Citizen Editors may be part of the future of media

Niel Robertson, a tech-savvy commentator, posits that in the not-too-distant future we may be seeing an opportunity for a whole new breed of citizen editors take over the management, editing and presentation of relevant local and niche content.   This will be part of the enhancement of media that will be dependent on having the right technological tools available – tools which perhaps do not yet exist, but which are on the way:

But let’s get a bit more specific about what the next generation of media is going to look like. Let’s take the easy one – blogs. A while ago a friend of mine, Eric Herman, and I came up with an idea we called Tabula Rasa (TR). TR was in essence my first exploration into citizen editing. I was frustrated with the insane growth in blogs and more particularly the breadth of topics covered in most blogs I read (e.g. a blog purportedly about PeopleSoft sometimes has random entries about a vacation spot the blogger went to). I was so overwhelmed culling through the sheer volume of blog entries in my blog reader every day that I simply gave up and took the lazy blogosphere approach (a derivative of the more general Lazy Web). The lazy blogosphere approach relies on me staying in sparse communication with the smarter bloggers and entrepreneurs I know and relying on the fact that if anything really important comes up, someone will send me a link to it. Frankly I think this works pretty well as I just got two links to the same NYT article related to something I am working on within 5 minutes this morning. This, as a side note, was a subconscious default to the authority solution I mentioned above.

What we really need is a new platform designed for the editorial function. This is what Eric and I envisioned TR to be. A sort of console for taking incoming feeds, finding related media, and cobbling together a front page of the best of the best. If you wanted to add your own blog entries to it, then by all means. Imagine that rather than write a blog about Tennis I was more interested in pulling together the best writing about Tennis on a daily basis. The TR platform we designed would let you do this in 15 minutes.

One of the beauties of the TR concept is that it would publish in a newspaper front page format. What I mean by this is that it disrupts the time based entry format of blogs. This is one of the biggest problems with blogs in my opinion. The best content is seldom at the top of the blog. When I scan my blarticle readership, seldom is the top entry the most read (due to inbound links from Google and emailed links to outside readers). With the front page format, citizen editors could choose to keep important articles and stories on the front page for longer, swapping out side stories that might be more current. In my own blog I’d love to keep some of my better and more timeless pieces prevalent on the blog but I am relegated to making a “best of the best” sidebar set of links.

The other beauty of the TR concept is that different media types about a subject could be sourced from different places. Maybe there is a fantastic blog entry on Wimbledon but the best picture is from Flickr and a great video of the final match is on YouTube. TR would allow me to assemble these quickly into one seamlessly produced front page.

I know, I know, everyone will say “what about licensing issues”. Well there are a few simple half-solutions (like creative commons licensing) and blurbing (ala Google News) and such, but in general I think the benefits would outweigh the means and you could always include attribution and eventually advertising revenue share to all the content contributors.

And the same thing is emerging in video. With live video platforms like Ustream.tv and Justin.tv becoming more popular, it won’t be far off when we can skip between multiple live video streams of events. An editor can easily insert themselves into this process and hand direct the best “camera” angles in real time just like TV stations do for sporting events and live TV programming.

Sooner or later someone will construct something like this and the citizen editor will emerge. And once the citizen editor has emerged, community editing will emerge as well. A few like minds can pretty easily keep on top of a topic or two on the net and edit it into one useful front page.

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