@ OPA: Competing Visions of Community-Publisher Relationships

Should big publishers in a Web 2.0 world convert readers into producers within their walled gardens (outside-in), or seek out those who are already writing amateur content on their own personal turf (inside-out)? And what does that mean for the authority of traditional creators?
Those questions fired up a Q&A session at the OPA forum in London this morning. User involvement in big media output again emerged as a key theme of this year’s forum, leaving execs to pick over the detail. In an earlier speech, Marketspace chairman Jeff Rayport advised companies to become a central platform for passionate communities if they are to “own the audience”. With a typically robust counter-argument, media commentator Jeff Jarvis sparked the debate: “The centre is the people [not the media organisation] – we’re outside. We [shouldn’t] want to make them come to us – we need to go to them. We don’t want to help them do what we want to do, we [should] want to help them do what they want to do. Community is not the stuff on our site – community is already happening out there.”
New York Times digital SVP Martin Nisenholtz: “Most of what I see on blogs are opinions, not objective facts. Most newspapers have a place where opinion lives; we go to great lengths to make sure that place is separated from the news pages, so there is a clear line between opinion and news. The reason that’s so critical is the whole purpose of journalism is to introduce a fact base against which the government, business, other very large institutions have to deal. There’s every reason for us to continue to think of ourselves as distinct from the blogosphere because we have certain principles and values we have to ascribe to. The idea of outside-in is a very useful one – that line makes a great deal of sense; there are potentially thousands, if not millions of people who would want to join our brands, provide information and opinion underneath our brands because, by doing so, we can help validate their process.”
Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive CEO Carolyn Little: “We play a very unique role with bloggers; the blogosphere keeps us more honest. We all saw that in the Dan Rather case. We learned more about one of our bloggers who allegedly didn’t have the credentials [he claimed to] – we learned that from bloggers. [But] I don’t think there is any substitute for crafted journalism.”
USAToday.com SVP Jeff Webber: “Stories have become a loop. In the old days, we’d put out a story and, if there was something wrong with it, we’d learn about that within 24 hours. Now we engage in the betterance of that story on an ongoing basis. There is a relationship forming. It’s raised the expectations of our audiences to the extent that our stories published on the internet are as accurate [as they can be] to the best of our knowledge. Now you do have the benefit of hearing from the outside world. The relationship is forming, it’s a two-way street. we’ll have a tough time defining exactly what it should be. Journalism will change because we have to be more current than we have been.”