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November 23 2010


A handbook for community-funded journalism: Turning Spot.Us experience into lessons for others

In creating a new system to fund reporting directly by donations from a geographic or online community, Spot.Us broke some of the traditional rules of journalism — namely that reporting is funded through a combination of advertising dollars and subscriptions.

That was two years ago, and now a network of individual journalists and small news organizations are attempting to use Spot.Us as a model to find new ways to fund their work and strengthen their connections to the community. And what they need are a new set of rules.

As part of his fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Spot.Us founder David Cohn is developing a handbook for community-funded reporting that will cover everything from how reporters can pitch stories to establishing partnerships in the community to learning whether crowdfunding is right for your project. I spoke with Cohn and Jonathan Peters, who are working together on the project. In their eyes, it’s as much an assessment of how Spot.Us methods work as it is a handbook.

“I don’t want it to evangelize Spot.Us,” Cohn told me. “I want it to evangelize the type of community-funded reporting of Spot.Us.”

Spot.Us has worked with more than 70 organizations, from MinnPost and Oakland Local to The New York Times. “In my experience so far, it’s been the journalism community that has been adopting the Spot.us model, not the journalism industry,” Cohn said.

Which is why the book will serve not only as a how-to, but also something of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the (Community-Funded Journalism) Galaxy, pointing out what has (and hasn’t) worked for Spot.Us, introducing the new players in community journalism, new methods of generating funding and a helpful glossary of terms (the difference between micro donations, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing for instance).

What they did not want to do, Peters says, is try and create a paint-by-numbers book that applies the same method to every community. “The community-funded model relies wholly on a very local focus, not only in the reporting that sites provide, but also in the structure of the site,” Peters said, adding that what works for one site may not work for another.

Only a few months into the project (they expect to be done by the spring), Cohn and Peters have found that one of the biggest questions the handbook can answer is how to explain the way community-funded reporting — and Spot.Us — works. For their research the two are surveying reporters who have worked with Spot.Us to fund and report stories. “The most interesting thing to the two of us was the majority of reporters who talked to us could not give an elevator speech to someone who does not know what Spot.Us does,” Peters said.

Making a pitch to an editor and convincing groups of people to help pay for a story are different things — largely because reporters tend to think journalism should be supported simply because it’s journalism, Cohn said. This is where a little entrepreneurship and the art of the sale come in, teaching journalists to articulate their goal and show their work meets an identifiable need. Just as important as the pitch is knowing how much of a story to tease out when trying to get funding. Cohn said reporters need to show what an investigation could reveal instead of giving up all the information their story will hold. Why would anyone pay to fund your story if you tell them the whole thing during the pitch?

Becoming something of a salesman and being more transparent in reporting are part of a broader question the handbook will deal with: Is community-funded journalism right for you? Those considerations, along with the amount of time it takes to raise money for reporting and having regular interaction with the audience, are key to whether a reporter will be successful working in Spot.Us model, Peters said.

Just as important is being able to navigate the playing field. Peters said its important for journalists to be aware of the varying options for getting funding for the work, whether it’s Kachingle and Kickstarter or GoJournalism (for Canadians).

Cohn and Peters say they don’t expect the handbook to be the definitive resource on community-funded reporting, but they expect it can help people who are curious. (As far as the actual book part of the handbook, they expect to publish it online.) Cohn said a large part of what he does now is talk to others about how Spot.Us works and how it can be applied elsewhere. Now all of that will be in handy book form.

“The audience is — as far as we can tell — writing for reporters who want to work with people like Spot.us or GoJournalism, and don’t know what it’s like,” Peters said. “We can knock down barriers and misconceptions.”

July 15 2010


Kachingle Hopes 'Social Payments' Can Help Fund Content

If advertising alone isn't going to support all the online journalism and content sites, and pay walls will just turn readers away, perhaps there's another solution, a third way: Social payments. More than just simple donations, social payment systems such as Kachingle and Flattr simplify giving money to sites you visit. Both services set up a monthly payment system, with a set amount each month, and the more sites you like, the more ways your payment is split.

While Flattr is still in a closed invite-only beta test, Kachingle launched in February and works a bit differently. Here's the basic run down for Kachingling (yes, it's also a verb):

1. Sign up at the site to pay $5 per month through a credit card or PayPal. No more, no less.

2. Go to sites that have Kachingle enabled and become a Kachingler for them by clicking on their Kachingle medallion. Big Kachingle sites include the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo. and Carta.info in Germany.

3. Kachingle will pay out your money to the sites each month based on which ones you visit the most. They begin making a payment when the site gets at least $3.35.

4. Kachingle takes about 7% of your $5, PayPal takes 8%, and the sites get 85%.

So far, there are less than 300 sites that take Kachingle payments, but there's been a huge uptake in Germany. Ulrike Langer, who runs the German new media blog Medial Digital, told me that she was impressed by the new social payment services.

"I think it's a great opportunity for bloggers like me who would never make that much in advertising," she told me. "I realize that from the tiny amount of money I get from Google AdSense. As soon as I heard about Kachingle, I checked it out. The concept appealed to me because regular users of my site, who read the feed and come back regularly, would have a way to say 'thank you' that's more than just leaving a comment or clicking the 'Like' button for Facebook."

So far, Langer's best month of income from social payments was 40 Euros from Flattr, and about $15 to $20 on Kachingle. That's not exactly going to pay the rent, but she's still impressed to get that much as these services are in their infancy.

I got the chance to talk in-depth to Kachingle founder Cynthia Typaldos, who told me why she started the service, what the challenges are to get publishers on board, and how it's often more about creating a bond for users and sites rather than being all about money. The following is an edited transcript of our talk, with some video clips shot with my Flip cam.


Tell me about social payments, explain to me what they are, and also tell me about your own background.

Cynthia Typaldos: My background is all high-tech. I have a degree in computer science, an MBA at MIT, and I've worked at a number of technology companies, including Sun Microsystems. I did my first startup called GolfWeb in 1995. I'm not a golfer, by the way, but it was a great place to learn about the social aspect of the Internet, because most of golf is about being social. Then I did another startup called Real Communities, which was an earlier form of Ning, but was too early. So this is my third startup.

As far as social payments, it's the name that's gelling now around people voluntarily paying for free content online. It sounds crazy, in a way, because you wonder why people would pay for free stuff. But we think it's a new movement that will be successful because people want to support great digital content and services they love, to make sure they'll be around. On Kachingle, they get credit for that and build a persona around what they're consuming and supporting.

What was your motivation for starting Kachingle?

Typaldos: I got the idea a few years ago. What happened was that my best friend got brain cancer -- it's a sad story. Her English wasn't very good and so she asked me to do brain cancer research on the Internet. So I did, I went around and got all this information, and at the end of the month I gave it to her. Afterwards I wanted to give $100 to all the sites that helped me out in my search, but it was all a blur. I couldn't remember all the sites, and didn't know how often I'd been there. It wasn't about a contribution to cure brain cancer, it was a contribution to support great information and show that I valued it.

How have you funded it?

Typaldos: [laughs] Believe it or not, I don't advise people to do this, but I sold my house and used the proceeds so I could work on this full-time and fund web hosting and things like that. I've also brought in some partners who have put in some money, and we have some angel funding.

How has your growth been so far? How many sites are using it and how many users do you have?

Typaldos: That's a good question. We have almost 300 sites ... and we have individual blogs. What's important is that we're getting the idea of social payments out there. The main thing that's important is how many times our medallion is served up. The medallion is our widget that runs on publishers' sites. And those views have peaked at more than 1 million medallion views per day.

Typaldos explains how they are trying to create a new social norm, and will be launching new Twitter and Facebook apps:

I'm curious what the excuse is from larger newspaper websites who won't use your service. What is their excuse? It seems like a simple enough thing to try.

Typaldos: What it takes is there needs to be a person at the company who is forward-thinking, is willing to experiment, and has the authority and power to implement the medallion on their website. It only takes like five minutes. There aren't any integration issues. When you are talking about pay walls, those systems take time to implement. [To get Kachingle on a site] takes a champion and it takes a champion with clout.

Tell me how it works. Does a publisher's site have to have PayPal to make it work? Can they take credit card payments?

Typaldos: It's really very simple. A publisher pulls the medallion from our site, and posts our medallion on their site -- and they could even have multiple medallions for various parts of the site. Each medallion can have its own PayPal account. So they could have the money go to the newspaper's finances or it could even go to one journalist. It's their choice. Yes, it does go into PayPal, so they need an account to retrieve it.

What's your cut in the equation and what's the cost with PayPal?

Typaldos: This is an interesting question. We wanted to make it incredibly simple. We manage all the financial transactions through PayPal. So we can tell people using our system that 85 percent of the money they put in will go to the publishers' hands. We manage all the transaction fees. We went to PayPal and did a deal with them for the pay-in when people buy the $5 subscription, and we told them we had to have a better price, and we did a deal on the pay-out too. We got those fees down to 15 percent, ours is about 7 percent and theirs is 8 percent. We got them down from 11 percent but think it should be even lower.

We're really happy with PayPal because they were willing to do this deal with us even though we're just a small startup. The reason they did the deal is that they really believe this will be a very big market, and they want to be part of that market. They improved their existing products for us, and they'll be coming out with new products to make it even better.

It seems like a perfect fit between what you do and what non-profit news sites might want.

Typaldos: We do think there are lots of great non-profits in the journalism field that don't have a regular source of revenues. So we're really pleased we have signed up a bunch of non-profits, including the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Center for Public Integrity, and many more. We're excited about that, but we have plenty of good blog sites doing great journalism as well. It's really up to the users to decide what to reward and what the user values.

Typaldos talks about how Kachingle is trying to build up the user base by signing up more publishers:

How did you come up with $5 per month, and why are you so strict about people putting in no less and no more than that?

Typaldos: It's a really interesting question. Early adopters and bloggers love lots of choices, but our target audience is ordinary people and they don't like a lot of choices. I don't know if you've read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, but it's one of my favorite books. He talks about how you go into a store and there are 25 types of peanut butter, and it doesn't make your life any easier. We want to send a signal to users -- they don't know how much to spend when they first sign up, they don't know what their friends are doing.

It's like tipping. If you didn't know the standard 15 percent to pay for tips, each time you went out to eat, it would be a stressful experience. We wanted it to be $5, no thinking, to reduce the barrier for getting people to sign up. We're also saying that $5 is enough, these are micropayments, and we're not expecting people to be putting in $100 or even $30. Over time, we will start sending some signals saying that their friends are giving $10 a month, and would they like to give more. But without social signals people don't really know what to choose ... Eventually we'd like to bring people up to $10 to $12 on average per month.

What's been your biggest compliment from people and your biggest complaint?

Typaldos: The compliments largely come from the more than 300 sites who have got more money -- but it's not always about money, it's often more about building a stronger bond with users. We even had users write to us saying, 'please I'd like to Kachingle a certain site but they don't have the medallion -- can you make them do it?' We're trying to figure out how to make that happen. The biggest compliment is from the sites and users saying they want to connect, and connect in a monetary way.

As far as the biggest complaint, the biggest difficulty, is in Germany -- we're big in Germany and the U.S. -- where they require a credit card just to use PayPal for a subscription, even if the credit card isn't being used. And credit cards aren't big in Germany so it's an issue for us. We're working with PayPal to fix that. It's been our biggest issue.

One other compliment we get is on being totally financially transparent. As a user, you can see exactly where your money goes. You can track every penny. I felt that this was incredibly important because users really want to know where their money is going. I call it 'crowdsource auditing.'

Typaldos tries to explain why Germany is such a popular place for Kachingle:

How do you differ from the online tipping services?

Typaldos: One of those companies, TipJoy, went out of business. A lot of these companies have way too many mental transaction costs. We're not a tipping system. A tipping system requires you to figure out how much to pay each time. For us, you just start at Kachingle and pay $5 a month, and choose the sites you want to pay once, and we do all the work in the background -- figuring out which sites you went to most, and splitting the money that way. It's a simple, fair algorithm. Most systems before required people to take action each time.

There's a new company in the space, Flattr, and a new French company too called Rue89, so soon there will be three companies. The more, the better, because we are trying to change social norms. There's dramatic differences between Flattr and us. They ask you to click a button like a Facebook "Like" button to give money. We're very much different than that, because you only have to turn on the medallion once for a site to give money to them.


What do you think about social payment systems? Could it help with the business model of online news and journalism? What will it take for them to break through to a wider audience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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June 01 2010


Parsing Panera: Could a name-your-own-price model work for news?

The former CEO of Panera Bread recently announced an intriguing experiment: The chain’s store in Clayton, Missouri is doing away with prices. The Clayton franchise, now run as a nonprofit restaurant and renamed the “Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe,” offers the same products as typical Panera stores, the same baked goods and soups and salads. Instead of assigning a monetary value to the products, though, the store leaves it to customers to decide what they’ll pay. “Take what you need, leave your fair share,” reads a sign above the store’s counter.

Name-your-own-price schemes like this aren’t new; often, they don’t work. (“If you use a PWYW scheme too liberally, you are courting financial disaster,” the economist Stephen Dubner points out. “Just imagine if Tiffany & Co. held a PWYW day on all diamond jewelry.”) But sometimes — under the right circumstances — the approach can be quite effective. At One World Everybody Eats, a community kitchen in Salt Lake City, Denise Cerreta runs an analog service to the Panera experiment: Instead of pricing the meals One World serves, she asks customers to pay what they can — and, she told me, “to pay it forward when they can.” She’s doing something right, it seems: One World’s been in business for seven years.

Which brings me to the question you’ve seen coming, but one I’ll come out and ask anyway, as a thought experiment if nothing more: Could the Panera payment model work for news?

Request, not demand

First of all, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it couldn’t. Carta, the German public-affairs publication, is currently the highest-grossing participant on the donation-facilitator site Kachingle. Carta’s current yield from Kachingler donations is $198.27 — from a total of 65 people. Oof. Membership drives both journalistic and otherwise tend to suggest specific notation amounts for a reason: We like prices. Or, more specifically, we’re conditioned to expect them.

But what if our expectations changed? What if news outlets built into their online interfaces a more structured, and systematic, request for content compensation? Take, again, One World. One of the reasons Cerreta’s effort works is that, at the cafe, consumer behavior is monitored: The kitchen has built into its physical layout what Cerreta calls a “point of accountability” — a point at which, moving through the consumption-to-satisfaction continuum, consumers know that this is the moment they’re expected to compensate the kitchen for what they’ve (literally) consumed. In One World’s case, the accountability point is a simple donation box. One that is situated — explicitly, purposely, unavoidably — in public.

And that makes a big — and perhaps all the — difference. (Recall the “Big Brother Eyes” experiment from a few years ago.) Which means that, when the accountability is negotiated in private — when there is only, as in the case of online news, the glare of the computer screen to cast light on our shoulders’ angels and devils — our willingness to drop dollars in the donation box certainly becomes a more open question. But, then, what if we took a looser approach to publicness — what if we translated Cerreta’s physical accountability point to the ephemeral interactions of the web? Even if we citizens need a little push to behave in private with as much civic sensibility as we would in public, there’s nothing to say that news outlets can’t provide — or, at least, experiment with providing — that push. It would simply be a matter of building the push into the structure, and patterns, of consumption. Of creating, to modify Cass Sunstein’s phrase, an architecture of accountability.

Step one would be re-framing the terms of the transaction when it comes to compensating news providers for the content they provide: from fee (obligatory, and therefore purely economic) to donation (optional, and therefore suggestive of social good). It’s a semantic shift, certainly; but it could be a psychological one, as well.

Take the work of Edward Deci. In a series of experiments in the 1970s, the social psychologist examined the behavior of two groups of subjects: One was asked to solve a puzzle; the other was told it would be paid for solving the same puzzle. Those who worked for what Deci called the “intrinsic” reward of solving the puzzle — the simple satisfaction of a job well done — were, he found, more successful in finding solutions than those who were paid. Payment functioned, ironically, as a disincentive.

Deci was studying the motivation to work, rather than the motivation to pay; still, his overall finding (officially, that “contingent monetary rewards actually reduced intrinsic task motivation”) is illustrative. Introducing the concreteness of payment into an otherwise more ephemeral exchange can sometimes discourage action, rather than encouraging it; assigning monetary value to goods and experiences has a way of confining — and even negating — their broader value. Pricing is practical, of course, and, for the most part, entirely necessary. Still, we prefer to think of ourselves as motivated by something other than — something more than — rote obligation. And price tags, general necessity notwithstanding, tend to rob us of our altruism.

Accountability and urgency

What Deci’s findings suggest for news is that, paradoxically, “It’d be nice if you paid” could actually be more incentivizing for consumers than the more blunt, and more transactional, “You have to pay.” Paywalls are one thing; pay doors, if you will — come on in! have a bite! pay what you think is fair! — are another. Permeability suggests trust; expectations of good behavior have a way of encouraging good behavior. Broken windows, in reverse.

Again, though, publicness (read: public accountability) is key; roughly the same number of people who want to be good citizens want to be recognized for being good citizens. Every year, I receive a series of emails from my college (usually featuring a slick little slideshow: “Campus in the Fall,” “Campus in the Spring,” “Campus in the Summer, with Children and Puppies and Rainbows”) asking for contributions to its Annual Giving drive. And it usually takes several of those emails before I actually make my donation. It’s not that I don’t want, or for that matter intend, to give back; it’s just that the give-back ask lacks urgency. The payment isn’t a demand; it’s a request. It doesn’t have to be paid now; it can be paid whenever. And that decelerates the dynamic of the transaction.

One of the most recent emails I received, though, tapped into something other than nostalgia: It featured a long list of donors from my class — ostensibly, as a way of thanking them for their contributions by way of public acknowledgment…but also, of course, as a way of highlighting those who hadn’t yet contributed. The loud, empty space between ‘Ganson’ and ‘Geannette,’ I have to say, made for an excellent disincentive against future dallying. Suddenly, the urgency was implicit.

The Alumni Giving staff, in other words, built into their donation request a point of accountability. Not a virtual cash register, a “pay now, or you won’t get the goods you want” approach — an impossibility for donation-seekers who sell not goods but potential good — but a more subtle (and, yet, just as impactful) message: “pay now, or everyone will know you haven’t paid.” Social capital is an economic good as much as a civic one; the AG donation-seekers wove that fact into their email so implicitly that their request suddenly bore the semblance of demand. By highlighting the social, rather than the monetary, aspect of their appeal, they conveyed the fact that they meant business. Literally.

Leveraging the social economy

When it comes to the problem of monetization, we sometimes to fall into the trap of equating “pay model” with “pay wall.” We assume that news is a straight commodity, and that the cash register model is therefore the only viable option for monetizing it. (“We’re not NPR, after all.”) But the commodity-focused approach ignores the social aspects of media economics. Particularly online, with the web’s built-in mechanisms of mutuality, news is a social good as much as (and perhaps even more than) a product to be bought and sold. It is also an experience good — something that needs to be consumed before its value can be accurately determined. A tip-based model — which combines reward for a job well done with the social prestige of being generous enough to leave a tip in the first place — actually makes more sense than a paywall, which is necessarily predictive in nature.

Cerreta’s name-your-own-price experiment, and my Alumni Giving’s public-accountability approach — not to mention the experience of, yes, many a public media membership drive — suggest the raw potential of a request-oriented, rather than a demand-oriented, approach to the pay-for-news problem. They hint at what might happen when we bring a little humanity to paid content’s practical, yet wholly impersonal, business proposition. Most of us, after all, are much happier to make donations than to pay bills. Even if the checks we write are for the same amount.

That’s not to say that reframing the terms of transaction is a broad answer to the seeping problem of content monetization; “no silver bullets” has become a common refrain for a good reason. (Plus, as Laura Walker, president and CEO of WNYC, told me in a conversation about PWYW’s scalability, “I think there is a much stronger pull toward supporting an organization that is not supported by advertising — that is not there to deliver an audience to advertisers — but is there because of a mission. I think that’s why people value us.”) It is to say, though, that it may be worth widening the scope of consideration when it comes to how we think about payment structures in the first place. The many experiments we’re seeing with social media right now — HuffPo’s implementation of recognition for committed community members, Gawker’s star commenter system, Spot.us’s and Kickstarter’s public donor lists, Foursquare’s merit-badge framework — leverage users’ cultural connection to the news — and their desire to be recognized for, essentially, good citizenship within the cultures news systems create.

What would happen if those same motivations were employed in the service of monetizing online news? What would happen if we shift our focus from transactions to exchanges? Kachingle may not have revolutionized online payment structures; then again, its digital tip jar is a rare presence on websites. But what if The New York Times — or The Washington Post, or The Huffington Post — had its own kind of Kachingle? What if it also had a badge-like way of praising, publicly, the people who had financially supported its services? What if, instead of erecting a paywall, it built its site on an architecture of altruism?

It’d be an experiment, certainly. An experiment that well might fail. Still, though: I’d love to see what would happen if we broaden our notion of what a viable pay model could be.

April 09 2010


This Week in Review: The iPad has landed, WikiLeaks moves toward journalism, and net neutrality is hit

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

The iPad unleashed: If you’ve been anywhere near a computer or TV this week, it’s not hard to determine what this week’s top journalism/new media story is: Apple’s iPad hit stores Saturday, with 450,000 sold as of Thursday. I’ll spare you the scores of reviews, and we’ll jump straight to the bigger-picture and journalism-related stuff. There’s a ton to get to here, so if you’re interested in the bite-sized version, read Cory Doctorow and Howard Weaver on closed media consumption, Kevin Anderson on app pricing, and Alan Mutter and Joshua Benton on news app design.

If you’re looking for the former, The New York Times and the current issue of Wired have thoughts on the iPad and tablets’ technological and cultural impact from a total of 19 people, mostly tech types. We also saw the renewal of several of the discussions that were percolating the weeks before the iPad’s arrival: New media expert Jeff Jarvis and open-web activist Cory Doctorow took up similar arguments that the iPad is a retrograde device because it’s based around media consumption rather than creation, strangling development and making a single company our personal technology gatekeepers. In responses to Jarvis and Doctorow respectively, hyperlocal journalist Howard Owens and former McClatchy exec Howard Weaver defended those “consumers,” countering that not everybody consumes media like tech critics do — most people are primarily consumers, and that’s OK.

Meanwhile, two other writers made, judging from their pieces’ headlines, an almost identical point: The iPad is not going to save the news or publishing industries. Leaning heavily on Jeff Jarvis, The Huffington Post’s Jose Antonio Vargas made the consumption argument, saying that consumers want to tweak, question and pass around their content, not just passively consume it. And Harvard Business Review editor Paul Michelman contended that publishers are trying to retrofit their media onto this new one.

News business expert Alan Mutter and Poynter blogger Damon Kiesow offered some tips for publishers who do want to succeed on the iPad: Mutter wrote a thorough and helpful breakdown of designing for print, the web and mobile media, concluding, “Publishers who want to take full advantage of the iPad will have to do better by creating content that is media-rich, interactive, viral, transactional and mobile.” Kiesow told news orgs to consider what the iPad will be down the road as they design.

There was also quite a bit written about news organizations’ iPad apps, most of it not exactly glowing. Damon Kiesow provided a helpful list of journalism-related apps, finding that not surprisingly, most of the top selling ones are free. The high prices of many news orgs’ apps drew an inspired rant from British journalist Kevin Anderson in which he called the pricing “a last act of insanity by delusional content companies.” Poynter’s Bill Mitchell took a look at early critical comments by users about high prices and concluded that by not explaining themselves, publishers are leaving it to the crowd to make up their own less-than-charitable explanations for their moves.

As for specific apps, Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore was wowed by USA Today’s top-selling app, the Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum compared The New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal’s apps, and news industry analyst Ken Doctor looked at the Journal’s iPad strategy. Finally, the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Joshua Benton found three intriguing news-navigation design ideas while browsing news orgs’ iPad apps: Story-to-story navigation, pushing readers straight past headlines, and the “cyberclaustrophobia” of The New York Times’ Editors’ Choice app.

Is WikiLeaks a new form of journalism?: On Monday, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks posted video of civilians being killed by a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad in 2007. In a solid explanation of the situation, The New York Times’ Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter noted that with the video, WikiLeaks is making a major existential shift by “edging closer toward a form of investigative journalism and to advocacy.”

Others noticed the journalistic implications as well, with Jonathan Stray of Foreign Policy wondering whether WikiLeaks is pioneering a new, revolutionary avenue for sourcing outside the confines of traditional media outlets. On Twitter, Dan Gillmor posited that a key part of WikiLeaks’ ascendancy is the fact that unlike traditional news orgs, it doesn’t see itself as a gatekeeper, and C.W. Anderson declared the video and an analysis of it by a former helicopter pilot “networked journalism.” If you want to know more about WikiLeaks itself, Mother Jones has plenty of background in a detailed feature.

Net neutrality takes a hit: In the tech world, the week’s big non-iPad story came on Tuesday, when a federal judge allowed Internet service providers some ability to slow down or regulate traffic on their network. It was a huge blow to proponents of net neutrality, or the belief that all web use should be free of restrictions or institutional control. The FCC has tried for years to impose net neutrality standards on ISPs, so it’s obviously a big setback for them, too.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNET all have solid summaries of the case and its broader meaning, and The Washington Post takes a look at the FCC’s options in the wake of the ruling. I haven’t seen anyone directly tie this case to journalism, though it obviously has major implications for who controls the future of the web, which in turn will influence what news organizations do there. And as Dan Gillmor notes, this isn’t just a free-speech issue; it’s also about the future of widespread broadband, something that has been mentioned in the past (including by Gillmor himself) as a potentially key piece of the future-of-news puzzle.

Murdoch rattles more sabers: As his media holdings continue to prepare to put up paywalls around their online content (The Times of London was the recent announcement), Rupert Murdoch made another public appearance this week in which he bashed search engines, free online news sites and The New York Times. There is one thing he likes about technology, though: The iPad, which he said “may well be the saving of the newspaper industry.” Staci Kramer of paidContent astutely notes that Murdoch’s own statements about charging for content imply that it will only work if virtually every news org does it. Meanwhile, Australian writer Eric Beecher argues that Murdoch’s money-losing newspapers subsidize the power and influence that the rest of his media empire thrives on.

In other paid-content news, the Chicago Reader has an informative profile of the interesting startup Kachingle, which allow users to pay a flat fee to read a number of sites, then designate how much of their money goes where and trumpet to their friends where they’re reading. Also The New Republic put a partial paywall up, and newspaper chain Freedom Communications took its test paywall down.

Reading roundup: I’ve got a pretty large collection of items for you this week, starting with a couple of bits of news and finishing with several interesting pieces to read.

Columbia University announced a new dual-degree master’s program in journalism and computer science. Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired has a deeper look at the program’s plans to produce hacker-journalists who can be pioneers in data visualization and analysis and device-driven design, along with a couple of brutally honest quotes from Columbia faculty about the relative paucity of computing skills among even “tech-savvy journalists.” Just about everybody loved the idea of the program, though journalist/developer Chris Amico cautioned that more than just dual-degree journalists need to be hanging out with the computer scientists.  ”The problem isn’t just a lack of reporters who can code, but a shortage of people in the newsroom who know what’s possible,” he wrote.

Down the road, this may be seen as a turning point: Demand Media, which has been derided lately as a “content farm” will create and run a new travel section for USA Today. As Advertising Age points out, USA Today isn’t the first newspaper to get content from Demand Media — the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gets a travel article a week — but this is collaboration of an entirely new scale.

Now the think pieces: Here at the Lab, former newspaper exec Martin Langeveld updated his year-old post asserting that more than 95 percent of readership of newspaper content is in print rather than online, and while the numbers changed a bit, his general finding did not.

In an interview with Poynter, Newser’s Michael Wolff had some provocative words for news orgs, telling them readers want stories online with less context, not more (as several folks asserted a few weeks ago at SXSW) and saying he would’ve told newspapers way back when not to go on the web at all: “[Online readers'] experiences have changed and their needs have changed, and I just don’t think traditional news companies are in a position to really understand that kind of change or to speak to it or to deliver it.”

At The Atlantic, Lane Wallace wrote that journalists’ (especially veterans’) strongest bias is not political, but is instead an predetermined assumption of a story line that prevents them from seeing the entire picture.

And lastly, two great academically oriented musings on media and society: Memphis j-prof Carrie Brown-Smith wonders if social media furthers our cultural knowledge gap, and University of Southern Denmark professor Thomas Pettitt talks to the Lab’s Megan Garber about the Gutenberg Parenthesis and society’s return to orally based communication with digital media. Both are great food for thought.

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