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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is Blog Journalism a Model T or a Ford GT?

When Henry Ford produced his first Model T, it had four wheels, an engine and passenger seating. It wasn't too attractive but it was good for about 35 mph top speed and it put America on wheels.

When the company bearing his name rolls another second generation Ford GT off the assembly line today, it will also have four wheels, an engine and seating. There will never be anywhere near as many Ford GTs produced as Model Ts, but both are autos.

Look at the difference. The Ford GT is good for about 180 mph top speed, gets vastly better gas mileage than the Model T, produces virtually no pollution and looks absolutely gorgeous. Yes, it costs considerably more than the Model T, but then it is aimed at a far more specialized audience.

So it will be with the Blogosphere and journalism. The collaboration of Brian Maloney and Michelle Malkin on the Air America scandal is merely the latest illustration of how the Blogosphere is in the very earliest stages of its development as a news reporting media. In the near future, clever people will figure out lots of revolutionary new ways in which to use blogs to gather and report the news the public needs and wants.

Like the Edsel, some of these developments won't succeed, but others, like the minivan, will be smashing successes. We literally are at the start of the Information Reformation brought about by the Internet and blogs.

Speaking of the Internet Reformation, the man who coined the term has a super column up today in The Weekly Standard that elaborates on this very point and in the process notes the significance of another important contemporary step in this process:

"As the daily information avalanche keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the data mountains higher and higher, the need for sherpas increases. No one person can keep on top of it all, but the technology Power Line News harnesses puts the new media's best content in a compact and easy-to-use display--basically mirroring the function RealClearPolitics performs for old media. Reliable aggregation of content is a huge development, one which further weakens the mainstream media."

Go here for Hugh's complete column. And if you haven't yet bought his book, look on the right side column of TCD for the "Blog" ad, click it and get your copy ASAP. You don't want to be left behind by the Information Reformation.

And Speaking Of ...II:

Did you know something quite similar to the present Information Reformation happened years ago in the grocery store business? Terry Heaton has a fascinating look back - and forward - via "The Unbundled Zone" on MC Morph. See, I told you MC Morph is essential reading!

And Speaking Of ... III:

Have you checked the Blogosphere's news forecast for today? As this post update is written, it appears news consumption is up 7 percent today in North America. Check it out here.

And Speaking Of ... IV:

Hugh Hewitt observes of ReMax saying it will make all of its residential listings nationwide available on a single web site and the impact of that decision on the real estate and newspaper industries:

"Information monopolies simply cannot survive the internet age and the new consumer's demand for transparency. Re/Max is wise to brand itself as unafraid to provide its customers with facts."

Hugh is absolutely right, of course. But now think about this - What is the biggest information monopoly? The government, which has vast stores of information, much of it a product of its own decisions, on every aspect of life.

How much of the endemic waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency of government would be eliminated if instead officials at all levels of government tried to make their operations as transparent as possible, subject only to reasonably narrow exceptions for things like national security, law enforcement and privacy?

What if bidding on government contracts was done openly, so everybody could see the price and services to beat? What if all development and highway planning had to be done on the record and available to all requesters? What if the government grant process was conducted publicly, including all grant proposals, grant evaluations and decision recommendations?

Waste and fraud occur most often in connection with programs and decison-making processes which are partly or wholly shrouded in secrecy, which is simply another way of saying somebody on the inside enjoys a monopoly on information that can be profitably used.

Remove the shroud, end the insiders' monopoly and you can create competition to see who can put the newly liberated information to best use at the lowest cost to taxpayers on behalf of the public interest.

Government secrecy creates waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency, which undermines public confidence. Transparency in government creates incentives for higher quality, lower costs and strengthened public confidence.