There were several strong presentations at the Online News Association annual conference, but the one that functioned best as the tone-setter was Amy Webb's 10 Tech Trends You've Never Heard Of.
Well, of course, we had heard of many of them. But her point was: Watch for these, they're likely to be hot commodoties for journalism. The session was jammed into the hallway, where at least there was a semblance of air conditioning.
The list: 2D bar codes, WiMax and Mobile Broadband, Geobrowsing, Cloud Computing, WebOS, Visual Search, Lifestreaming, Ubiquitous Video, Semantic Web, and Multiscreen Journalism.
Her presentation is here.
The Online News Association annual conference provided several options for participants: learn techniques, think about direction, find colleagues in the same boat, among them.
Here are 10 of the more obvious takeaways:
1. The semantic Web is where everyone has to focus. An audible groan came from the crowd when a speaker asked if a questioner had heard of Web 2.0. Nope, now we're into getting news to find people.
2. Of 100 users online, one will create, 10 will interact, 89 will just view.
3. Access is more important than quality.
4. Rather than start with the Web, start with the story and figure out which medium would best tell it.
5. Bloggers like Robert Scoble commit themselves, and if you're going to blog for anything more than a sideline distraction, you've got to live the life and use all of the tools and be open.
6. Amateurs provide the stub, professionals the polish. Still, an inordinate number of traditional editors are highly skeptical of the value of crowd-powered or citizen news.
7. Profit is the p-word, and treated somewhat like an expletive. Some of the finest examples of innovation took place in organizations shielded from market pressures (BBC, NPR, Las Vegas Sun, NowPublic) or large places still able to invest in new media without imminent return. In most places, it's a muddle without a business plan.
8. Video and video search offer large growth potential. Still, small spenders might be where big dollars are.
9. Newspapers are ahead of television in using online tools.
10. Don't permit sites to be driven by design. Make them driven by a single purpose: Audiences simply want help getting things done.
Although the Online News Association hasn't quite adopted the speediness of a wire service in issuing a press release on its award winners, I can say that it has given the top prize in general excellence to CNN.com, the medium-sized prize for excellence to Las Vegas Sun, and the small-sized prize for excellence to Army Times.
A special prize for public service went to Washingtonpost.com, while an additional such award was given to ESPN.com. Soitu.es won for non-English excellence in a small site, while ElPais.com won in the large category. A Canadian outlet, The Globe and Mail, was a co-winner with Dallasnews.com in the large-site investigative category.
A full list is forthcoming from the ONA.
A somewhat interesting overview from Reuters' Devin Wenig on the company's approach with the Web, but it's a very aggressive crowd that was looking for a sense of the semantic Web approach and less about the recent strategy.
When he asked a questioner if she had heard of Web 2.0, an audible deflation of the room ensued.
But his ideas had a logic to them: media need a local focus, need to get more analytical, and need to find new storytelling methods. Aggregators will be new distribution points. As for whether there will be enough advertising around to fuel the media after transition, "there may not well be."
Trouble was, that's probably what a conference like this heard two years back.
Author and former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown opened the ONA conference today and said the time had come for editors to reassert themselves in an algorithmic age.
Brown's The Daily Beast will launch some time this fall (Oct. 1, Reuters noted last night) and will aggregate content and provide what she hopes will be material no one else has.
She told the ONA conference that she's delighted to be in a medium not worried about its demise. She is working with a smallish budget at a feverish pace, but she had very little to say about her business model except that it's evolving and will be underwritten by advertising. It's part of IAC, Barry Diller's diversified media company.
She said that at some point the nut will be cracked and that advertising's bifurcated period will shake out to permit integration of new media. We're in the middle right now of a transitional moment, she said.
She cut off questions about The Daily Beast, saying she didn't want the event to be a press conference on the site. It was a bit of a hard moment in an otherwise soft session.
Having done that, she later answered a question about how long-form journalism can be created online. She noted that online media is not terribly "hospitable" to long-form narrative writing, but that she wants to explore how to provide extensive information without necessarily doing all of it in text. The 5,000-7,000-word pieces online are too hard to read.
Earlier in the speech and q-and-a session, she had her strongest criticism for media organizations asking journalists to commit to multi-platform production in addition to their normal duties with no addtional pay.
The great con of the 20th and 21st century is the way in which talent has been exploited. There needs to be pushback from the creative community. "It's a pretty savage state of affairs."
She said it's a "great mistake" to assume that anyone can write for a reputable brand.
A "tremendous fall" awaits companies thinking they can replace experienced staff with younger journalists in order to get much more quantity from them.
Advice to young journalists: Avoid the big companies, go into something small and about to close, because that's where you can get into the thick of it.
The pre-conference workshops at the Online News Association annual conference offer a sound starting point on the state of media.
Anthony Moor of the Dallas Morning News was first out of the gate with a presentation he modified from his work for Newstrain, the American Press Institute traveling show.
His slides are here:
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