Metajournalism Update

The goal of the new Netscape is to create a social news site where the audience builds the front page, and our “anchors” do metajournalism on the stories they vote up. We’ve learned that it takes a lot of time to just manage one of these sites with all the spam, gaming, duplicate stories, and images. As a results of this we are adding a dedicated image editor and we’re empowering our Navigators to do much of the policing (they are experts on policing since they live on the site).

The result is our anchors can spend more time on meta-journalism, or metaj as we referrer to it internally. This is a new style of journalism as we’ve all discussed here before, and it is based on things like followup interviews and adding context.

When you see the anchor icon ( ) next to a headline that means you should click on the headline to see what the Anchors have added to the story. The goal here is follow up on, and expand, the coverage in the story. We’re not trying to control anything, but rather act as servants to the users. They voted the story up, and because they voted it to the homepage we know they would like more information about the story–who wouldn’t want more details?

Here are some examples of note:

  • CK Sample Karina gave a bunch of history to a video clip from the film Outfoxed, incorporate five followup links, and he syndicated the video from YouTube to Netscape to save people from having to leave the page. The links and data points he gives in his commentary would take a user 15-20 minutes of research to find. So, people were interested enough in this clip to vote it up, and now we are giving them additional information that the original poster did not share. The result? A more educated public in less time–that’s big.
  • Fabienne gave some educational feedback, and added “Op-ed” to the title of this negative story about President Bush. She explains to people that Netscape, as a social news site, is not right or left. Anyone can vote a story up, and if the right folks don’t like this story they should post their own story and vote it up. Educating our user base on how social news works is a HUGE part of what we’re doing right now. Folks in the web 2.0 world have been using delicious, digg, and slashdot for years so they instantly understand the dynamics around voting and submitting. However, the mass audience is very confused by this concept and it takes three or four “touches” for the average person to get their head around the dynamics. Over the past 60 days we’ve gotten 50,000 folks to register for the site, and they are getting it in a big way.
  • Dakota–who is a meta-J machine, did excellent follow up to this “megadeath angry at the United Nations” story. What Dakota does better than anyone is pick up the phone! It’s amazing what you can get done if you call people on the phone and ask for their feedback. Dakota’s metaj is in many cases *more* interesting then the original story. I can’t say enough about what a great job she is doing finding people to comment on stories.
  • Karina is the master of giving context, and is really breaking out as a star anchor at Netscape. Here she gives context on the whole Tom Cruise gets dumped story. She’s also been working with our very talented preditor (video producer/editor), Alexia, on Netscape At The Movies series of videos.
  • Speaking of Alexia, she’s also great at PICKING UP THE PHONE (I love when people pick up the phone :-), like in this example.
  • Ryan has been doing great Op-Eds, like this one on who SHOULD leave SNL. This is a great riff on the whole “who’s leaving SNL” thread that spread. I like the way he turns around the meme and takes it to another place. Although, I’m finding that Op-Eds don’t see to be that big of a bang for our metaj buck. We’ve got a large audience with opinions, and they post them in the comments, so I’m thinking that if Anchors take the time to followup on a story they should focus on data, interviews, context, and other hard points. It sort of feels unfair that we get to put our opinion above the users below, while us putting data/research/interviews up top doesn’t seem unfair. Does that make sense?
  • Eliot, an Anchor who got his start on HackADay and Engadget, is a machine at going to events. This type of first person coverage–complete with videos and photos, is just invaluable. Here is another example.

What do you guys think of metaj?

What are we doing well, what can we do better?

Are there any example in MSM that you think we could follow to enhance what we’re doing (I always refer to the update segment on 60 Minutes–perhaps we should do “#1 story last month followup”)?

Clearly we’re on to something with this concept because Netscape members are loving it, I’m just trying to figure out what the “best practices” will be. I guess in some ways we’re definning that since there really aren’t many examples of metaj out there. What do you think Jeff? Fred? Om? Rafat? Jim? Mark? Nick? Steve? Scoble? Dave? Mike?