Chris Anderson's Sober Assessment of Openness in Publishing Hints At Real Innovation
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Chris Anderson's Sober Assessment of Openness in Publishing Hints At Real Innovation

Chris Anderson of Wired has written what may be the most sober and balanced (i.e. ideology-free) assessment I’ve ever read of the upside and downside of 2.0 openness in publishing, or what he calls “radical transparency.” Here’s a sample:

  1. “Process as Content”*. Why not share the reporting as it happens, uploading the text of each interview as soon as you can get it processed by your flat-world transcription service in India? (This may sound ridiculous, but it’s exactly what wire services such as the AP have long done–they update their stories with each new fragment of information). After you’ve woven together enough of the threads to have a semi-coherent draft, why not ask your readers to help edit it? (We did it here, and it worked great). And while you’re at it, let them write the headlines and subheads, not just for the site but also the punchier ones for the RSS feed and the one that has to work with the art for the magazine.

Upside: Open participation can make stories better–better researched, better thought through and deeper. It also can crowdsource some of the work of the copy desk and editors. And once the story is done and published, the participants have a sense of collective ownership that encourages them to spread the word.

Risk: Curating the process can quickly hit diminishing returns. Writers end up feeling like a cruise director, constantly trying to get people to participate. And all the other risks of the item above.

Reading Chris’ assessment of the “Upside” and “Risk” of each element of transparency, I’m inclined to agree with his conclusion: “Needless to say, in all these cases I think the upsides outweigh the downsides.” More importantly, Chris sounds like he’s hot on the trail of real innovation, rather than pablum ideology.

It’s amazing how much you can move the 2.0 ball forward when you strip out the ideology and just think it through.

Here’s my first prediction for 2007 — some “old media” brands, which many in new media have already counted out of the game, will from a standing start leapfrog past some new media brands in the race for innovation. 2006 has been filled with a lot of ideology and vague formulations trying to pass for real innovation.