Congratulations to Charlie Sennott and his team on the launch of GlobalPost, a site that many see as a reaction to the shrinking number of foreign correspondents supported by US media outlets facing tough economic times.
My sense is that GlobalPost won't get much of a honeymoon, simply because expectations are so high: anything from the web that doesn't instantaneously replace and improve upon traditional media structures that took decades, even more than a century to build, are quickly dismissed as "not good enough."
[Don't listen, Charlie. You'll hear it -- but don't steer by it.]
That's what the folks at GlobalPost will hear from folks with experience in newsrooms, anyway. What they'll hear from their new tech brethren is that Google is going to roll over and crush them in their sleep, and that they should just give up, and why were their servers down the first day anyway? Are you sure you guys are ready to play in our world?
[Don't listen to that either, Charlie. Tell a joke instead. Here, I'll give you one: "Hey, I'm gonna get more hamsters for the hamster wheels as soon as I get the cash." And if the person who's razzing you turns out to be a local, don't forget to offer to buy them lunch: programmers, like journalists, can be prickly on first contact, but like journalists, are easily befriended and make exceptionally loyal and useful friends].
I have a theory. Click the back button now if you don't want to hear it.
Do you know what EC2 is? EC2 is a service offered by Amazon. More people are probably familiar with S3, their service that lets you have disk space on the web for pennies. Quite a few popular online services, like Basecamp, use S3 to store customer data, because Amazon's boxes are cheaper and more reliable than anything they could buy on their own.
EC2 isn't storage -- it's compute cycles, the raw power of a server as it does what computer programs do: serve web pages, generate maps, whatever. You'll use EC2 as an insurance policy -- instead of buying powerful servers just in case you get a ton of traffic or new users one day, EC2 lets you buy compute cycles like you buy electricity: a lot when you need it, a little when you don't. Services like these are generally called "cloud computing" because when you draw a diagram of your nifty new system, you'll represent these third party services as a cloud -- opaque, because you don't care what's in them, just that you get reliable utility from servers and storage that's "in the cloud."
I think sites like GlobalPost, Spot.us and many others I could name are the first inklings of "journalism in the cloud". Just as many tech outfits have figured out that it's too expensive to have too many fixed assets, many news outlets are faced with the fact that they can't support the same number of foreign correspondents or beat reporters. The fundamental experiment that these sites are running, each with their own protocol, is this: How can we make journalism happen where it's needed, when it's needed, and then redeploy elsewhere when things change?
Amy is great at asking questions, so she said, "But doesn't that mean reporters would have to move around a lot?"
"Not neccessarily. A reporter could stay in the same location...if it worked, though, it would mean they'd report on more different subjects. I think what's dying are beats, because beats are expensive."
Are beats dying? As Dan Gillmor once said to me, "File under "Interesting If True."
After Matter itself shamelessly cribbed from the fabtacular PressThink.
Much of what I wrote here came out of a conversation I had with Amy Gahran. See Amy's take on -- and expansion of -- the idea here.
Chris Anderson takes a look, too: The Problem With Cloud Journalism May Be Earthbound Institutions.
Paul Gillin takes a look, and says what it might be: "It’s kind of a super stringer model made more efficient by the Internet."