Here’s the problem with most news: it isn’t. It’s olds. It happened hours ago, or last night, or yesterday, or last month, or before whenever the deadline was in the news organization’s current “news cycle”. It’s not now.
Unless, of course, it’s been fed out through syndication and picked up by a news reader or feed search engine (e.g. Google Blogsearch or Technorati) that’s paying attention to how long ago something got posted.
Note that feeding is not cycling. Rivers don’t flow in circles.
News is a river, not a lake. It is active, not static. It’s what’s happening, not what happened. Or not only what happened.
But what happened news as olds is how we’ve understood news for as long as we’ve had newspapers. The happening kind of news came along with radio, and then television. Then we called it “live”. Still, even on the nightly news, what’s live is talking heads and reports from the field. The rest is finished stuff.
There’s a difference here, a distinction to be made: one as stark and important as the distinction between now and then, or life and death. It’s a distinction between what’s live and what’s not.
This distinction is what will have us soon talking about the life of newspapers, rather than the death of them.
Because it’s not enough to be “online” or to have a “presence” on the Web.
To be truly alive, truly new, truly part of the life of its readers, a newspaper needs to be on the live web and not just the static one. It needs to flow news, and not just post it.
It needs to flow rivers of news, or newsrivers.
A year from now every newspaper will have a newsriver if not many of them. Most papers will copy other papers, of course. But one paper will start the trend, take the lead, and break the ice that’s damned up their purpose in static sites and tombed archives.
One of them will see that there’s a Live Web as well as a static one. And that the Live Frontier is where the action is, and will be.
I’m betting they’ll follow the New York Times, just like they always do.
If that happens the Times will, as it has done before, follow Dave Winer, who has been showing them how with NYTimesriver for years.
As usual, Dave has been taking the Times, and all of journalism, to school. (Not that they want to go, but he’s taking them anyway.) His latest post is A new view of NY Times news, and it’s a great demonstration of open source development out here in the everyday world. The dude isn’t just talking about the cheap-as-water billion-dollar idea that will save the industry’s ass. He’s actually doing the work of making it happen. He’s thinking out loud and demonstrating his thinking, right where everybody can see it and put it to use.
I was just wondering if the term “river” has even come up at the ONA (Online News Association) conference in Toronto this week. Let’s see…
A search for ona and toronto on Technorati brings up 29 results. When I add river or newsriver the results go to zero in each case. When I search for ona and toronto on Google Blogsearch, I find 3,215 results, which narrow down to 440 (all spam blogs, or splogs) when I add river, and zero when I substitute newsriver.
Let’s see what they say a year from now at the next ONA. I’m betting that newsriver will be one of the top topics at the show.