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A recent national survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project says that 97% of American youth play video games.

Teenagers aren’t the only getting into the gaming action. A poll from msnbc.com shows that 4 in 10 adults play electronic games. Increasingly, articles and books are being writing about how players can make an actual living buying and selling goods in virtual gaming worlds. 

Wired contributing editor Julian Dibbell set out to write about his adventures to make money in a virtual world. His book, titled “Play Money” shows the author’s attempt to better understand the relationship between work and play. Dibbell does this by working to immerse himself in his play — literally. For three weeks straight, he plunged into the virtual world to see how he could earn a living in a play environment.

In his accounts, Dibbell plays the virtual game Ultima Online (UO). This game called a graphical massively multiplayer online-role playing game (MMORG), is a role-playing fantasy game that takes place in the Ultima universe. It’s played by thousands of gamers.

The author tries to make money by buying and selling virtual weapons, supplies, homes, and other products available in UO’s world.

Along Dibbell’s adventures, he raises several interesting questions about the gaming world.  For instance, he poses ownership questions. Who exactly owns the wealth that’s created in the virtual worlds? Does it belong to the companies that create the games or the players who play the games?

That raises an interesting point. UO provides a platform for the game. But the gamers are behind the economic success of failure of the game. What happens, as it did in the book, if UO decides to shut a successful player’s account down. It’s a fine line and one that UO needs to play carefully. There’s no reason why dissatisfied UO players couldn’t begin their own virtual game.

The author also poses questions about the complexity and confusion that gaming creates. The virtual world has become so intricate that the lines between gaming and society have blurred. Dibbell talks about how many of the players he met and interacted with worked equally as hard as workers who held traditional careers.

The book also delves into discussions about modern economics and the allocation of resources and scarcity. He cites several examples how UO’s gold and money supply created controversy and bitterness among fellow games.

At times, Dibbell gets caught up in the gaming world becoming fixated on being noticed and envied by other UO gamers.  He cites some of the reasons gamers are drawn to virtual worlds: camaraderie and friendships, fellowship and the social nature that gaming provides.

Fortunately for Dibbell he befriends several fellow UO players who help him understand the rules and ways to make money. At this time, the author encounters several ethical dilemmas about economic justice and the extent to which other players are willing to go through to make money.

After playing in the virtual world of Ultima, Dibbell concludes that the traditional definition of play doesn’t fit nicely into the play world. In the end, Dibbell says that it took a great deal of effort to make money by gaming. The author decides that gaming is in itself a different and distinctive path. He says “Ultima Online was a game, of course, but beneath it there were levels within levels of another game, the game of virtuality that Turing invented and refined.” He goes on to say that ultimately the relationship between the virtual world and the real one is complicated. Virtual worlds can serve to strengthen the bonds between people. It can also help to reinforce the importance of social networks.

I’ve never played a virtual game and quite frankly, before reading the book, couldn’t fathom why people would spend countless hours playing in a fantasy world. I did have several suspicions about why people play virtual games though. I thought that maybe it allowed people to achieve a certain level of success as defined in their own world that was unachievable in the real one. I also believed that it helped to provide another outlet that allowed gamers to interact and connect with other like-minded people.

After reading “Play Money” I’m further convinced that people play online games to fulfill a personal need. However, I agree with Dibbell in that the virtual world is far more complex and complicated than most imagine, something that’s difficult for non-gamers to fully comprehend. It makes me wonder just how far the lines of the virtual world and real world have already collided. 

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Last summer I attended a networking cocktail party. The other guests also worked in the financial services industry. The part that intrigued me most about the event included the conversations surrounding new business ventures. Many of the men (unfortunately no women) had grandiose plans about starting their own hedge funds or similar specialized investment companies.

I remember thinking after the event that the financial industry was turning into a bunch of mini boutique shops that served narrow interests. I wondered whether we would have too many specialized firms and would therefore saturate the market.

Fast-forward several months later, add in several prominent brokerage firm and bank failures, a bunch of bailouts and mergers and we have an entirely different landscape, right?  Not so fast.  

Think about investor needs applying the Long Tail concept.

The Long Tail theory as it relates to consumer businesses first appeared in Wired magazine four years ago. Its author Chris Anderson popularized the term by discussing how the Internet is transforming our world with the economics of abundance. The Long Tail refers to the consumer business strategy of selling large numbers of unique products or services.  The article received widespread attention. Subsequently, Anderson went on to dedicate an entire book called “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.”

Anderson sums up his theory of the long tail this way: “Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”

I’d like to explore how the Long Tail fits into the financial industry. What insights can we gather from Anderson’s book and how does it apply to the financial industry?

At the head, we have the best selling fund families:  Vanguard, Fidelity, American Funds and T. Rowe Price. These top firms represent the bulk of assets under management.

The rest of the industry falls into the tail, each focusing on their specific niches and interests. What would happen if we add more boutique firms, will that further dilute the industry?

I don’t think so. I think the answer lies in Anderson’s book.

In his book, Anderson paints a fascinating voyage of how many successful companies have transformed their business models to serve the specialized interests and tastes of consumersall without diluting their brand or the industry.

The book begins by talking about how our culture used to be obsessed with tracking top-selling listswhether it be hit songs, hit movies, hit TV shows.

This old way of focusing on top-selling markets, operated under the economic of scarcity. In reality, however, only a small percent of hit songs are made, top products produced or best-selling services offered.  

Thanks to the Internet, times have changed. Consumers are being scattered and fragmented into countless niches. Our culture as we know it has been shattered into millions of tiny pieces, a fact that has upset many traditional companies.

What’s happened is that because the Internet has brought consumers so many choices, we are seeing obscure categories and areas previously discounted as too narrow, turn into profitable businesses.

Anderson makes three astute observations about what he calls the Long Tail, including:

       It’s far larger than originally imagined

       It’s within reach

       It’s a huge business when we add it all up

In the book, the author references many industries as examples of those that have benefitted from the Long Tail. One is the music industry. If you combine all of the non-hit wonders, the size of the market is impressive. Anderson believes that the most money to be made is within the non-hit area.

He looks at how Napster resulted in the decline of traditional record stores. Traffic on P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing continues to grow.

Another monumental time in the music industry was the introduction of the Apple iPod. It became one of the first must-have MP3 players, using the Long Tail theory.

Industries outside of music also benefitted by using the Long Tail. Anderson believes that the most successful Internet companies are focusing on the nice markets.

Other companies mentioned in the book that have successfully worked the Long Tail, include:

Amazon, eBay – Physical goods

Google, Craigslist – Advertising/services

Google, Wikipedia – Information

MySpace, Bloglines – Communities/user-created content

Another important trend touched upon is how the traditional watercooler has lost its effect. We are now living in the virtual watercooler.

TiVo and DVRs helped to dissolve the watercooler effect. He brings up the point that even if two people watched the same show, it’s very possible that they watched it at different times, thereby changing the context of their experience.

This new culture demands control over their media and what they listen to.

Amazon signifies a very important icon in the new virtual world. Specifically, Amazon’s pioneering of customer reviews and recommendations has answered a problem consumers were having, namely how to effectively manage through the clutter of choices. Reviews help to simply our world as we move from the Informational Era to the Recommendations Era.

So turning back to my question about applying insights gained from the “Long Tail” to the financial industry, I’d like to suggest three recommendations to the financial community:

First, brokerages and banks will continue to fail, merge and bleed assets. However, this doesn’t mean that investors taste for specialized funds will diminish. In fact, investors will increasingly be searching for tailored boutique investments. Investors will continue to demand specialized products similar to their beliefs, values, interests and risk levels. As investors have access to more information, successful investment firms will recognize this need and provide niche products and services.

So, investment mangers should continue to start hedge funds and specialty boutique firms—regardless of the financial environment.

Second, investment firms are missing the boat and avoiding the new consumer culture. Consumers are moving from the Informational Era to the Recommendations Era. It’s about time financial firms begin to give investors want they want: chat rooms, investment forums, access to portfolio managers, and recommendation lists.

Third, forward-thinking investment firms should partner with, utilize, borrow from other successful Long Tail thinkers like Google, Amazon and eBay. How great would it be to have a recommended funds list based on my personal profile. 

The Long Tail is in full force everywhere, including the investment industry. I am even more convinced of this fact after reading Anderson’s book. I look forward to reading Anderson’s next book titled Free.

The world financial crisis began to unfold when the U.S. real estate market began to decline in late 2006. Throughout the next two years, financial markets around the world, including the U.S., European, Asian and U.K. markets began to destabilize.

The U.S. economic crisis, which moved beyond its subprime mortgage roots, began to accelerate this past September with a number of buyouts, bailouts and failures.

A look at the recent headlines sums up the horrifying crisis situation that our economy is experiencing:

       “Treasury bails out Freddie and Fannie”

       “Lehman files for bankruptcy; Merrill is sold”

        “Manic Monday: Dow suffers worst week ever”

       “Dow down more than 30%”

       “Ohio woman, 90, attempts suicide after foreclosure”

       “Foreclosure sob story of the morning”

       “Consumer spending tumbled last quarter by the most in three decades”

       “U.S. incomes fall”

        “Consumers feel the next crisis: credit cards”

       “U.S. economy experiences once in-a-century credit tsunami”

       “October is the worst month in the history of the stock market since 1987”

       “AIG to borrow $20.9 billion more from Fed”

       “Investors cash out $21.9 billion from funds”

How are investment firms communicating with investors about the current economic crisis? How are firms reaching out to let us know what we should be doing with our portfolios—should we buy, sell, run, or hide our money? What types of digital communications are firms using to keep us updated, engaged and informed?

The paper that I’d like to write for Introduction to Digital class examines what digital communications methods investment firms are currently using. I’ll also explore some of the newer technologies that firms should consider using to better dialogue and converse with investors. 

In times of uncertainty, firms need to use a strategic communications plan that not only communicates with clients, but also one that allows their clients to dialogue and converse with them. The impression among reporters and investors is that most firms are failing on this measure.

How are you learning about what you should be doing with your investments? What digital technologies are you using?

Please take a moment to complete a brief survey. 

Thanks!

I am an old-time movie enthusiast.

I’ll watch any movie with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Montgomery Cliff, Grace Kelly or Katharine Hepburn. These oldies represent authentic movies to me—full of charm, and usually sweet love stories with happy endings.

Recently, my husband and I watched the romantic comedy “Desk Set.” In it, Katherine Hepburn plays a reference librarian. She’s responsible for researching and answering questions—the old fashioned way—by searching through stacks and stacks of books and by using the help of other librarians’ memories to find answers.

That until the library’s management decides to bring on Spencer Tracy’s character, an efficiency expert. Tracy is hired to help train the librarians to use two new computers, or at that time referred to as “electronic brains.” The idea of using machines to help in their work was a foreign and unwelcomed concept. The librarians believed that the computers were their replacements.

As the movie progresses, Hepburn and Tracy become romantically interested in each other. Soon after, everyone in the library, including the president, receives a pink slip printed on one of the new computers. As it turns out, the computer made an error. In the end, Spencer and Hepburn become involved. The movie subtly hints that computers can’t entirely replace humans. The personal aspect is still important.

“Desk Set” is a quaint and wholesome movie. Interestingly though, it shows human nature to initially at least, reject technology and view it as a threat.

“The Search” by John Battelle, offers a fascinating look into the labyrinthine world of Internet search technologies. Battelle, a leading expert on search, turns the history of search into an interesting storyfull of conflict, rejection, persistence, triumph and love (well…a fond affection for search).  The book provides insights into the extraordinary future potential that search could one day provide.

Google’s story is central to the book. However, Battelle provides a historical glimpse into search well before Google reigned as the search champ. The interesting turn of events regarding search is Google’s good fortune. Many others, such as Bill Gross, inventor of “paid search,” and Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo, helped to pave the way for Google. Regardless of timing or development ideas, the founders of Google brought innovation and their proprietary search algorithms, which remain at the heart of Google.

I am not an avid follower of science fiction movies, nor am I a paranoid person. I never seriously considered the concept that machines would realistically overtake Earth. However, after reading “The Search” I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of fearan uncertainty whether Google could become even bigger than it already is and turn villainous.

I’ll admit, I watched the movie “Colossus” and “The Terminator” and on occasion have seen the TV show “Battlestar Galactica.” But I never thought that one entitybe it a computer or a companycould take over the world.

But I never thought that Google would cave in to the Chinese government and fiddle with search results. I also never thought that they would turn over private emails to the government either.

I’m not convinced that Google will become Skynet or Colossus, but I think the government should step in and consider limits to which a company can collect and distribute information on private citizens. Interestingly, Google’s CEO believes that the government should regulate Internet Service Providers.

 

Investment firms aren’t known for being tech savvy. Of course top portfolio managers and stock traders use sophisticated computer modeling and tracking systems. But the financial industry overall has been slow to adopt the latest Internet technologies like podcasting and vodcasting. One brokerage firm only recently allowed advisors to communicate with clients via email.

Times are changing though. The investment industry no longer shuns new technology. It simply takes them longer than most to figure out how to effectively use it.

Financial companies make it a practice to follow behind others to see how certain systems and technologies work—or fail. The thinking being that they want others to take the risks.

Thankfully, the world has courageous early adopters who embrace new technologies—and are willingly to share their lessons learned with the rest of us.

Consider blogging.

In their book “Naked Conversations,” IT rebels Robert Scoble and Shel Israel provide a roadmap for companies to implement blogging. The book cites convincing case examples from Scoble’s groundbreaking work at Microsoft and Israel’s experience as a communications innovator. It provides a guide for corporations that want to embark and learn the rules of blogging.

After reading “Naked Conversations” I couldn’t help but wonder whether blogging could effectively fit into the financial industry. Could I convince clients to use blogging as another communications tool that would build more effective relationships at a fraction of the cost? It certainly would be challenging.

Consider that the traditional press release still represents the financial industry’s most widely used communications tool. This traditional one-way communication method is anything but conversational and customer focused.

But the concept of blogging, the ability to reach and converse with your target audience effectively and efficiently sounds compelling, right?

I’m drawn to the conversational and two-way nature of blogging. It’s a great way for customers or potential clients to hear from the company in an authentic and interesting way. The company now has personality.

The idea of corporate blogging is making its way into the mainstream. In addition to Scoble and Israel’s writings, numerous studies and articles have been written about the potential impact that blogging could have on corporations.

A Public Relations Journal study claims that the new world of public relations requires PR professionals to embrace the digital age—or else. According to the study, this means developing digital strategies that complement and further enhance the client relationship. It means using the Internet and the many sources available to advance relationships, such as blogging.

A study by Edelman Public Relations says blogging empowers employees to communicate in ways similar to the rise of labor unions witnessed in the 20th century. The study discusses the importance of establishing blogging guidelines. Scoble and Israel and organizations such as the BBC also raise this point.

So, after reading “Naked Conversations” and the many upbeat articles about blogging, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the blogosphere simply has too many rules and guidelines. Before reading the book, I thought that blogging was supposed to be a forum for those who wanted to voice their opinions and express themselves however they saw fit. I used to view blogging more as an open source-esque type of communication. The book illustrates the less than appealing reaction that the blogging community can take when a company unknowingly veers off the blogging rule path and attempts to take a different approach. The blogosphere becomes a bully towards those who break the blogging rules. That part I don’t appreciate.

But bully blogging aside, I believe that blogging could be effective in the financial industry. As Scoble and Israel point out, the entire culture, particularly the legal team, needs to be on board.

Investment professionals who operate in a blogging friendly culture and who are creative, interesting, and can write well could find blogging as a way to build stronger client relationships and gain new customers.

There are certain topics financial blogs must avoid for legal reason, such as recommending specific stocks. Instead, the focus could be on specific life events that people face and the financial difficulties that result.

I believe that the women’s market represents an ideal target audience for blogging. I could see blog postings talking about the financial considerations that divorced women should understand, or the financial impact of having a child. An advisor who blogged about these issues could position themselves well with clients and prospects and with peers in the financial community.

A number of financial blogging communities already exist, such as “No Limits Ladies.” This social community discusses financial literacy in a fun and interesting way with other investors. I see no reason why investment professionals can’t take part and help to transform and improve the world of financial blogs.

Prior to reading “Naked Conversations,” I knew little about Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. I recall that Scoble worked at Microsoft and earned his name through blogging.

When I Googled the book, I came across Scoble’s blog “scobleizer.”  I must admit, at first I was taken aback by the photo in the header of his blog. It shows a silly grinning Scoble pointing his left index finger and holding what at first looks like a weapon in his other hand. Upon further inspection, it appears he’s holding a camera or other tech device. At least Scoble appears to have a good sense of humor for an ultra tech geek.

After reading through the first half of the book and some of Scoble’s blog entries, one thing’s clear: both of these men are undoubtedly passionate about blogging and believe that it’s the next greatest communications invention—particularly for corporations. 

The book provides compelling case study examples describing some of the business reasons companies should blog. I appreciate the authors taking a business angle approach.

Prior to taking the class Introduction to the Digital Age, I incorrectly assumed that bloggers comprised Gen Y types who wanted to pontificate and brag to their friends about their latest endeavors. Or that bloggers comprised young desperate “wanna be” reporters looking for their big break at a traditional media publication.

When I previously thought about bloggers, I would think of the NYT article that featured the story by a former blogger from Gawker Media, Emily Gould. She previously blogged about the lives of so-called famous people in NYC. Ultimately, strong public dislike of Gould caused her to quit her job at Gawker. She’s now writing freelance for such publications as the NYT. She featured her raw and unfiltered story about her blogging experience this past summer in the NYT. The article paints a pathetic look at the life of a publicity-driven blogger who had the tables turned on her when she became the story instead of reporting what was happening to the lives of stars.

“Naked Conversations” certainly has placed a new perspective for me about the fascinating world of blogging. I now see that people and companies blog for many reasons—such as to enrich their lives or to extend their reach. It can open up a world of possibilities. Corporate blogging offers a way for companies to economical and effectively communicate with customers. It can paint a company as authentic and transparent if used properly. It can help to build stronger customer relationships as it has for GM’s Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. It personalizes and humanizes a company and provides a feedback mechanism. Additionally, it can help to build a company’s reputation and credibility.

The authors will address some of the negative effects of blogging in the second half of the book. I certainly hope that they discuss how blogging—and other technologies such as email—are negatively influencing the English language.

NPR recently featured a segment talking about how technology, such as texting, is destroying our ability to communicate. People aren’t using proper grammar anymore. They are purposely writing incomplete sentences or using acronyms to communicate their thoughts.

I completely agree with the NPR analysis. Bloggers for instance misspell or leave out words so sentences are incomprehensible. Scoble and Israel think that such innocent mistakes make the blogger appear authentic and transparent. I completely disagree. The biggest problem that I have with reading blogs is the plethora of misspelled words and the use of incomplete sentences. I’m not suggesting that bloggers submit their posts through an editor to check their grammar. All I’m recommending is that bloggers respect the English language—use spell check, and re-read their messages prior to publishing. That’s all that I’m asking.

My final comment about the first half of the book concerns the future of blogging.

Scoble and Israel had originally thought to title their book “Blog or Die.” I’m certainly happy that they used the title “Naked Conversations. It’s more provocative, memorable and suitable. Don’t get me wrong, blogging certainly has a place in the corporate world. But I don’t think it applies to all industries.

I work in the investment industry. This field is highly regulated and controlled. The authors make the assertion that unless corporations begin blogging they will whither. I don’t believe that applies to all industries. Specifically, I don’t see the financial industry ever widely using blogs. It’s already so heavily regulated that any dialogue/communication with shareholders must first be reviewed and approved by lawyers knowledgeable of industry regulations.  For example a discussion of upcoming stock or mutual fund offerings without proper documentation can bring about serious penalties.

Moreover, I disagree with the authors that blogging will become as big as the Internet. I just don’t see this happening. While I agree that blogging has a place at some companies and in specific industries, it’s not a “do or die” situation for companies as the authors make it out.

Gillmor Chapters 7-12

The readings for this week touch on a variety of subjects. Topics include discussions on how Internet users could lose the right to free speech, to strategies that bloggers can use to protect against violating copyrighted and “fair use” materials.

In this week’s blog posting, I’ll focus on three important points that Gillmor raises: the growing importance of grassroots journalism; the future of journalism; and dealing with misinformation.

 

Media Abyss

Big media—as Gillmor affectionately calls them—continue to miss the point about grassroots journalism. Newspapers have been slow to react and adapt to the new media world. Gillmor asserts that this is probably due to media consolidation and its focus on profitability over quality. Gillmor claims that media conglomerates fail to comprehend the increasingly significant role that grassroots journalism plays in news reporting.

Consider for instance the news coverage of the December 2003 protest in Iraq. Thousands of Iraqis protested the insurgent bombings in the streets of Baghdad. Mainstream media outlets such the New York Times missed the story. However, citizen journalists such as Zeyad blogged thorough and harrowing accounts of the ordeal.

Bloggers have increasingly come to play a larger role in the reporting of news and information. They are capable of producing, filtering and reporting important news events. This has allowed the public to hear new and different opinions. A wider audience of people can now voice their viewpoints for the world to hear.

Gillmor writes that blogs “can be acts of civic engagement.” Furthermore, he asserts that grassroots journalists can provide more depth compared to traditional journalists who often face space and content restrictions from editors.

 

The New Media

New and faster technologies are being created at high rates of speed. Moore’s Law states that the power of computer CPUs will double every 18 to 24 months. This notion, first proposed in the 1960s, amazingly still holds true today.

Gillmor discusses the changing role of journalism. He maintains that reporters in the near future will have impressive technology toolkits at their disposal. These tools will be simple to use, easily accessible and carried by reporters at all times.

Furthermore, he contends that people and computer systems will handle the media sifting process that journalists currently go through. He believes that the role of the journalists will transform—not disappear as many critics have suggested. He also sees the role of technology and automation playing an increasingly important role for journalists.

I agree with Gillmor’s assertions. Technology will continue to transform how journalists do their jobs. As reported in “The State of the News Media,”  savvy journalists will embrace and use new technologies to improve their gathering and sorting techniques.

However, with this “long tail” journalism that becomes more and more focused on those handful of issues that matter most to each of us, I’m concerned that we risk being unable to see the forest from the trees. Unless people actively seek out “big picture” blogs or news analysis, society could become mired in the “thick of thin things,” and fail to see the bigger trends that are influencing our lives.

 

The “Backfire Effect”

Innovative technologies have given Internet users the ability to communicate with others simultaneously. However, incredible amounts of information and ways to communicate have created an authenticity problem. How can users evaluate the reputation and credibility of bloggers? How does a user know that the information or picture that he or she is viewing is accurate?

Gillmor points out that public manipulation is easy to do with Photoshop or other image-manipulation tools. The current process of determining authenticity is laborious. Gillmor suggests looking at the source of information.

However, even checking the source doesn’t always uncover the truth—at least initially. At times, the speed of news reporting takes precedence over accuracy. This in turns creates retractions or questions from other bloggers concerning the information’s authenticity. What happens when users are exposed to misinformation even if it’s later disproven? What affect does news misinformation have on readers?

Actually, when people are exposed to misinformation, it can have a “backfire effect”. A new study conducted by political scientists shows that misinformation can have an indelible effect on people, even if it’s later proven false. “Correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information.”

This recent study focused on political campaigns. But, the findings could also be applied more broadly to the Internet. Consider the magnitude of misinformation (whether intentionally or unintentionally) that exists on the Internet. What if the same “backfire effect” occurs with all misinformation? 

“The media may not tell us what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about”

Bernard C. Cohen

 

In the fall of 1989 I attended a public relations conference in New York City. The event featured well-known local and national reporters who eagerly shared their strong viewpoints on how PR professionals should work with the press. I vividly recall how one seasoned reporter mockingly told the audience that “the press doesn’t tell us what to think but what to think about.” The audience politely laughed. I couldn’t help but think at the time that the reporter’s comments sounded vaguely familiar and disturbingly accurate.

In 1963, Bernard C. Cohen, the founder of agenda-setting theory, proclaimed a similar statement about the media’s role in shaping public perception. Today however, news reporting and the role that the public plays have experienced a seismic transformation.

This week’s blog post reflects on chapters 1-6 in Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media.” Additionally, it infuses personal perspective based on my experiences and beliefs about the digital media.

The first six chapters touch on many points concerning the media and the digital age. Several of Gillmor’s points resonated with me: history and evolution of journalism; the new age of reporting; and the roles of traditional and non-traditional journalists.

Prior to the late 20th century, the barriers to entry remained high for journalists. In those days, reporters attended journalism schools to better understand the art of reporting. This evolved into an elite group of educated professionals who reported news that was increasingly out of touch with the mainstream public. A certain distinction and separation existed between the press and the public

However, the widespread public use of the Internet began to crack this separation, thus blurring the lines between the two. Citizen journalism cropped up on the Internet. Citizens began playing an active role in the analysis, reporting and collection of news and information. Gillmor describes citizen journalists as “the former audience.” Citizen journalism has also been defined as “when the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.”  

Gillmor adamantly believes that the increase in popularity of citizen journalism will only help journalists to do their jobs better. The author views the relationship between the public and journalists as one that is interdependent. Furthermore, he surmises that the rise in citizen journalism will provide a voice for those who have previously remained voiceless. Gillmor believes that traditional journalists should embrace citizen journalists by using them as a resource.

I think Gillmor makes some strong points. Traditional journalists need to embrace and recognize the value that citizen journalists can provide. Media corporations also need to take part and integrate citizen journalists into their business mix.

Consider today how CNN frequently uses citizen journalists to cover breaking news. In fact as the RichardCQZ blog reported back in February, CNN launched its iReport Citizen Journalist Web site.  

However, biased and opinionated reporting is a concern. Citizen journalists are not trained to report the facts in a balanced and fair manner. Their political biases and limited “world views” could taint the story by only presenting one side of a story (intentionally or unintentionally).

Although this video is showing its age, it illustrates both the opportunities and pitfalls that a newsscape dominated by citizen journalists could become.

In case you’re wondering why I chose the name pathway.tv, my company’s name is Pathway Communications. I am considering doing an educational vlog in the future.