Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let’s do launch: A new approach to the old business of news

Let’s do launch: A new approach to the old business of news


Is it tougher to be part of a big launch or to be there when an enterprise meets its end?
That’s the question I find myself thinking about as this new “New Media” outlet bravely steps out into nothingness. I’m sure this expanded and revamped CalCoastNews — as with most untried ventures — is equal parts devil-may-care courage, overwhelming excitement, and foolishness.

In this Brave New World of communication and information, the opportunities are many. The landscape, however, already is littered with so many sun-bleached bones of start-ups and The Next Great Things that it’s become far easier to count the survivors than it has to keep tabs on those who have gone to their “reward.”

It takes some serious backbone to throw your hat into the Web-based world of news these days. Not only are there myriad other start-ups out there, but so are the “dinosaur” operations that are playing catch-up and trying to understand the Web. Many of the same machines that have ruled the news roost for so long are trying to apply the old to the new. In short, it’s working for just a few of them.

The good news is that the Web is practically designed to reward innovation, whether it comes to the way information is delivered (i.e.: new technologies) or meeting the needs of unfulfilled markets.

Those unfulfilled markets include not just untapped audiences but also “consumers” who are always looking for a better product. Because the Web is truly global in every sense, there is no better way – for now – to gather and disperse information. For those who still imagine a day when print (and in some cases, broadcasting) will emerge from this bit of hibernation they’ve been going through and find new audiences willing to dirty their hands with printer’s ink, I’ve got shares in a buggy whip company I’d like to sell you.

It’s the Web’s great democratizing of information that now allows CalCoastNews to compete on a somewhat equal footing with outlets like “the national newspaper of record” or Auntie Beeb. Of course, there’s a connection through the Web to these and other news outlets but they no longer have a chokehold. Those outlets do have a significant presence on the Web but the truth is that when a story appears on a news site like this one, it’s as real as the one that appears in the next day’s big newspapers – only it can be local and reported on in real-time.

As someone whose deep appreciation for good journalism dates back to my pre-teen years, I have to admit I feel a little nostalgic/sad every time I read about another newspaper consolidating bureaus, cutting reporters or even calling it quits. I still enjoy strolling down the driveway each day, bringing the morning edition back into the house, opening the paper up and having the world at my fingertips.

Like many other people, though, I have already read a slew of stories on my computer while I enjoyed my first cup of coffee (and these stories are not just from my hometown, but also Chicago, Johannesburg, Paris, Tierra del Fuego and anywhere in the world with people with an Internet connection who are willing to share their thoughts with the world).

It’s exciting to be part of any new adventure, particularly one that takes a new approach to an old institution – like the news.

Oh, and one more thing: if the crew responsible for CalCoastNews is a bit nervous at the start, it’s probably a good thing. Being a little anxious about launching something is smart – it makes you cross all the “t”s and dot all the “i”s. After all, it pays to remember the team who once launched a great ship declaring it “unsinkable.”

Former Central Coast resident Jeff Bliss is currently a communications consultant/media analyst who resides in the Bay Area.

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