Guardian Changing Media: Democratising content in the user-in-control era

Session Chair: Janice Gibson, assistant editor, the Guardian

Edwin Aoki, chief architect, AOL

Ben Hammersley, multimedia reporter, GuardianUnlimited

Tariq Krim, CEO and founder, Netvibes

Steve Olechowski, cofounder and COO, FeedBurner

Tariq Krim: I used to be a journalist. I used to be in the media space. When the blog came out, I decided to go to the other side. I created NetVibes mostly by accident. I was trying to survive in the age of personal media. He found himself subscribed to 1,000 blogs. He wanted to know how to aggregate all of the content and services he used, not only blogs but also e-mail and eBay.

The real issue is where do we put our attention? If they spend one hour on the internet, where did that one hour come from?

The architecture of the internet has changed with RSS and syndication. Syndication is the first way to reach the user, through the RSS. (My colleague Neil McIntosh responded to the question of why there was such low adoption of RSS by British newspapers last week. I think that RSS is more than reading feeds in purpose-built feedreaders. It is an enabling technology. The real power of RSS is liberating content from websites and their front pages as well as liberating content from platforms. Adoption will be driven by simple tools like NetVibes. Bobbie Johnson, one of the Guardian tech correspondents, said pretty much the same thing in Neil’s comments. Don’t worry Neil, we aren’t ganging up on you.)

Steve Olechowski: FeedBurner manages syndication for publishers all over the world from Reuters, the Daily Mail, the USAToday to bloggers and podcasters around the world. People are consuming content outside of the context where the publisher originally created it. In 2003, RSS was mostly blogs, but in 2006, there are podcasts, blogs, video blogs, retail and e-commerce, online media companies and web services.

Ben Hammersley: It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and I’m beginning to feel like an old man. I’ll be 31. I’ve been building websites for 15 years. I was on FidoNet, which none of you will remember unless you’re really geeky. He offered to buy someone a beer if they had heard of FidoNet, but

He sees the sames mistakes, the same debates in 1994, 1998, in 2002. They are based around the problem that large corporation and brand managers are fundamentally at odds with their customers. The content that you are producing is very personal to the people who you are creating it for.

You have a create a love affair and then get out of the way.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen media companies, record companies actively trying to destroy the love affair their users have with their content. As an example of this, Viacom is suing Google. They think they are suing Google and they are against Sergey, another big corporation. But they are really at war with their users.

They are taking a Valentine’s Day card and burning it in front of the person who gave it to them.

Edwin: Yeah, this is really the same.

Old Media:

  • Controlled by a select few
  • Out of date by the time it’s printed/broadcast.

New Media:

  • Let a thousand flowers bloom
  • Or, let a thousand people with typewriters create something

He focused on user generated context, mashups and remix culture.

Tariq: Most media view RSS as as a way to get people to get back to the website, but he said that one liners aren’t getting people back to the websites.

Steve: There is no evidence that putting more content in your feeds is taking traffic away from your users. You certainly aren’t losing audience by publishing feeds. The people reading feeds are different from the people reading your website. Feeds and syndication are a separate medium from websites.

They talked about ads in feeds. What is really working in terms of advertising in feeds, is people engagin in feeds.

Edwin: You bring them back to your site with other services and other levels of participation. Sites that are successful do drive people back to their sites by offering fuller feeds.

Ben: What is micro-chunking? Micro-chunking comes around every 18 months. It is one of those buzzwords that come around that is nothing more than a good excuse to have a conference. As a word, you can ignore it. As a concept, you need to know what it is.

Steve: The difference is that there is a 24 hour publishing cycle not a daily publishing cycle. The old feedback loop was writing a letter to the editor. Now, feedback is instantaneous.

Question from person from Chinwag, RSS is a way to build results through search.

Ben: If Google is indexing your RSS feeds, sack your webmaster. That is a Fisher-Price mistake. Write headlines in a way that works best for Google not best for a way that is elegant. That is a shame because I like puns. All of the other technical issues are down to having competent technical staff.

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