UCB Investigative Journalism Symposium: Collaborative Media


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I added speaker notes after the event. This is what I meant to say. Also, there are a few additional slides at the end that I didn't have time to cover.

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UCB Investigative Journalism Symposium: Collaborative Media

  1. 1. Collaborative Media An approach to open journalism in a networked world DateMonday, 18 April 2011
  2. 2. Agenda ✤ Open and connected as a business strategy ✤ Collaboration in journalism...examples ✤ A direction of travelMonday, 18 April 2011In this talk I’m going to look at journalism in the context of an open and connectedstrategy.For me it’s very difficult to separate journalism from both technology and business.When these things are all aligned toward a common purpose then great thingshappen. When one of these functions operates in a context that is separate to, or,worse, opposed to the others then things tend to go wrong.I’ll go through several examples, diving into some depth on our coverage of theprotests in Egypt and the role of live blogs.My intent here is to show a direction of travel and to demonstrate that despite theprecarious financial issues facing us all in the media that there is a way forwardthrough an open and connected approach to the whole business.
  3. 3. and us ers g s at the m k thin tch Ch uc y ca the h ope Processes • Skills Packaged Goods Users • Plans • ChannelsMonday, 18 April 2011Let’s start by comparing the old and new publishing models.First, we can paint a picture of the methods and processes that have driven the mediabusiness for the last several decades. This isn’t unique to print but rather a reflectionof the times, an approach that formed during the industrial revolution and, in itssimplest forms, is a legacy that we’re all trying to shed.The model is a production-consumption model. We use staff skills and operatingplans and distribution channels to package things up. We then find ways to getthings in peoples’ hands. They either pay us directly or the thing is subsidised withadvertising.We chuck things at them and expect an equal and opposite reflection of value back tous.
  4. 4. are ion ovat m Inn ste rs, Par tne e sy , f th U sers ien ts o Users ing red Da ta or ies St Enablers • Purpose • Principles Inn • Platforms ers ov rtn ati Pa on ProductsMonday, 18 April 2011The new media platforms look at things very differently.They view themselves more like enablers of ecosystem dynamics. They consideruses, partners and constant change as ingredients of the overall operation. Theoutside world is a contributing force into what they do and how they do it.The business then is made up of enabling forces. They develop and refine theprinciples, technology platforms, and larger purpose for existence. These enablingforces are where the business unites with the outside forces of users, partners andinnovation to create new things.Depending on the platform the outputs can range from data to stories to products tonew businesses.
  5. 5. Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011These models can be viewed in a few different ways. For example, you can look atthe world across two axes: open and closed...
  6. 6. Connected Closed Open StandaloneMonday, 18 April 2011...vs connected and standalone.In other words, you can paint a picture of the media landscape by mapping howdifferent companies and products approach openness and their role in the widernetwork.There are degrees of openness, and there are degrees of connectedness.Though the lines can be blurry, there are some simple business models that sit withineach of these areas.The production-consumption model sits in the lower left...closed and standalone.The ecosystem model sits in the upper right...open and connected.
  7. 7. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility Retail Participation Standalone Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011For example, the closed and standalone model is the same as the traditional retailmodel.The open and standalone model is the participation model, or, perhaps moreaccurately, the exclusivity model.The closed and connected model is about distribution.And the open and connected model is about utility services.
  8. 8. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility Retail Participation Standalone clear paths to profitability by reducing cost, increasing sales Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011The retail model will demonstrate clear paths to profitability by pulling on thetraditional business levers of cost reduction and sales acceleration.
  9. 9. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility Retail Participation Standalone optimising user and advertiser relationships creates value Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011The participation model works by optimising relationships and creating value eitherfor the end-user customers or for advertisers who want a voice in the relationship.
  10. 10. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility strategic partnerships uncover new opportunities Retail Participation Standalone Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011The distribution model thrives through partnership.
  11. 11. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility growing by making others successful has many rewards Retail Participation Standalone Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011And the utility model is one where growth occurs as a result of making otherssuccessful. You measure your own success by how well your customers do.
  12. 12. Connected Business Models Distribution Utility (licensing) (taxes) reat ion) (mar ket c Retail Participation (buy to own) (pay for access) Standalone Closed OpenMonday, 18 April 2011There are well understood revenue models for each of these approaches:Retail is a buy-to-own model.Participation is about paying for access.Distribution is about licensing.And utility businesses employ a tax system to generate revenue.Of course, you don’t win friends by calling your revenue model a ‘tax’. And, in truth,it is more than that. It’s about creating markets, and when you create markets youcan set the terms of engagement. Most of the leaders in the open and connectedspace earn revenue through some sort of sharing agreement that may look and feel alot like a ‘tax’.
  13. 13. Connected Closed Open StandaloneMonday, 18 April 2011The best example of a closed and standalone business is Murdoch’s The Daily. It ismostly isolated from the wider Internet. They make it each day and expect you to paythem the value of that production. It’s a production-consumption relationship.Member services like mumsnet and match.com, for example, demonstrate the openand standalone model. They are open to participation, but they don’t necessarilyweave themselves into other connected platforms and technologies on the Internet.Reuters is a great example of the closed and connected distribution model. Theycontrol what content gets distributed through their platform, but they push theircontent deep into the furthest corners of the Internet in a very connected way.Lastly, it’s hard to imagine a more open and connected utility than Google’s opensource mobile OS, Android or perhaps WordPress. Of course, Twitter, Facebook andWikipedia are also very open and connected.Now, I’m not arguing that one model is better than another. Each model has itsbenefits. Some are better at facilitating growth while others are better at sustainingrevenue.
  14. 14. News International Twitter, Inc.Monday, 18 April 2011But once you can see these different approaches and how they relate to each other itbecomes clearer why the new generation media mogul is pushing toward the openand connected space.It’s the brave new world, the wild west. There’s plenty of room to break new groundin the open and connected market with a good idea and strong execution. While theincumbants are getting stronger and more powerful, they are still very young andunable to control the market.Rupert Murdoch may in fact do well with the closed and standalone, traditional,production-consumption model. If he uses his own portfolio to support the growthof new nodes in the Murdoch network then he could make a lot of money. Hecontrols a lot of media and could make that work.But that’s not going to be the case for most people in the media business.If I were to start over today with a new proposition or to modernize an oldproposition, I would point it toward the open and connected model.
  15. 15. Open journalismMonday, 18 April 2011With that backdrop on the overall approach to the business of journalism let’s look atsome examples of the way we’re looking at journalism in an open and connectedworld. I’ll start with the Guardian’s coverage of the Egypt protests and then look at afew other quick case studies.
  16. 16. Principles of open journalism ✤ Linked ✤ Collaborative ✤ Participative ✤ Transparent ✤ Networked ✤ Multi-disciplinaryMonday, 18 April 2011First, Alan Rusbridger has defined a few key principles that define where journalism isheading at the Guardian.The most successful projects will be linked, collaborative, participative, transparent,networked and multi-disciplinary.These principles are an acknowledgement that our work is part of a global dialog andneeds to have more of a give-and-take relationship than a production-consumptionrelationship.
  17. 17. Monday, 18 April 2011The protests in North Africa in January became a great opportunity to put all this intopractice. We didn’t have people in the area to cover the story in full, and with thenear simultaneous action happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Syria we knew weneeded a different way to work.We also recognized that the speed at which the story was moving from one locationto the next would make it impossible to cover the story well even if we did have a fewpeople on the ground.So, we started with what we knew and built up using these principles. The focus ofall our coverage became the Live Blog.
  18. 18. Monday, 18 April 2011One of the first things we did was get some help with translation. We pulled anArabic-speaking editor off her normal work to help us translate a few things we weredoing and then got a translation partner to do it as a service with us.The translation work turned out to be critical to our success.And it becomes one of the arguments for open. When you see the traffic logsshowing huge numbers of visitors from Egypt and India and the US in addition to theexpected UK traffic you quickly realize how important it is to be accessibleeverywhere.Our ability to be a central force in the reporting and the conversation of this globalevent was dependent on being open and connected. We couldn’t have had the sameimpact if we were closed and standalone.
  19. 19. Monday, 18 April 2011We then invited more discussion into our community platform, Comment is Free. Wewere able to obtain immense depth from Egyptian voices, primary sources who knewmore about the issues than we did, people who were there, people educated in theissues, people who were explicitly not British
  20. 20. Monday, 18 April 2011The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker curated several lists of sources on twitter.
  21. 21. Monday, 18 April 2011He watched what they were tweeting and identified some of the important voices inthe blogosphere.
  22. 22. Monday, 18 April 2011And he built lists that he could then track which we then integrated into our coverageon the site as well.
  23. 23. Monday, 18 April 2011We linked directly out to those sources from the Guardian and presented them incontext in our live blogs.
  24. 24. Monday, 18 April 2011And the audience on the Guardian not only joined the conversation but they alsobecame a channel of distribution.
  25. 25. Monday, 18 April 2011Their comments were presented in context on the live blog stream when theywere relevant, and the sharing activity off our site went through the roof. Theybecame part of the story as lightweight contributors and distributors, helping toboth push and pull the story around our coverage. We had tens of thousands ofcomments, tweets and likes on Facebook.The Live Blog becomes a sort of living portal.We can use it for original reporting, pointing off to deeper analysis, aggregateand curate conversation and links. It’s the antidote to the common experienceon the web which is a jump in, jump out experience. People spend more time onthe Live Blogs, they come back to them. It’s multi-paced, multi-format. We canuse the Live Blog to request information and send people out to get answers forus quickly.It’s because Live Blogs are open and live and human that people feel verycompelled contribute and participate in the coverage even if only to spread theword of its existence.I did some analysis on our Live Blogs not long ago, and when you look at themetrics you start to wonder if we’ve finally found the native format for reportingnews on the Internet.
  26. 26. Monday, 18 April 2011Now, if you then compare the Guardian’s coverage with what the Times of London didit becomes clearer why the open strategy may be the only way to cover living stories.If you have a much smaller UK-only audience then your relationship with the story ismore of a filter, delivering the story rather than collaborating on its growth.
  27. 27. Monday, 18 April 2011The sharing and commenting on their coverage added nothing and in some waysactually gives the appearance that nobody cares about the conversation here.
  28. 28. Monday, 18 April 2011It wasn’t just the closed nature of their model that limited the activity around theircoverage, but they didn’t have a model for embracing other voices. The coverage bynecessity had to be very British.I’m pointing this out as a contrast to what we can do with an open model, notbecause their model doesn’t work. Their model serves a certain audience very well,and many of those readers are willing to pay for that method.But that model is not going to work for us at the Guardian where we want to be aplatform for a global dialog, a conversation with many views from many sources andmany experts.It’s a question of purpose. If you’re about giving power to people’s voices then Ithink you have no choice but to find a solution to being open.We haven’t yet solved it, but we know which way to point our ship.This video clip I’m going to show you reinforced that commitment for us. It’s ourEgypt correspondent who was in Tahrir Square talking to Alan Rusbridger about whatrole the media played there.
  29. 29. Jack Shenker - Guardian Egypt correspondent - covered the Tahrir Square revolutionMonday, 18 April 2011“The Guardian alongside Al Jazeera was the one news source that everybody on the streets in Tahrir - not just inCairo but in surrounding cities and major centers of revolutionary activity - it was the one news source thatpeople were talking about.The Guardian’s live blog in particular which the paper translated into Arabic was a revelation.At a time of fast-moving events when people were desperate for updated information and particularly informationthey trusted and could be verified - there was a lot of misinformation being spread - that became the one place onthe web that people could go to and could get a regional context and a regional view of everything that was goingon minute-by-minute.The fact it was translated into arabic opened it up to a much wider group of people and a far wider audience.”
  30. 30. More examplesMonday, 18 April 2011
  31. 31. Monday, 18 April 2011Everyone seems to be aware of the MPs Expenses effort. But quickly for those whoaren’t, we published the PDFs that were released using a simple annotation tool builtby a rock star developer named Simon Willison.Each expense record had a page in the app which users could then tag and escalateto us for investigation.
  32. 32. Monday, 18 April 2011Over 25,000 people participated in the investigation. It was a classic crowdsourcingexperiment.We loved what this was demonstrating, but we found some things that could beimproved. The following year when the documents were released we made an effortto make it more relevant to people so we could get closer to 100% coverage of thedatabase.
  33. 33. Monday, 18 April 2011We broke up the data into more specific tasks that would appeal to different types ofcitizen investigators. For example, you might only want to look at your local MP andgo through his or her expenses.This open approach was incredibly compelling and demonstrated what role a trustedjournalism organization can play in the new world.People are naturally motivated to get involved. It’s just a matter of tapping into thatside in everyone that enjoys researching something they care about. It’s aboutsetting the stage and being a good enabler, empowering people to satisfy their ownneeds and their natural curiosities.
  34. 34. Monday, 18 April 2011When the UK Treasury released the spending database of all transactions over£25,000, we put a few things we had learned into practice.We invited a few close friends of the Guardian to our offices and joined up thedevelopers and journalists to interrogate the data to find interesting stories. It wasnot an easy task given the complexity and the state of the data.The team used some open source tools and came up with a very straightforwardsortable spreadsheet interface for the Guardian web site. You could search, sort andthen download a CSV file of your results to manipulate the data using Excel, if youwanted.We also posted an email address ‘data@guardian.co.uk’ where people could send usquestions.
  35. 35. Monday, 18 April 2011I was on that email list and saw the questions coming in. It was amazing to seepeople really working through the data. People were very motivated to see how theirgovernment was spending their money.One great example was this question from someone who found the ‘Flag Flying’spending category. “Apparently, the DCMS spent £100,000 on it.”We then took that question and asked the DCMS to respond.
  36. 36. The cost of flying the British (and other) flags: £95,506, as reader Sam Keir points out. A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was responsible for providing and managing the flag-flying services for ceremonial state occasions, including state visits, trooping of the colour and special flag days, for example Commonwealth Day, UN Day and Europe Day.Monday, 18 April 2011While we didn’t necessarily get a satisfactory response to the question we did get animmediate answer which might not have happened had the question come from anunknown source.We then posted the question and the answer on the Live Blog that day.
  37. 37. Monday, 18 April 2011We’ve had a lot of great response to the Data Store project, led by news editor SimonRogers. We post raw spreadsheets openly and publicly on Google Docs for people todownload and use as they please.A lot of designers and developers out there are experimenting with visual storytelling,and the Data Store has become a robust resource for them. We’ve released close to1,000 spreadsheets now as part of the news process of the paper and web site.We decided to open up a Flickr group for people to share their data visualizations,and there are now about 1,000 members of the group who publish their work andshare it with their peers in the market. There are some beautiful and occasionallyshocking uses of the data posted there.
  38. 38. Monday, 18 April 2011We’ve opened up our archive going back over 10 years now and including nearly 2million articles and made it reusable as part of the Open Platform initiative.The Open Platform is the suite of services that enable people to build applicationswith the Guardian. It includes this API of our content, a plug-in architecture for theGuardian web site, the Data Store and a Politics API.It’s a way of making our internal technologies more accessible and transparent.The guiding principle behind the whole initiative is to “weave the Guardian into thefabric of the Internet.”
  39. 39. Monday, 18 April 2011 Of course, the tools have become incredibly useful both for the way we partner with people and for our own development efforts. We have been able to build some fantastic mobile products incredibly quickly, because our partners and our own developers don’t have to muck around with databases or proprietary code just to get to the content they want in a format that they can use. Our first iPhone app was built in a matter of weeks by a third party which we then took over and now evolve in-house. Our Guardian Eyewitness iPad app was similarly turned from prototype to product in a very short time with mostly front-end technical talent.
  40. 40. Monday, 18 April 2011 But the power of releasing your content in reusable formats like this starts to become even more apparent with things like the Guardian WordPress plugin. Without knowing any code, you can add this plugin to your blog and start publishing Guardian articles directly on your web site. It gives you a news feed in your admin panel, sort of like a Reuters dashboard or something. When you see an article you want to publish on your blog, you click the ‘Publish’ button.
  41. 41. Monday, 18 April 2011An edit window then comes up where you can add your own commentary or photosor whatever.
  42. 42. Monday, 18 April 2011Here are some examples of blogs that have been actively using it. They tend touse Guardian coverage to supplement their own work. It has been particularlypopular with some of the football blogs and some of the green sites.
  43. 43. Monday, 18 April 2011Now part of the agreement for republishing Guardian articles is that as a partner youmust not alter the content. We embed an ad directly within the body of the articlewhich then appears on the blog...or wherever any article obtained via the OpenPlatform goes on the Internet.
  44. 44. • 4k developer partners • 220 premium publisher partners • 71% revenue growth YOY • 2m monthly unique users 3,000,000 • 30m monthly ad impressions Culture Fashion Food 2,250,000 Diversity Green 1,500,000 750,000 0 Ju 8 Ju 8 Au 8 Se 8 O 8 N 8 D 8 Ja 8 Fe 9 M 9 Ap 9 M 9 Ju 9 Ju 9 Au 9 Se 9 O 9 N 9 D 9 Ja 9 Fe 0 M 0 Ap 0 M 0 Ju 0 Ju 0 Au 0 Se 0 O 0 N 0 0 -0 0 l-0 0 -0 -0 -0 -0 0 0 -0 r-0 -0 0 l-0 0 -0 -0 -0 -0 1 1 -1 r-1 -1 1 l-1 1 -1 -1 -1 n- g- n- b- n- g- n- b- n- g- ay pt ct ov ec ar ay pt ct ov ec ar ay pt ct ov MMonday, 18 April 2011The results are getting really interesting now. Our various network plays are quicklyexpanding the Guardian’s wider sphere of influence.With 4,000 developer partners and over 200 premium ad network partners we’re nowadding over 2 million monthly Unique Visitors and 30 million ad impressions to ouroverall footprint across the Internet.This is the open and connected model incarnate...increasing the transparency of ourjournalism, enabling native Internet distribution methods, and powering the wholething with a relevant commercial model.As Mike Smith said, “If content is king, then this is service is a hundred of the king’s best horses, and thousands of his best messengers, sending the Guardian far and wide.”
  45. 45. Monday, 18 April 2011Twitter has become a sort of extension of our brains, but we’re also creating verysimple ways for people to share their thoughts and to socialize with the news.  For example, during the TV debates for last year’s UK general election, we posteda ‘Reaction Tracker’ so that people could vote positively or negatively to thingsthe politicians were saying them…as they were saying them on TV.The lines you see in the chart below formed in realtime as the debate unfoldedand were visible to everyone who visited the Guardian home page during the 90minute debate.
  46. 46. Monday, 18 April 2011Alastair Dant’s World Cup Twitter Replay animations are fascinating in the waythey help you relive a match through the eyes of twitter…bubbles of words WorldCup watchers were tweeting grow and shrink in response to each match, as ifyou are watching the match with everyone again rather than being the recipientof a leanback-style highlights package.There are lots of different sponsorship options that are easy to imagine in thiscontext.
  47. 47. Band info via Last.fm Buy tracks via Amazon Videos via YouTubeMonday, 18 April 2011 Hack Days have become a great source of innovation for us. Media reporter Jemima Kiss organized a Hack Day focused on the SXSW event. She invited London developers to come to our offices and to join our own technology team to work on ideas together and compete for a free flight, accomodation and ticket to SXSW. The hack day was then sponsored by Google. There were some very clever editing tools and music mashups. This example here is a mashup that we integrated directly onto the Guardian web site using the Open Platform’s plugin architecture that internally we call ‘microapps’. Ever band had a band page that brought in information from last.fm, videos from YouTube and track purchasing via Amazon. Again, the many commercial models for this kind of thing should be pretty obvious including affiliate links and sponsorship.
  48. 48. Monday, 18 April 2011There are two more example that, in my mind, demonstrate where all this isgoing when you take it to the extreme, pushing all the way to that upper rightcorner of ‘Open and Connected’.At a hack day this past December, a small team was experimenting with a newJava-based programming framework called Lift. They decided to create a liveshared reading app which they called The Social Guardian.
  49. 49. Monday, 18 April 2011After logging on with Twitter, you see a navigational column and 3 columns ofcontent. The content includes the most recent articles published by theGuardian, the current Editor’s Picks from the guardian.co.uk home page, and afinal column for the shared experience.This shared reading column shows what other people are reading right now. Itupdates as they move from article to article, and you can’t help but want to divein and read the same article at the same time as someone else, particularly whenit’s someone you know.The app gives you the feeling that you are getting the benefit of what otherpeople are discovering before you and then that you are leaving refinements asexhaust behind you for the next person. It’s as if you are collaboratively shapingthe entire Guardian corpus.
  50. 50. User Tag URLMonday, 18 April 2011Now, one of the clever things these guys did was that they built a dead simpledatabase that then creates a lot of power.The database is simply user, URL and tag. This means that for each user we know notonly the article they have read but also the tags of the articles that they have read.So, for example, the database knows instantly that you are reading ‘World News’ and‘Media’ articles.This then makes it very easy to write very simple recommendation algorithms, liverecommendations.And, again, when you operate in this very open way the relevant commercial modelbecomes obvious very quickly.
  51. 51. Ad User Tag URLMonday, 18 April 2011If you created a self-serve database for advertisers to publish ads to, you could builda very powerful live ad targeting platform. Though this clearly doesn’t have anythingresembling the scale of Facebook, the structure of it feels very similar.
  52. 52. Monday, 18 April 2011Lastly, this is an experiment in the Social-Local-Mobile context. It’s sort of likeFoursquare for news.The app is called ‘no0tice’...the ‘o’ is a zero. It checks the location of your phone andlets you report news. The web site then has additional features forsocializing...reputational rewards for posting and adding evidence, ways to postevents and ways to post things your are selling.The platform is built entirely on open source software. The content is all CreativeCommons licensed. There are open APIs for partners who want to pull content outand post content into the database. The software is posted publicly with an opensource license, so you could easily publish your own bird watching versions or celeb-spotting versions, for example.The ad model hasn’t been completed, but the plan is to allow people to buy featuredplacement based on a radius and duration. And then the partner model would allowothers to sell the ads and share a percentage with us.Again, I can’t imagine how something like this could exist in a closed and standaloneworld. If it does work it will work because it’s open and connected.
  53. 53. Connected Closed Open StandaloneMonday, 18 April 2011So, all this is meant to demonstrate how we are pushing toward that ‘Open andConnected’ position. We have a long way to go to move our core business that way,but we’ve pushed out several boats to help lead the transition.That’s not to say that we won’t also pursue things that make sense in the other areas.We will.In fact, we have an iPad app coming out soon that will sit very squarely andintentionally in the closed and standalone position.We are not religious about our position, and until the market becomes a bit morestable and the path to financial sustainability is more obvious we have to place somebets around the market. Others will find ways to make the production-consumptionmodel work for them, and we would be stupid to ignore those success stories.What worries me about the whole paywall discussion is not the paywall model initself. That model obviously works in certain contexts.But it’s too simple. It’s one answer to a complicated problem. It works when youhave a single thing you want to give and expect an equal and opposite payment forthat thing.But the Internet makes it possible to copy things infinitely. it makes it possible tochange things and build on them and respond to them. it makes it possible toaccelerate their journey to other places.Putting an artificial software solution between all those things and your reader may
  54. 54. Open and connectedMonday, 18 April 2011The answer to “making it so” is in the eye of the beholder. But it’s worth looking atthe exemplars amongst the new media platforms.
  55. 55. Common mission themes amongst the new media platforms Instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most meaningful to them Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected Organize the world’s information and • Connect make it universally accessible and useful • Open Connect people to their passions, their • Information communities, and the world’s knowledge. • Global Revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information.Monday, 18 April 2011Their mission statements are very telling. I mean that in the aggregate sense. Theirmission statements are essentially indistinguishable.We all know Google’s mission statement, but does anyone outside of Silicon Valleyknow the difference? Could you guess which one is Twitter’s by reading them?lt is very interesting to see these themes stacked up against eachother, though.They all are essentially trying to openly connect people and information globally.
  56. 56. Monday, 18 April 2011They see their businesses as ecosystem enablers.Again, users, partners and innovation are ingredients of the operation itself.They develop and refine the principles, technology platforms, and larger purpose forexistence. These enabling forces are where the business unites with the outsideforces of users, partners and innovation to create new things.The commercial models form by identifying where someone can add value into theequation and understanding if there are either exclusive arrangements in the systemthat people will pay for or if there are ways to share the value of something betweenparties in the system.
  57. 57. “These changes show the emergence of a new information environment, one in which individuals are free to take a more active role than was possible in the industrial information economy of the twentieth century.” - Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks Photo by Joi ItoMonday, 18 April 2011 There is a much larger philosophical issue at play here around openness. We aren’t far away from debating as a society whether or not the Internet is a human right. Is it social infrastructure as integral to civilization as roads and plumbing? If so, it should be open and even protected legally from forces that could control it. Personally, I am on the side of open in that debate. But you don’t have to take sides to understand its impact. What you do have to decide if you work in the media business today is whether you are going to be a participant in the solution or a bystander waiting for others to work it out. At the Guardian we’re not going to wait for someone else to decide what shape the Internet takes for future generations. Let me read a passage from Yochai Benkler’s 2006 book The Wealth of Networks. This is the type of philosophy that has focused our thinking on being open and connected: “A series of changes in the technologies, economic organization, and social practices of production in this environment has created new opportunities for how we make and exchange information, knowledge, and culture. These changes have increased the role of nonmarket and nonproprietary production, both by individuals alone and by cooperative efforts in a wide range of loosely or tightly woven collaborations. These newly emerging practices have seen remarkable success in areas as diverse as software