Friday, September 23, 2005

The Intelligence Briefing model of journalism

Posted today at PressThink in reference to discussion on the NYT's Times Select paywall:

What's valuable today? Information that comes with a high degree of confidence and carries predictive power.

What's parsley? Politicized opinion, infotainment, stenographic reporting and "analysis" of the obvious.

I think we are in the middle of a paradigm shift that will divide information and commentary into two basic categories: 1. Basic, "unwarranteed" communication, which will continue to be too cheap to meter; 2. Value-added information, which will abandon our Old School value of "fairness" for a model based on the daily intelligence briefing.

When we talk about "objectivity," we tend to talk about its limits. We don't tend to talk about its value. When we talk about commentary, we talk about its slant. We don't tend to talk about its perceptiveness. Our current frame of reference is a newspaper/broadcast model that is based on certain assumptions about "gatekeeper functions," "credibility," "balance," and the mass audience.

When you adopt an intelligence agency perspective, the information gatherer and the information analyst are working for a specific end user, not a general, passive audience.

This is a radically different relationship. Your loyalty is to your subscriber, not to your sources, not to your political friends. Your value -- your continued employment, for that matter -- is attached to the quality and utility of your information and your insights.

People will pay for such content, and the networked media makes it possible for more people to access such services. These are, ultimately, the "editors" described in the EPIC 2014 animation.

Will people pay for Times Select? Not unless it has this function.