Advertising can't be the only option and other musings from BarCamp NewsInnovation


You missed the national BarCamp for NewsInnovation conference this past Saturday, held at Temple University in North Philadelphia — even though I encouraged you to come.

I sure didn’t. As I posted about the week prior, I was in Annenberg Hall on April 25.

It seemed to be a personification of online communities and conversations I’ve been following only online — like the value of personal branding, which was the focus of the first hour-long session  I attended, how valuable journalism school really is (why it might not be) and why news organizations and journalists need to add value.

I made it to four sessions, spoke at two and helped divvy out the sponsored food during the long day which officially went from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though I was out of the house before eight a.m. and not home before 11 p.m. (after a bumping after part).

These conferences are structured around creating dialogues and allowing anyone to speak on something important to him, so nobodies like me led sessions next door to ones held by executives, editors and reporters from places like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, GateHouse Media, the Philadelphia Inquirer,, McClatchy News and, likely more than I don’t know about. I mean, gees, the whole growing crew at Publish2, which develops tools for what it calls collaborative journalism, showed up.

See the complete schedule here.

I learned some things, and I’d like to share them.

I was really proud of Sean Blanda, a good friend of mine who organized a major national event. There aren’t a lot of 22-year-olds who could do that, but the state of news industry requires more like him. He also did Philadelphia a great service — getting help from the GPTMC and having all BarCamp volunteers, myself included, wear Phillies hats to show some pride to those visiting outsiders.

That said, here are some broad take aways I had:

  • Advertising cannot be king — This was a major point in both of my presentations (for Technically Philly and for NEast Philly) and something I’ve come to strongly believe, but BarCamp was the first time I shared the tenet with such a powerful and knowledgeable crew. The conversations surrounding the future of news organizations seem stuck on recapturing lost advertising revenue. We’re talking about the same amount of advertising dollars in the world, but the Web has brought on a glut of new, more targeted sources to take those advertising dollars. We need to talk about alternative revenue opportunities. This is something I’ll post more about in the future.
  • Everyone has valid Web ideas —  We talk a lot about how the Web is democratic, but it was interesting to see the dynamic at BarCamp. Reporters and editors with titles, citizens with blogs, students and communication directors all were engaged in the dialogue on what is good, what is right, what is important for news. The BarCamp format was perfect for this stage of news, where suddenly the most senior news executives have as good a sense of the future as your  neighborhood Twit-head… well at least as near as any industry could be at this point.
  • Major news organizations are still important — There was a very real divide between corporate and anti-corporate news heads. Despite some very notable exceptions, the couple hundred attendees were mostly revolutionary anti-establishment types. I believe the future will be full of tiny, community-specific for-profit news sites, but I also think there will be a couple dozen or less larger international, national or broad regional news companies. I think at least some will need to be nonprofits, but the point to be made is that we can’t cast away all the old brands. That’s something  I picked up from a presentation from Steven King, an editor for Web innovation at the Washington Post who had a memorable trip visiting BarCamp outside of the Annenberg building.

Below see what organizer Blanda speak to Jason Kristufek — who deserves credit for really spearheading the news-based BarCamp platform — about the success of the natonal news BarCamp.

Read some thoughts from other people who are smarter than I am:

An audio component was included in that above piece for the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism blog. Someone managed to edit my rambling answers into a brief clip:


Check out all the other coverage people made for BarCamp, or follow the enormous coverage on Twitter by combing through #BCNIPhillybecause even Poynter did.

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