‘Geeks Bearing Gifts’ — a digested read

Jeff Jarvis coined the term ‘networked journalism‘ nearly a decade ago and ‘Geeks Bearing Gifts’,his latest book, examines what’s holding back journalists from exploiting the new possibilities presented by social networks.

As an illustration of the challenge, he points out that news accounts for less than one per cent of page views on the web; the gist of his essay is that this ratio would be much higher if only legacy media could take off the blinkers when viewing the increasingly networked world of information.

Four MSM Blindspots

Mainstream media companies didn’t come up with any of the major social media platforms and that’s because of the way they tend to see the world — content isn’t content unless it is created by journalists, preferably their own.

Jarvis is very clear that unless and until this myopia over the definition of journalism changes then the industry will continue to under-perform its potential. There seem to be four main criticisms of the approach of mainstream media (MSM) set against that of the social networks and new-age media:

  1. The focus on the article as the basic unit of journalism rather than as one of a range of formats users need. Such formats include, critically, both platforms over which readers inform one another and services based around curation.
  2. A broadcast rather than a relationship mindset — the distinction being that the former views journalism as an end-product while the latter sees it as a service that helps users get things done.
  3. Squeamishness about seeing content as a means to get data to find out more about individual users’ needs and so to deliver more personalised news experiences.
  4. Reluctance to think hard about how networks have changed journalism and of new ways to add value to the flow of information generated by communities that don’t require media.

New roles for journalists

Despite his critique of MSM, Jarvis remains optimistic about the future of journalism. Put simply, networks need journalists to help them find out things they wouldn’t otherwise discover, and to package content. He also sees increased specialisation:

1. Beats

Jarvis thinks that specialisation is going to become more important. He is particularly interested in hyper-local journalism and in the emerging skill-set required to turn geographical beat-reporting into sustainable businesses.

2. Assets

Another form of specialisation is via ‘asset’ — the genre of journalism. He is thinking here of things like speed (newswires) context (explainer sites like Vox) and relationships (community-based journalist projects.)

Jarvis references Business-to-Business (B2B) journalism a lot. But I caught myself wondering whey he didn’t make the point that seems quite obvious to me — that B2B journalists are much less likely to suffer from the myopia he has diagnosed within MSM and are thus more likely to survive.


Jarvis has a firm grasp of media history. He’s written about Guettenberg and was struck by how long it takes media to adjust to new technology – it took half a century for the book to emerge as a format after the printing press first arrived, 150 years for the arrival of newspapers (which had to wait for postal systems to be developed.) While optimistic that journalists will adapt there is a hint that the sooner this happens the more will survive.


The Week In Six Pix: Metro Racism, iCar, Globalisation, Robot Bankers, Gravity-defying Haircuts, and Watching Paint Dry

British Racism on the Metro 

The Guardian newspaper was handed video footage of Chelsea football supporters abusing a passenger on the Paris Metro, sparking much soul-searching among the game’s authorities. Barney Ronay pointed out that, in its pure form, football is, “the opposite of racism, an activity that tells you repeatedly that human beings are equal, that what marks us out are the qualities that cut across race: talent, heart, teamwork.”

Apple Working on iCar?

9to5Mac worked out that an automotive engineer hiring spree by Apple presaged the development of an electric Car. The Onion speculated that the car would be “compatible with most major roads” and that its wheels would “turn into rainbow pinwheels whenever car stalls.”

How Globalisation Has Changed the World in One Chart

Pew’s Chart of the Week shows what two decades of globalisation have done to income distribution: huge income growth in much of the developing world, a hollowing out of the middle class in the West, and the rise of the 1%.

The Robots are coming… to a bank near you

Japan led the way in creating robots that could do routine work in manufacturing like car-making and now the nation is spearheading the use of robots in the service sector. According to the Guardian, Mitsubishi is trialling the use of humanoid robots to welcome visitors to bank branches.

The Meaning of Kim Yong Un’s New Haircut

Vox wondered whether the new haircut sported by the North Korean leader on Wednesday was “intended to signify that North Korea, like Kim Jong Un’s hair, is reaching new heights and cannot be stopped by gravity or any other natural force? The BBC’s ‘Have I Got News For You’ team thought it only a question of time before other leaders followed suit.

Watching Paint Dry Turns Out to be Totally Captivating

This video shows a ‘pour painting’ created by a team led by New York artist Holton Rower. The video isn’t new but resurfaced on Reddit and elsewhere and is strangely transfixing, according to i100.

Initial post

I am using WordPress because my Tumblr has become so much harder to use as a pure blogging platform over the past few months. Tumblr has been re-optimised for easy sharing and handling web-hosted pictures in particular has become nightmarish. Plus I want to understand how ‘social’ WordPress has become in response to the growth of social networks and things like Medium. It was a pleasant surprise to find that I had reserved my namespace on wordpress but I have no recollection of having done that.