: Mashing among stories and data.
  • AK: What can we do? Tom: the ability of people to tell their stories on the daily basis helps building communities.
  • Min: in terms of communicty building, the local news sites can help us meet the fundamental needs of people (Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs) by providing news that directly relates with people’s security and well being in the community
  • Don’t assume we “know how” to communicate


  • relevance matching – matching content to ads
  • mobile ads and pushing ads based on location
  • facebook apps
  • let’s talk about making revenue too – not just ads and marketing
  • [Comment From Tom Warhover]
    Why is this category marketing/advertising and not “revenue”? Are we confining ourselves too narrowly
  • Amy Gahran: Just asked your question for you, tom. Folks seem to agree
  • RJIcollab: Other ideas drawn from the Talkfest Connect room: partner with other groups in the community that are working to build community, User produced ads, Micropayment


  • distributed reporting
  • serious UGC
  • designing sites which work for all platforms

Breakout 1 – mobile

  • We had lively discussion in a very bright room.  aka – no lappy.
  • much talk about what will “work” for mobile
  • 2 camps – basic SMS and full blown app action

My biggest issue here is we really cannot only develop for the top end phone platofrms…there is so much we can do with SMS and twoway communicado.

Breakout 2 – community and community building

  • what is a community?  is it geo or is it topic based?
  • what exactly is it –
  • good conversation about community.  journalism vs.  internet

Wow was this one spirited.  I hit a vein when I suggested “we” (the media) are no different that the “underlings”.  We need to imurse ourselves in the community.  Well, I was “put in my place” by some old media folks who were bound and determine to convince me that we need “The Media” to protect the democracy of the US.

Breakout 3 – marketing and advertising

  • what needs to be done
  • an agile approach to business plans

It was hard to keep up woth notes and participate.  We spoke alot about what could an organization like RHI @ Columbia do to help and the consensus was it would be good for RJI to lead a common resource database of sorts to bounce ideas against.

Breakout 4 – entrepreneurial journalism

This was an interesting breakout.  Most of the talk was Brian Boyer and myself talking about our thoughts.  We spoke about platforms and how they can help.

Brain had some great points about how small,agile teams are good – especially when they ahve a common mindset.  He recommend a book from 37signals called “Getting Real“.  he likes to use it to start a baseline for team members.


Now what?

Check out the RJI ning site to read more and join the conversation.

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