By Laura Smith
September 22, 2008
The Internet is changing fast and no one knows this better than Michelle Ferrier, the managing editor for online community hubs at MyTopiaCafe.com and columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
On Friday, journalism students and faculty from the Elon University School of Communications listened to Ferrier give a presentation on emerging online communities and the role of journalism through Web 2.0.
According to Wikipedia Online, the term Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media. According to O’Reilly, Web 2.0 is “the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”
Some of Web 2.0’s new technological and innovative components include social-networking sites, video streaming sites, wikis, and blogs.
“I’m very content driven and so what I do is look at is audience and content and how do we use the tools we have available at hand to be able to engage our audience in different ways,” Ferrier said.
Ferrier began her presentation by highlighting the negative effects that are currently harming journalistic attempts.
“Across the board we see a lot of trends happening right now in the industry, particularly in newspapers. Declining revenue in legacy print media in particular…declining readership…a declining news hole…and declining editorial and newspaper staffs.”
Ferrier then showed a map of “The Old News Story,” courtesy of Chris Peck. It illustrated where each aspect of the coverage, including reporters, advertisers, producers, politicians, and editors, used to lie on the spectrum before the emergence of Web 2.0.
“It’s important to understand that what’s happening is that those flows and dynamics are changing between the roles and the roles themselves are changing,” she said.
Ferrier gave examples of traditional news coverage by displaying different journalistic websites, including The News York Times, and The Washington Post. She then compared these to CNN.com and highlighted the differences in the use of media.
Explaining that CNN.com used more of the Web 2.0 devices than the others, she said, “Out of all the ones we’ve looked at so far, there was much more of a focus on the medium itself and the ability to use multimedia here.”
This use of multimedia included up to the minute blogs, videos, photos, breaking news email alerts, and the CNN wire. Ferrier referred to this as “user-generated content” because it gives the multimedia “front and center placement.”
Ferrier replaced the old chart with a new one, displaying the “Emerging News Ecology” that the public is now beginning to see.
“What we’re finding is a more distributed, news information gathering, sourcing, creating process where people outside the news organization are much more involved in the gathering of news and the presenting of news,” she said.
Ferrier explained the idea of crowd sourcing and how it is becoming a part of this new type of Web.
“You’re really using the masses, the crowd, to be able to source the story rather than going to your traditional three or four or fives sources that you might use for a news report”
Ferrier also explained how new roles are needed to be filled with this kind of technology.
“Newspapers in this changing news ecology are struggling to try and find what is there unique selling point. Where there had been monolific legacy media providing and servicing an area…now smaller staff [are] popping up through the cracks using platforms like blogging and other different types of content management systems etc. to be able to service the needs of a community where they felt their voices weren’t being heard.”
Ferrier used this platform to describe a personal example of this new multimedia within Web. 2.0. MyTopiaCafe.com, for which she is a digital content architect, is an online community for Volusia and Flagler counties, Florida. The site incorporates the user-generated content and crowd sourcing material that she explained in her presentation.
Containing multimedia such as blogs, personal profiles, videos, photos, and forums, along with classifieds and news affecting the area, MyTopiaCafe.com incorporates a vast selection of components of the new Web 2.0.
Ferrier described MyTopiaCafe.com as a place to “see and be seen” and to be like the community bulletin board at the local coffee house. She referred to this as the act of citizens playing a part in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information, otherwise known as “citizen journalism.”
“There’s a reason why it works,” Ferrier said.
She gave statistics, saying that 55 percent of Millenials and 42 percent of generation Xers read blogs while 62 percent of Millenials and 41 percent of Xers watch YouTube or other video-streaming websites. She also said that every day, 65,000 videos are put on YouTube and more than 50 percent of blogs are written by people under the age of 19.
Ferrier is positive about the future of Web 2.0 and the use of multimedia by everyone who is in reach of it.
“I see lot’s of different players in the media space… I see a lot of different players providing information.”