The Knight News Challenge Information Blog

Where Innovative Ideas Get Funded at NewsChallenge.org

Google Gets Mobile, Acquires Jaiku

Posted by Jacqueline on October 9, 2007

The mobile web is definitely hot right now, and the almighty Google has just solidified their presence in the mobile space by buying Jaiku, a Finnish company that provides a mobile instant messaging service.

There’s a FAQ about the acquisition on Jaiku’s website – they say that it shouldn’t change much for users at the moment, but it will be exciting to see what Jaiku does now that they have Google’s support.  Of course, this way Google can also extend its advertising into the mobile sphere – which might not be such a bad thing, especially for mobile-centric companies in search of ad revenue.  Also, considering that reports of a “gphone” have been popping up on tech blogs, Jaiku could end up being an important component of that.

Got a mobile web project of your own?  If it’s related to local news and based around a particular community, check out the Knight News Challenge – you could win funding for your ideas. 

Bonus links: coverage of the deal on Techcrunch, O’Reilly Radar, and Read Write Web.

Posted in Digital Media, General, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Keep Retailers Honest Through Crowdsourcing

Posted by Jacqueline on October 9, 2007

Talk about a way to keep retailers and store owners honest – WYNC (a NYC public radio station) has peformed a crowdsourcing experiment by inviting listeners to share the prices of a few staple grocery items in their neighborhoods.  People can compare prices on a Google map of New York City and see where the best deals/most expensive locales are.

Any ideas for a crowdsourcing project in your ‘hood?  Check out the Knight News Challenge and you could win funding for your plan.

Posted in Citizen Journalism, General | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Journalism Has A Very Bright Future…”

Posted by Jacqueline on October 9, 2007

 “…it’s just a different one than it’s had.”

Doc Searls quoted Drew Clark today, saying that newspapers as we know them are over – I’m an optimist… The newspaper will not be around in twenty years. Let’s say ‘taps’ and move on.

We’ve all read tons of articles and blog posts decrying the way the web has affected journalism and claiming the internet and related technology will cause the death of traditional media, but really, is the situation that dire?  Yes, journalism is in a state of flux, but the changes aren’t necessarily for the worse, even if print newspapers become a distant memory (all the inky newsprint isn’t exactly evironmentally friendly anyways). 

I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself – the future belongs to the people who can adapt to the changes and forge ahead, not the ones who struggle to make technology fit the old molds.  That’s at least part of the reason why startups and independent news sites have gained so much popularity on the web – they don’t have that albatross of tradition hanging around their necks. 

As always, if you’ve got plans or projects that involve the ever-changing world of digital technology and journalism, check out the Knight News Challenge – you could win funding, support, and make your ideas a reality. 

Posted in Blogging, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Popping the Bubble: Join The Fray

Posted by Jacqueline on October 8, 2007

Serial entrepreneur and founder of create-your-own social network site, Ning, Marc Andreessen has something to say to everyone who feels that we’re in the middle of another internet bubble (bubble 2.0?) – basically, that we’re not.  But he’s a lot funnier.

He makes a lot of good points about why you should take the risks and get out there and create something.  There is work to be done, innovations to discover, and of course, money to be made. 

And if your ideas or projects have to do with citizen journalism, building community, and digital technology, check out the Knight News Challenge.  Because if you happen to win, and Marc’s wrong about that whole bubble thing, some nice grant money will soften the blow. 

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Moment Is Here: News Is Portable

Posted by Jacqueline on October 8, 2007

Jeff Jarvis says that newspapers have reached their “ipod moment” – the moment where something shifts and new technology reaches a critical mass, changing the way that everything works (like ipods changed how people consume music). 

As we all know, the mobile web is becoming increasingly important – and with iphones (and similar devices, including, perhaps, a google phone), we’re no longer chained to a computer.  Instead, we’re connected to the internet all the time and we get our news on the go – and everything you can do on your computer, you can do on your iphone.  The fact that it’s also a cell phone is practically a second thought when you consider all of its web capabilities. 

However, for this to be a real industry-altering ipod moment, media companies have to take advantage of it.  Right now, it appears that old media is much too focused on making the web adapt to their interests, rather than figuring out how to innovate.  And I quote:

“For decades, I’ve watched newspaper industry thinktanks – the too few that exist – try to invent the next medium for news. This usually takes the mythical form of e-paper, thin as a sheet and just as portable, able to display newspapers like newspapers, very Harry Potter. I have also seen too many newspapers and magazines attempting to use painful PDF technology to display their publications on screens exactly as they appear on paper. Why? Ego, I think, and comfort and fear of change. The New York Times recently did a deal with Microsoft to use its new reader, which looks as attractive, if grey, as the Times itself and enables familiar activities like turning pages, but which loses some of the rich linking and interactivity of the web.

I think that’s all driving the wrong way: backwards. These are attempts to mold technology to old media. What we should be doing instead, of course, is molding media to new technology. We should be asking what new we can do on this new iPhone.”

That last paragraph could also be an explanation for why independent bloggers and new media companies have managed to pick up such a large share of the market online – they are working with the technology and embracing the new, instead of fighting change and maintaining the status quo.  Like Jeff says, they should be asking themselves “how do we use this wonderful device to give people the news and links whenever, wherever, and however they want it? How do we do that with incredible efficiency? How do we make it local and relevant? How do we take advantage of the two-way relationship we now have, enabling people with these gadgets to share what they know?

Of course, if you have ideas or projects related to digital technology and journalism, you know what to do.  There’s one week left to enter and hey, you could be the one who rocks the media world.

Posted in Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Tis The Week To Change The World

Posted by Jacqueline on October 7, 2007

What are your plans for this week?

Anything interesting?

Just a typical week, you say?

Perhaps it’s time to disrupt your routine and take a look at the Knight News Challenge.  For the unfamiliar, it’s a contest that awards funding to innovators with ideas that involve digital technology and information delivery, and are focused on fostering community in a specific geographic region.  Anyone can enter (all you need is a great idea) and the deadline is October 15th.

There’s up to $5 million reserved for this year’s challenge, so a winning entry could be truly life-changing.  Consider yourself an entrepreneur?  Take the chance and enter. 

Need some inspiration? 

Check out this clip of last year’s winners:

Posted in Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Web | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Social News in the Spotlight: Newsvine Bought By MSNBC

Posted by Jacqueline on October 7, 2007

Popular social news website Newsvine became part of the MSNBC family this past Friday, solidifying the place of community-driven news on the web.  As stated by the founders of purpose of Newsvine was “to build a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and interact with the news.”

According to MSNBC’s coverage of the deal, Newsvine was a perfect fit for their needs.

“Newsvine is local, small, nimble — they don’t come with a lot of things you don’t want,” he said, such as complicated partnerships and contracts. “There isn’t a lot to rearrange.”

Sreenath Sreenivasan, a specialist in new media at the Columbia University journalism school, said the deal was a good fit for both companies.

“As the news environment is changing so quickly, it’s important for more traditional media companies to take advantage of some of these newer technologies,” Sreenivasan said.

Although Newsvine is not as popular as other social news sites (like Digg, Reddit, and such), it has a dedicated community of users and they’ve created plenty of buzz by offering a unique combination of mainstream reporting, user-generated content, and social ranking.  Here’s the quote:

“But the site has generated significant buzz since its launch in March 2006 because of its inventive merger of mainstream reporting from The Associated Press and ESPN; the contributions of individual users, who are paid for their writing; and the social media model of user-driven ranking of the news.”

What does this all mean for citizen journalism?  Now it will have a home on one of the largest news sources on the web; however, they’re promising that the acquisition won’t destroy Newsvine’s independent spirit.

“Newsvine will now report to one of the largest such companies, but while Davidson said it may “expand a little bit” with msnbc.com’s support, growing from six employees to perhaps 10 or 15, he and Tillinghast both stressed that Newsvine would continue to run as an independent site.”

Related links – the coverage of the MSNBC-Newsvine deal on Techcrunch, Gigaom, and MSNBC itself.

Posted in Digital Media, Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Welcome To The Connected Age

Posted by Jacqueline on October 7, 2007

Thanks to the web, mobile phones, and related technologies, most of us are connected to each other all the time.  We are constantly consuming information about everything under the sun, and the internet has essentially transformed the way that we live and work.  As Anne Zulenka (of Web Worker Daily and Gigaom) says, if the early days of the web were the Information Age, we are now in the Connected Age.

“Today’s version of the web, whatever you want to call it, is notable because people and hardware and information and software and conversation are all mixed together into a hyperconnected network. Maybe instead of getting tangled up in discussions of what’s web 1.0 vs. web 2.0 vs. web 3.0, we might look instead at another shift: how the web enables us to move from one era into another, from the Information Age to the Connected Age. You can see this shift both in the practices of individual workers and in the strategies of technology companies.”

She compares the internet to a stew – there are many different ingredients (websites and applications), but they can all mingle and touch each other (links, mashups, etc.).  Each one makes the whole more interesting.

Working with the web is no longer the sole province of techies and nerds – we all get our news, do research, and communicate via the net – so it’s especially important for businesses to take note of how it is woven into our everyday lives.   For instance, people planning on entering the Knight News Challenge are probably already aware of our inter-connectedness, but a reminder of how attention and relationships are the new priorities doesn’t hurt.  After all, when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites trying to get noticed, it is the ones that enable people interact with each other and build a community around a shared interest or location that tend to stick. 

Posted in Digital Media, General, Innovation, New Media, Technology, Web, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Behind the “Great Firewall of China”

Posted by Jacqueline on October 7, 2007

Although the military junta in Myanmar/Burma is the government getting the most flack for censorship these days (and rightfully so), it’s important to remember that neighboring China isn’t exactly known for it’s openness.  In fact, many websites are blocked and there has been talk of bloggers having to register their real names with the government, in order to prevent the spread of “irresponsible and untrue information,” which is a “bad influence” on society.”  (Fortunately, this measure was not put into action). 

The Chinese government’s attempts to control their population’s access to the internet has been termed the Great Firewall of China, and although the wall is far from perfect (users can occasionally get through to banned sites, and there are numerous ways around the blocks, such as using proxies to surf the net, that people can utilize), it’s important to remember the effects of censorship, even if it has proven to be futile for the more technically inclined members of society. 

For instance, just knowing that the government is watching tends to lead to self-censorship. which might not seem all that dangerous on the surface (especially if you live in a country where freedom of speech and the press have long been fundamental rights), but clearly, placing such restrictions can be the beginning of a downward spiral.  However, the Great Firewall hasn’t prevented the Chinese people from embracing the web – according to this study, China will overtake the United States in the number of internet users by 2009.  It’s going to be tough for the government to keep a watchful on all those people.  From the linked article:

“So what affect will the surging population of Chinese web surfers have on the Internet as a whole? China remains divided from the rest of the ‘Net by the content filtering firewall that the government maintains to suppress information and discussion of topics the government deems unworthy. In addition, the government is actively engaged in hunting down people who post negative opinions about the government on blogs, something that US companies such as Yahoo and Google have publicly condemned yet privately supported. These tensions will increase as China’s ‘Net presence continues to grow, but one wonders if the Great Firewall of China can keep up.

Can the Chinese government really keep tabs on all of these users? 137+ million users (and growing) can’t be easily monitored no matter how you slice it, and government attempts at controlling what people say online have been met with a number of high-profile controversies over free speech which have been embarrassing for China, at lest in the western world. Of course, China isn’t too worried about what the western world thinks, especially when the kinds of growth we’re seeing there gives rise to visions of dancing dollar signs and euros in the eyes of many a businessman.”

Recent attempts at controlling the media that the general population consumes include banning RSS (which had previously been a way of accessing banned sites – can’t read the blog?  Try the feed), but as reports from people “behind the wall” say, there are ways around that too. 

One question that arises from this situation is “how can anyone expect to control the web?”  After all, isn’t part of the beauty of the web in the fact that it doesn’t come from one central source?  And won’t the attempts to censor/control the web hurt China’s economy in the long run?

As always, if you have any ideas or projects related to blogging, content delivery, or citizen journalism in places like China where the web isn’t as free or open as it could (should) be, check out the Knight News Challenge.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Down But Not Out: Burmese Citizen Journalism

Posted by Jacqueline on October 6, 2007

The brave citizen journalists, photographers, bloggers, and videographers on the ground in Burma may be partially silenced by the military junta government’s stringent censorship, but they are not totally quiet.  Instead, they’ve been forced to utilize more complicated methods to get the word out, like smuggling images in cell phones and breaking down files in order to send out them out undetected.

According to David Mathieson, an expert from the Human Rights Watch (quoted in this New York Times article):

“It is not clear how much longer the generals can hold back the future. Technology is making it harder for dictators and juntas to draw a curtain of secrecy.

“There are always ways people find of getting information out, and authorities always have to struggle with them,” said Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University and the author of “A History of News.”

“There are fewer and fewer events that we don’t have film images of: the world is filled with Zapruders,” he said, referring to Abraham Zapruder, the onlooker who recorded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Before Friday’s blackout, Myanmar’s hit-and-run journalists were staging a virtuoso demonstration of the power of the Internet to outmaneuver a repressive government. A guerrilla army of citizen reporters was smuggling out pictures even as events were unfolding, and the world was watching.”

Hopefully, the continued efforts of the citizen journalists and reporters in Burma will manage to keep the world’s eyes on their corrupt government – and that other nations will draw positive lessons from this situation. 

Do you have ideas for citizen journalists in places where the technological reach is small and freedom of the press is but a pipe dream?  Any projects that could help them achieve their goals?  Enter the Knight News Challenge and you could win a grant and make your innovations a reality.

Bonus links:

The Human Rights Watch’s Burma section – here’s a lot more information on the current government and the country’s recent history.

The NY Times’ The Lede Blog’s latest post on Burma – be sure to check out the comments and the reactions from Burmese peoples and other reporters who have been there in the past few months.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »