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A big idea in a little podcast Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named mirror.gifIt came to me while washing the dishes the other day, I figured out what the NYT should do with their Twitter feed, the one with almost a million followers.

I swear to god I didn't clue Jay in on this, but he asked me the question in yesterday's mini-podcast. I think he knew that I must be working on this puzzle and maybe he sensed I'd have something to say. Jay a really smart mofo, and he and I are developing a kind of mutual ESP. It's funny how often he asks the right question, and it's also funny how often there's a flipside story to tell about evolving media to my story about the evolution of technology. I think basically he and I have been following the same thread through our society but from opposite ends of a tunnel. We see the same thing, but come at it from different points of view.

It's really cool because he gets a chance to talk to tech people, and I get a chance to talk to journalism people. I don't think many people in the tech world knew Jay, and to the extent people in the journalism world knew me, I don't think they considered the possibility that there's much thought behind my conclusions.

Anyway, listen to the podcast if you have 15 minutes. And if you don't want to read the spoiler, stop reading right now, cause I'm going to spoil it. :-)

Here's what the Times should do. They should do what they always do when people are listening to them. Cover whatever it is that those people are saying and doing. News people are mirrors, they show you what you're doing. So if they've got the attention of people on Twitter, they should cover Twitter. Whatever that means. It's a community of hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe as large as the population of Staten Island, certainly as big as an upstate NY county. And they have a surplus of reporters there, and thousands of stringers.

Which leads me to the second part of the recommendation. Let this be the first environment when the Times deliberately includes content from respected amateurs. This is an idea I've been pushing on the Times since 2002. Now it's time finally to do it. Let this be a lab. What you'll see is that, as a result of opening the channel, a lot of new content will spring up. People will be motivated to learn how to write the kind of stuff the Times will carry. And I think everyone will be surprised at how good it is. Don't decide in advance where it goes, let it go where it's supposed to go. News people are just mirrors, not strategists, not economists or entrepreneurs. Just mirrors.

I would add a third part. Try to develop a sense of what people on Twitter are interested in, the way you know that your New York readers are interested in: 1. NY weather. 2. What did the Mets do. 3. Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, Bella Abzug, Jackie O, Elton John, Andy Warhol, John Lennon. 4. Etc. You get the idea. Twitter is a community with some cohesion. But it's going to change a lot in the coming months, and maybe years. Get confused along with everyone else, and write about it.

In other words, follow your nose and everything will work out. Too many reporters showing up at Jeff Jarvis confabs pretend they're Larry or Sergey or Steve or Bill. It doesn't matter what Google would do, you're not any of those people, thank god. You're reporters, and what you do is report. So that's what you should do.

If you were meant to make money doing this, as in meant by the Invisible Hand, you will. If not, something else will happen. Even the smartest financial type has no clue how the news will work economically in the future. And reporters are not smart about finance. So just do it and pray it all works out. That's basically all any of us have. So you're just like everyone else. Go figure! :-)


Last update: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

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One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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