There have been a number of interesting and at times challenging sessions at O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change conference, taking place in New York this week.
I had been looking forward to several presentations, including an excellent historical look at what really happened to the music business in the early 2000s (Kirk Biglione) and a session on “rewiring journalism” using open source models, tools (software) and workflows.
The journalism session featured Matthew Bernius, a graduate student at Cornell and co-director of the Open Publishing Lab at Rochester Institute of Technology and three colleagues, including David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us, a nonprofit organization created to pioneer community-funded reporting.
The various presenters told different parts of the story in a way that explained how their mutual commitment to open-source solutions supported a robust, increasingly end-to-end solution. Cohn grabbed my attention when he spoke about how his efforts at community-funded journalism had raised $70K in their first year. They are hoping to raise $250K in their second pass.
They came to the session with a refreshing sense of humility. Cohn noted that they were part of an effort to that promoted “experimentation with many different business models” to help form (some) new ones. It’s perhaps telling that these new solutions are coming from outside a business that invests only five percent of its revenues – less than a third of the national average – in research and development.
I’m not convinced that community-supported journalism saves us, so consider this post as willing suspension of disbelief. At least they are trying new things.
Edited February 24 to add: In the New York Observer, Jeff Bercovici argues that “the market for acts of journalism has gone from a cartel-based system to something approximating free enterprise.”