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The future of journalism is here; and it's a popularity contest

Update: While many websites have been acting as if Publish2 and its contest will single-handedly save journalism, Bob Norman from the Broward New Times is also skeptical.

An ongoing contest open to “talented journalists” is offering $1,000 to anybody who can best complete the f

Update: While many websites have been acting as if Publish2 and its contest will single-handedly save journalism, Bob Norman from the Broward New Times is also skeptical.


An ongoing contest open to “talented journalists” is offering $1,000 to anybody who can best complete the following phrase:

“I am the future of journalism because ….”

The entry can be done using a short video, photo slideshow or even with the use of words, if you happen to be an old-school journalist.

However, one cannot exceed one minute in the video or 2,000 characters in the text entry, which is about 400 words. This is the future of journalism, after all, where attention spans have been reduced to acronymic updates on Twitter.

And the $1,000 grand prize is actually a signing bonus once you accept a job offer at Publish2, the online start-up that is hosting the contest and vowing to set the standards for the future of journalism.

The concept behind Publish2 is to serve as an aggregate service to newspapers and magazines, many who have been cancelling their AP wire services because that is only the next natural step after having killed off the foreign bureaus.

Publish2 intends to provide the most interesting “links” from around the blogosphere to these publications, which apparently will replace the content they once paid for. And because these links will now be posted on the sites of major news organizations, it will turn today’s blogger’s into tomorrow’s journalists.

At least that is how I’m gathering it. Details of Publish2′s business model are still kind of vague.

This is how CEO Scott Karp explains it:

The current mindset of most newsrooms, as they face shrinking budgets, is that they may need to forgo the broad coverage that they traditionally provided through wire content in order to afford staff for original local reporting. Several newspapers have in fact announced their intention to cancel their wire subscriptions.

But newspaper web sites can tap into this wealth of web content without expensive licensing agreements — they just need to LINK to it.

Obviously, nobody is going to pay these “future journalists” for the content they provide on these links because this is content they are already providing free of charge. Besides, these future journalists are supposed to be thrilled at the prospect of being linked to The New York Times or The Washington Post.

It’s a great deal for the newspapers because this might enable them to get rid of the entire newsroom staff once and for all.

Karp continues to unveil his plan:

A web newswire can also solve the problem of how newsrooms with increasingly limited resources can find links to the best content on the web. If all newsrooms contribute links to the newswire and share their daily “link news budgets,” they can tap into the collective editorial intelligence of hundreds of newsrooms.

If consumers can vote up the best content together, why not newsrooms? This is the same cooperative approach that gave birth to the traditional newswires, but one that harnesses the “network effects” of the web — the same network effects that power sites like Google, Digg, and Twitter.

And… it can all be done for free.

Well Karp just received a $2.75 million grant, so he obviously is not doing this for free. And I sure as hell don’t want to do it for free either, which is why I am a little skeptical about this “job offer” I would need to accept if I wanted to pocket the $1,000 signing bonus. This depending if I even win the contest.

This is how Publish2 describes the job on its contest page:

The offer of employment will be for a position that Sponsor determines in its sole discretion is appropriate in light of the winner’s technical skills and experience level, and the salary and other benefits corresponding to such offer of employment shall be consistent with Sponsor’s salary and benefit packages given to other employees at a similar position level at Sponsor.

So in other words, by entering this contest, I am essentially applying for a position that I have no idea what duties it will entail, nor how much it will pay. Nor how long will I be forced to stay in the mystery position before I would be forced to return the $1,000. For all I know, it could pay minimum wage and require me to clean the toilets.

Hell, the future of journalism sounds too much like the current state of journalism.

Here are more details:

The winner will be required to satisfy the standards of employment (including satisfying relevant background checks) applied to other employees of Sponsor, and the winner will need to execute Sponsor’s form of employee offer letter and Business Protection Agreement as a condition to employment. The offer of employment will be “at-will” and, consistent with Sponsor’s employment policies, no severance package will be included in the offer of employment. If the winner meets the qualifications stated in these Official Rules and accepts the offer of employment, the winner will receive a signing bonus of $1,000, payable upon the winner’s completion of the first week of employment with Sponsor.

Business Protection Agreement?

People interested in entering the contest must first register with Publish2, where you instantly become a “journalist” on Publish2′s membership list, which, of course, is the real reason behind this contest. And once you upload your contest entry, it gets judged and rated by other “journalists” a la Digg. Nothing groundbreaking here.

The entrant with the highest rating as of right now is a guy who put himself on video to explain why he is the best candidate for this mystery job. However, he could not explain why his face kept falling out of the frame.

But still, I am not so jaded where I will not submit an entry. For all I know, this might turn out to be a challenging position, not to mention provide a $1,000 that can go towards my legal bills, but would most likely be spent on camera gear.

After all, anybody who reads this blog knows that I am able to put together a video, photo slideshow and/or written commentary on a single subject on any given day of the week. And I not only have a degree in journalism, I spent years writing for daily newspapers before realizing there was no future in it.

And I do agree the future of journalism is in producing multimedia content for the internet. But like everybody else, I just haven’t figured out how to make this content generate a livable wage.

So I give Publish2 credit for trying to meet this challenge. I just can’t help having a healthy degree of skepticism about this contest and this venture because I don’t see the money trickling down to the actual content providers.

So if I do enter the contest, I hope Karp doesn’t use this blog post against me if I happen to win. Although it would make a great blog post if he did.

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