Essential reading for online journalism

Last week, the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond put out an appeal for the essential blog posts about online journalism. Here’s my contribution — hopefully a case of ‘better late than never’.

Paul Bradshaw has produced the most comprehensive list of nominations for the bibliography so far. His list includes some brilliant posts about practical skills. I don’t disagree with any of that, and hopefully can add some more to the list here by adding some slightly more abstract discussions.

  1. Adrian Monck has already nominated Adrian Holovaty’s much-cited call for journalism driven by structured data, which would certainly have been near the top of my list as well. Just how many journalists should do how much programming is another matter.
  2. On a related note, I would add Derek Willis’ series of blog essays on fixing journalism, particularly the post in which he calls for computer-assisted reporting techniques to become interactive. “The Web is the canvas for CAR, better than any other platform we’ve come up with as an industry,” Willis wrote.
  3. Ryan Sholin has written lots of very, very smart things — including his recent list of 10 obvious things about the future of online newspapers you need to get through your head. But I keep returning to his ability to boil down the often-conflated buzzwords of online journalism to a trinity of skills — interactivity, multimedia and data — that are unique to the web as a news medium.
  4. Seamus McCauley’s Virtual Economics is more about online publishing strategy than journalism per se, but is also essential reading. He has said the most insightful thing to date about the often-misunderstood relationship between Google and local newspapers. “The value of newspapers isn’t, and never has been, a function of the content they create,” McCauley writes. Journalists might not like that, but they had better understand it.
  5. Everyone in the industry knows the basic economic problem of newspaper publishing: online revenues are not growing fast enough to substitute declining print revenues. The most forceful explanation of that problem and its strategic consequences is Vin Crosbie’s presentation “A date with the Butcher“, which outlines Robert G. Picard’s 2003 paper “Cash Cows or Entrecote” (PDF).
  6. It’s ancient history in Internet terms, but Clay Shirky’s 2002 presentation to the BBC, in which he explained online communities. Journalists “filter, then publish,” Shirky explained. By contrast, communities, both online and off “publish, then filter”. A lot of journalists still don’t understand this.
  7. Jay Rosen provided a useful phrase about the (alleged) end of the passive readership: “the people formerly known as the audience.” But Seamus McCauley reminds us to never forget that most people are still very much known as an audience.
  8. Rob Curley on the importance of providing both “big ‘J’ journalism” and “little ‘j’ journalism”, particularly in local community newspapers or hyperlocal sites.
  9. Kevin Anderson on why big media companies tend to misunderstand blogging: “Blogging isn’t a publishing strategy; it is a community strategy”.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but may add to this list later… Additional nominations to the bibliography in the comments, please!

Update: Jay Rosen comments over at Shane’s original post and suggests two posts that I should have included here as well:

  1. Another Vin Crosbie post: “What is new media?
  2. Rosen also nominated Simon Waldman‘s guest post on his PressThink blog, “The importance of being permanent“.
  3. That post cites Chris Anderson’s long tail theory, which, when applied to news web sites, highlights that one of the major differences between print and online journalism is the importance of readership distributed through time in the latter. I also like Anderson’s reply to Dan Gillmor’s end of objectivity post, which argues that “impartial journalism is a function of media scarcity“. Anderson’s application of the long tail theory to journalism (which was a big “ah ha” moment for me) highlights how the economics of online media directly affect their emerging cultural forms.

Update: I’m saving further “essential reading” here (and here).

Update: Paul Bradshaw is maintaining a bibliography of essential online journalism books.