Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Interesting concept: Is there $$ in it?

Some of the country's best known bloggers are teaming up in a new venture to be known as Open Source Media, or OSM.

Some 70 Web journalists, including Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds and David Corn, Washington editor of the Nation magazine, have agreed to participate in OSM _ short for Open Source Media.

OSM will link to individual blog postings and highlight the best contributions, chosen by OSM editors, in a special section. Bloggers will be paid undisclosed sums based on traffic they generate.

The ad-supported OSM site will also carry news feeds from Newstex, which in turn receives stories from The Associated Press, Knight- Ridder/Tribune News Service and other traditional media organizations.

"We're deliberately trying to do something new by affiliating blog and mainstream people," said Roger L. Simon, a blogger and the venture's co-founder.


Many details of OSM remain unsettled. For example, OSM wants to create a mechanism for citizen journalists, including bloggers, to submit original news during natural disasters, civil unrest and other newsworthy events. Simon said organizers still have to come up with ways to check submissions for accuracy.

Initially, OSM will create blog-like discussion panels surrounding major news events, with three or four bloggers and non-blogging experts chosen to contribute.

Might work, although we are not without reservations.

Right now the internet, especially the blogosphere, has diversity. It is a darwinian proving ground ranging from the insane to the inane, the artful to the tasteless. It is geographically diverse which is a joy whereas the old MSM lost any quaint geographical or culture distinctiveness quite a few years ago. What self-regulation will the new OSM entity employ to capture (or preserve) that range of voices? Is that something anyone at OSM will even care about?

The natural cycle of all things political -- and journalism is nothing if not inherently political in nature -- is for individuals to become successful, band together with others of their kind, and then succumb to group-think. Another way of looking at today's news culture is that, as many traditional news outlets are starting their own reporter blogs, in an effort to expand their voice into the new medium, members of the new medium are attempting to expand their voice into traditional journalism.

Will the blend work? The issue eventually will come down to profitability for those who do it full time. Large newspapers and TV networks are losing readers and viewers, which leads to losses of ad revenues. Where are many, if not most, of these readers and viewers going? To the internet, of course.

But is there enough money to sustain a new hybrid MSM+Independent Blogger industry?

How should we know? We are totally and pathetically non-profit.

We're probably like the first or second wave of pioneers who enjoy the "wild west" frontier and hate to think what things will be like if they get too civilized. You know, after the UN takes over control of the internet, or the Federal Election Commission cracks down, or two or three big media corporations start purchasing as many web-hosting outfits as they can afford and institute tight "gate keeping" control over who has blog access. All potential nightmare scenarios for lonely cyber cowboys.

But hats off, anyway, to the OSM guys for giving it a go.


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