HOME
          
LATEST STORY
U.S. journalists, the clock is ticking: January 31 is the deadline to apply for a Nieman Fellowship
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 30, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

Joshua Young: 2012 will be the year we focus, again, on the writer

“Focus on the user and all else will follow”? There’s more to it than that.

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2011 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Here’s Josh Young, who currently handles the contributor network at the real-time media company Sulia, and who formerly headed social news at The Huffington Post.

The first of Google’s ten core principles has framed the way we think about the content on the Internet:

Focus on the user and all else will follow.

Of course, that user is really what technologists and economists both call the “end user.” When it comes to content, that means the reader. This principle presumes that users have information needs and that the information to satisfy those needs already exists. The task is culling, discovering, finding.

This is essentially the idea that content just happens. Search is the easy example, but you can see it in curation, too. The answers are all there — disguised by the blooming, buzzing confusion of even more information — and we just need a better filter.

Almost all content platforms are informed by this principle, as well — at least as a matter of positioning. WordPress has no agenda. Tumblr doesn’t care what you write. Pinterest doesn’t have a say in what boards you pin together. Quora doesn’t care what you ask or answer. Nor does YouTube care what you upload. Soundcloud doesn’t care what you create. Read It Later doesn’t care what you read later any more than Twitter cares what you Tweet. The list goes on and on.

The formula for today’s most successful content platforms is to give a bunch of writers each a soapbox and then to give vastly more readers some tools to find the soapbox best for them. In any two-sided market, after all, an economist might tell you to subsidize the side that’s more price-sensitive and to charge the side that has more to gain from network effects. Blah blah blah.

Of course, audiences will never just happen. Likewise, “Focus on the writer and all else will follow” doesn’t seem like a promising economic model.

But I am not an economist, and I think 2012 will be the year in which we realize that Google’s first core principle misses something important. We will recognize all over again the value in catering to the writer — or, rather, the best writers. We will thus also invest in giving them tools to reach the right readers. Maybe readers aren’t so price-sensitive, and maybe they stand very much to gain from network effects. 2012 will show us.

Image by Steven Depolo used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Dec. 30, 2011, 12:30 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Predictions for Journalism 2012
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
U.S. journalists, the clock is ticking: January 31 is the deadline to apply for a Nieman Fellowship
It’s a chance to spend a year at Harvard and change the shape of your career.
Newsonomics: How deep is the newspaper industry’s money hole?
Forget keeping up with the economy — what would it take for the newspaper business just to keep up with inflation? Even the “growth” areas are slowing down.
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
What to read next
1510
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
692Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
544How do you get millennials to care about local news? The Charlotte Observer is testing out one idea
Its new website and newsletter Charlotte Five is an attempt to use lessons from viral publishers to find a spot in young people’s daily habits.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Topix
PubliCola
Crosscut
The Blaze
FiveThirtyEight
Las Vegas Sun
GateHouse Media
MinnPost
Sacramento Press
The Huffington Post
IRE/NICAR
Medium