The Economist has a look at the backbone of news organizations this week, the wire services, and how they're reshaping their input and output in the digital age.
The magazine asserts that wires may actually have a brighter future than their supplier/client newspapers because of their ability to sell directly to the consumer. The standing question is whether they'll sufficiently invest in reporting on the ground to ensure they don't need the supplying papers to cover the news.
It's been interesting, as a former wire service reporter and manager, to see the services rework their approaches. I noted this week that The Canadian Press is seeking investment to bolster its multiplatform journalism, and our Canwest News Service continues to develop new distribution channels for its content derived from the chain's newsrooms and its own staff.
In the end the services are in good shape to weather the storm.
Economist.com has, like its British counterpart at BBC News, stripped down its splash-page-heavy look and unveiled a sleeker, deeper-running home page with a respectable amount of interactivity.
For one of the world's most authoritative media, with a thundering pronouncement here and there and everywhere, one wouldn't expect The Economist to rub shoulders extensively with user-generated content. But it's at least elevated the "most commented" element of its site. The main story section is highly attractive.
As a design, it doesn't immediately stand out the way the BBC's did. Downpage there are still some spatial issues and clashing functions.
There are fewer, or lesser, ads. Which is not something every media can afford.
Click through, though, and there is a wide offering of the publication's digital and print content. With a really strong podcast, it was good to see they've given that more prominence. I suspect it'll be tweaked a few more times before settling in.
News organizations have been struggling to sort through the challenges of social networking and their applications to conventional media. Newsrooms I know use Facebook and MySpace for gathering content, and I belong to Linkedin and other social and professional networks for their excellent connective purposes.
The allure is the interactivity and functionality of sharing content and using generated content. But the downside is, well, no one's really making money on the model.
This week's Economist has a compelling take on how social networks may be a big part of the Internet, but not really a business model.