Bob Cauthorn returns with CityTools

Newcomers to online journalism might not recognize the name “Bob Cauthorn.” But to industry geezers like me, Bob was the guy you could count on, back in the late 1990s, to rip newspaper companies for their ham-handed, clueless approaches to the emerging Internet marketplace. Bob could be profane, abrasive and loud… but time has shown that he was almost always right.

Then, after stints at a couple of newspapers, Cauthorn essentially disappeared from the industry scene. He went off to some start-up called “CityTools,” which produced… well, many us weren’t quite sure.

Now, Cauthorn’s back. CityTools is ready to launch, and Cauthorn’s ready to show off his new baby.

In short, CityTools is a social media framework for publishing news articles, lists and classified advertisements. Cauthorn demo’d for me a platform that serves both newspapers as well as independent and individual publishers.

Newspapers could use CityTools as an ad hoc wire service, to create with other papers online portals on topics of mutual interest. Interest groups could use the platform to manage collaborative publications. Readers can build lists of their favorite… whatever, and share those lists with others to create aggregated “favorites” lists from designated communities.

And, of yeah, the platform supports stories, ads and lists in multiple languages. Speak English, Spanish… and Swedish? CityTools will let you read, create, order and distribute content in all three, at once. Registered users can declare which of 13 supported languages they read, and select which one they want to use as their primary language while navigating the site. They can also select their community, which will deliver them content and ads tagged to that community, while allowing them to use breadcrumb trails to navigate to content from all other CityTools communities.

It’s loaded with cool widgets like this, so my inner geek demanded that I get the scoop. I talked with Cauthorn on the phone earlier this month, and an edited transcript follows.

OJR: You were raising hell in the world there a few years ago and then just kind of disappeared into CityTools. Bring us up to speed on what you’ve been up to.

Cauthorn: I went into the lab. After I left The [San Francisco] Chronicle, I went backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail and did a lot of thinking about the state of journalism and online newspapers and stuff and, as you probably know, I was one of the very earliest people doing what we now call social news. Back then we didn’t really have a name for it, you know, we’re just doing the community front page which allowed people to decide what was on their front page and share links and vote on things and – but all the stuff that has now become commonplace with Digg and whatnot.

I was thinking a lot about the need for a new kind of journalism online as well as the kinds of things that may help, you know, existing print newspapers to survive. And when I say print newspapers it’s because even though they have online operations, they’re still thinking so much like print operations, you know, and so after, you know, sort of both literally and figuratively going to the mountain, I came back and decided to try to re-imagine this stuff from the ground up.

So that’s what I’m focusing on right now.

On the newspaper side, what we’ve created is what we think is an extraordinarily interesting and brand new thing. We’re giving newspapers the ability to very easily set up ad-hoc wire services if you will, to share content with other newspapers of a like mind as well as to share classified ads.

OJR: I think one of the distinguishing characteristics between let’s say, first generation online publishing versus traditional offline publishing has been that the focus of offline publishing, local newspapers, has been geographic. A lot of early online publications have been organized around topic and they’ve been geographically agnostic, if you will. They don’t care about where you are in the world, just what you want to talk about. And what you’ve just described here seems like it is taking the geographic-based local newspaper and moving it into the more topically based world where you’re creating topic – you’re creating topical networks for local communities so you’re no longer just about the Fort Lauderdale community, you’re about boating.

Cauthorn: Well, geography is still important. What we’re trying to do though is we’re trying to say, “Look. Let’s imagine content as a palette of colors.” Right now we’ve had a very limited palette. You’ve got what the wire services give you and you’ve got what your local folks generate and of course with layoffs and stuff like that, that palette of colors that your local folks is generating is getting less. And what happens is you say, “Okay fine. Why don’t we expand that palette by borrowing colors from other people?”

Let’s use agricultural reporting as an example. The fact of the matter is that agricultural reporting across the country, the numbers have been shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. Right? Because the newspaper has to make a choice between covering agriculture, even if you’re an agricultural market, and covering the statehouse, they’ve got to cover the statehouse. It’s just their natural bias. Whether or not that’s relevant to the reader or not, who knows? But it’s a natural bias.

So what happens of all of a sudden you say, “Okay, but you know what? So we’re not doing a great job of covering all agriculture in our area, but you know what? If we combined four cities, let’s say all the small newspapers in the Imperial Valley, and say okay, we’re gonna share our agricultural coverage and ou can put it online or you can put it in print. It doesn’t matter. It’s up to them. All of a sudden, you’ve got a rich, brand new product that really resonates for the local audience. And guess what? Google can’t match. There’s no way a mass aggregator can match that.

OJR: Let’s talk about some of other folks that are out there, in this spectrum of social media, from earlier sites like Backfence to Topicx to whomever the Knight Foundation’s gonna be funding this year and next. What have you got going that you think distinguishes CityTools?

Cauthorn: Up until now what’s happened is that sites have enforced their view of what local is. So, you say, okay, this site is about Pima County Arizona. That’s our local view and that’s it. And it may be part of a network where you have Pima County here and you’ve got Maricopa County there, but if you’re on a Maricopa County site you don’t see the Pima County stuff. If you’re on a Pima County site, you don’t see the Maricopa County stuff.

What we’re doing to begin with is we’re saying, “Look, what we need to do is put the definition of what local is from the perspective of this site in the hands of the user.” We talk about personalization but what I want to start talking about is context of your life. The user has a context of their life and their context is that I might identify myself as being a local to the Bay Area, but my next-door neighbor might think of San Francisco only as where their local context is. How do you build a site that responds to both of those people’s concerns in a fluid manner? That’s what we’ve built.

So what happens is that, for example in Brooklyn — I think we’ve got twelve or fifteen neighborhoods in Brooklyn, specific neighborhoods. So let’s say you’re looking at Bensonhurst’s stuff. You’re reading a restaurant review in Bensonhurst and you click on Bensonhurst, say, “Show me all the restaurants you got in Bensonhurst,” because what we allow you to do is combine. I don’t know the context. I’m gonna allow you to set the context. Right?

So you say, “The context I’m interested in is Bensonhurst and I want to see all the restaurant reviews in Bensonhurst.” Well, everybody’s posted a restaurant review in Bensonhurst, there they are. If there’s not enough content, and if you think, “Oh well, wait a minute, I’d like to see all the restaurant reviews in Brooklyn,” all you got to do is click Brooklyn [on the page’s bread crumb trail] and suddenly, bang, you get everything in Brooklyn.

OJR: One of the distinguishing characteristics about my hometown, the L.A. area, not that it isn’t beginning to happen in other metro areas as well, is as you go by neighborhood to neighborhood, you’re not just changing geography, you’re also changing, literally, the language spoken by the people in that neighborhood. Tell me a little bit about how CityTools is accommodating language differences.

Cauthorn: We currently support 13 languages. And we believe, we’re not sure about this, but we believe we’re the first multilingual news site in the world. Up until now, if you speak Spanish and you’re in Los Angeles, you have the choice of an English language newspaper or a Spanish language newspaper, either in print or online. But I go down to the mission in San Francisco and you hear people freely mingling Spanish and English together. That’s the context of their life. Right?

So what we do is we allow you to say, “Okay, I only want to see Spanish language content in East L.A.” So you’ve got it. If you’re comfortable in Spanish and English, you can have Spanish and English and it’s freely mixed in there.

Now think about this in terms of business model, what happens when you have bilingual classifieds? Imagine what would happen if the Hispanic community in Los Angeles had the ability to say, “Okay, I want to see classifieds in Spanish or English.”

That’s what I’m talking about when is say context. I want to know where you live, I want to know what languages you speak, tell me what you’re interested in. I will change the nature of the site to match those things. This is a big deal, we think.

Now, that’s – so that’s all really powerful, but then we get into some other stuff that also we believe is quite new. And you’re getting back to what distinguishes us from the other sites that have come before. We have this entire group publishing model that anybody can create what we call teams.

Let’s say you have a class full of journalism students and you create a team for that class and they write their stories and they assign them to their team. Now you have flexibility. You can I want it to appear with other team stories, but I don’t want to allow the team members to edit it. Or, you can say I want it to appear with other team stories and I’m gonna allow other team members to edit it. Because we have a draft and edit mode, what happens is that the students can write their stories in edit mode and then they can submit them to the teacher and when the teacher says that they’re good enough, then the teacher can say, “Okay, publish that one, publish that one, publish that one.” It’s just click, click, click, click, click and they get published.

Now here’s what’s slick about that. So all of a sudden what you have is you have got a workflow that resembles an existing news room. Right? But what’s slick about that is two things. One, every university in America is part of our geographic database. So let’s say this is at University of California-Berkeley. Let’s say they assign these stories to the geography of University of California-Berkeley.

All of a sudden then, you’re looking at collaborative group output of content which is tied to a place. And what’s really slick about it is that they can also put those headlines on their own sites because we give you code you can just cut and paste this code on and anytime that your story’s on CityTools, it gets updated on your own site.

Why does that matter? Here’s why. What we’re trying to do is we want to help nonprofits and community organizations, parent teacher organizations and stuff like that. None of them have the ability to conveniently and quickly update content on their own websites on a regular basis. Right? So what we’re saying is all you have to do is put this code in and once you start using CityTools, automatically those headlines will go over on your site, styled the way you want them, looking the way you want them.

But here’s where it gets really cool. So you and I have this organization working on leukemia. And let’s say we have a constituency of 3,000 people out there who have an interest in leukemia. All of a sudden, we can open up a public team that is tied to the organization and we can invite all of our thousands of people to join. So if you’re an activist – imagine if an activist organization, such as anti-war organization, said, “Everybody join this big team,” then you’ve got 1,000 people looking for stories about anti-war stuff every single day. And, by the way, it also shows up on your own website. Suddenly, that gets interesting.

So we are hoping that what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna start to engage people in the context of their lives – again, getting back to this word, context. Tell me what organizations you belong to and I will help you make life in that organization better.

OJR: Getting more into this idea of the crowd, tell me more about the kind of collaborative list building technology that you’ve built in here.

Cauthorn: When I was on the mountain I was walking down a trail and listing things in my head and I said, you know, if I got two other people doing this, I could build a consensus and that was when I went, “Oh sh-t.” What we do is that we allow people to create rank lists and these rank lists can be about anything. By itself, this is not unknown, it just hasn’t been done in this context.

What we can do is allow you to say, “Okay, here are – here are my five favorite Italian restaurants in all of Los Angeles.” And, by the way, you can adapt that by neighborhood if you want to, and you can do it in Spanish.

But then what happens is somebody else comes along, because none of us can resist a good list. And they go, “Oh no, Robert’s list was good, but he missed this, this and this and I disagree with the order.” So what they can do is what we call linking lists. When you read the list, if you’re a member, you just click, “I want to link to this list,” and create your own list.

Now [the lists] are part of a family and what happens behind the scenes is that we do some heavy lifting on text analysis and we look at the item titles and then we say, okay, we then can allow you to create a consensus view of what the best Italian restaurants are by merging them together.

For example, let’s say there’s a restaurant that you call Paizano and I call it Il Paizano. Our system will recognize that you’re talking about the same place and so Paizano appears on both lists. As you know, consensus building algorithms are not unknown. This is pretty well established, but nobody’s applied them to lists before we believe.

So all of a sudden what happens [on CityTools] is that then you the reader can say, “Hey, here’s Robert’s list and here’s Bob’s list. I want to see the consensus. Show me the ranked view of what both lists think is the most important.” And that’s cool if it’s two people. It gets really, really interesting if you have 25 people doing it or 100 people doing it and then it get really, really, really interesting if you can bring it up by geography.

Now imagine if the PTAs in San Francisco all put in their lists of their greatest needs at their school and they link them together. With one click then a reader can say, “Show me what the most serious needs are in the schools.” No one’s every been able to do this before. And we’re allowing people to determine the context in which it’s done, certainly they can say, “Okay show me what are the worst needs in San Francisco.” Oh guess what, you can expand the view to show me the rank list of the needs of schools in the entire Bay Area.

This gets powerful. I mean that is magic, man. I mean think about what this can mean for a society.

You start to pull these things together and what you’re looking at is a sandbox for community interaction that hasn’t existed before. Up until now, here’s what we had: You had UGC [user generated content] sites where people can create stuff, or you had shared news sites where they could share news. Okay. That’s fine. We do both. We say, “Look. You go in both modes, because sometimes you want to write stuff. Sometimes you want to read stuff.” Okay. There are a couple of sites out there where you can make lists, but you just write lists down. You can’t tie them together. You can’t link them together. You can’t do this other stuff that we’re doing.

When I was doing my big backpacking trip and thinking about this stuff, I decided, on a very cold night in the Sierras, to peel back newspapers to their essential core. You know? And part of that essential core has been creating marketplaces.

But the other part of it is this entire connective tissue argument is the way in which our reporting and the reading of those reports connects individuals to one another.

That’s what we’re trying to do: to get back to that essential core of allowing people to create these connections between the writer and their audience, between groups of people who are trying to get something done in a community.

Can newspapers do blogs right?

Within the past few weeks two of America’s leading newspapers have watched staff-written blogs blow up in their faces. First, Ben Domenech left after outside bloggers uncovered numerous examples of plagiarism in his past work. And last week, the Los Angeles Times suspended the blog of Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Hiltzik (interviewed by OJR just before the scandal broke) after he was discovered to have posted comments under false identities on his and other blogs.

Can newspapers do blogs right? I e-mailed that question to several prominent online journalists. All have experience with “traditional” media and either blog or oversee bloggers in their work. Their edited responses follow:

Anthony Moor
I’m not sure we know yet what “right” is when it comes to blogs. We’re in an R&D phase here, for lack of a better term, when it comes to incorporating blogs into our “traditional” Web content. There are going to be missteps. We know that blogs are a powerful software tool for self-service, instant publishing with a built-in tagging capability that plugs us into the conversation online. We also know that blogs are fostering a new kind of editorial voice in our writing: intimate, off-the-cuff and breezy.

Now, how that powerful new force on the Internet intersects with our mission to provide accurate and credible information to our audience is what we’re figuring out. We don’t have to do what bloggers v.1.0 are doing now to incorporate blogs effectively into what we do, and I think we shouldn’t try.

What makes us journalists is our ability to gather facts, synthesize, and write about the world around us — and those are not necessarily the requirements of blogging. As long as we couple our essential skills as journalists with this new medium, I think we CAN shape blogs into a valuable new asset for newspapers.

Look, the analogy is this: When software became widely available to easily manipulate photos into photo illustrations, the public-at-large found a myriad of uses for it. And news organizations suffered some notable missteps as they began using it too. Now, however, we’ve learned how to incorporate this power into our journalism without giving up the essential things that make what we do journalism.

Xeni Jardin and National Public Radio
Newspapers will get it right when the people responsible for designing and launching blogs for them take the time to understand the culture, the process, the dynamics and the sociology of blogs. It’s important that newspapers not launch blogs for the sake of launching blogs. There had to be a purpose to other than to have the ability to tell the world that you have a blog.

What’s the point of interacting with your audience? Is the point just to leave snippy comments on the blogs of your critics? Or is the point of interacting to provide bits and pieces and nuances of information that traditional newspaper reporting doesn’t lend itself to?

I feel like way too often it is done as a gimmicky thing. Not to name names, but some companies launch blogs because there’s someone at the company who monitors search engine traffic, and one day that person recognizes, “Hey there are a lot of people searching about babies — I think we need to have a baby blog.”

Just because the traffic shows a lot of traffic, and potential for advertising revenue, they lanuch a blog and hire some inexperienced copy writter to fill it with stuff. It’s just an excuse to have something to sell ads against. I don’t think the Los Angeles Times created its blogs as an excuse to sell banner ads against, but too often in situations like this there’s disjointed thinking. There’s this idea that you stick a blog up there, you stick unmoderated comments up there, you don’t give your reporters who are totally unfamiliar with this medium any guidance, and you’re going to expect it to turn out well?

I think the fact that people make such an unnatural distinction between blogging and writing for a newspaper is part of the problem. Behave in your blog as you would in the paper.

Lisa Stone
Of course they can. Blog, wiki and audio technologies are just like the printing presses used to publish newspapers — tools that a broad spectrum of thinkers are using to get their word out. Period. Just like in traditional newspapering, some of these blogs, wikis and podcasts are superior, others are bird-cage liner.

Newspaper blogs that work are carefully planned, openly executed exercises in public conversation about news and information. These blogs allow comments and turn into 24/7 townhall meetings about everything from the headlines to how well the paper is doing to deliver and discuss the news. Newspapers that blog well embrace the community and use the blogs as an extension of their op-ed pages. There are dozens of examples, from MSNBC’s oft-ignored Bloggermann (one of the national media’s best blogs) to brave local daily sites taking important baby steps such as and

Newspaper blogs that don’t work tend to dismss blogs as, in Alex S. Jones’ famous words, the sizzle rather than the steak — as useless chatter rather than as an extension of the newspaper’s journalism that deserves the same care, feeding and standards of accuracy and ethical behavior. How can newspapers expect to survive if they keep mooning their readers like this? Answer: They won’t.

The problems of failing standards of accuracy and ethical behavior among the nation’s leading newspapers are not limited to blogs. As someone who grew up on newspapers and will never give them up, the past five years have been agonizing to behold, from Jayson Blair and Rick Bragg, to Ben Domenech and Michael Hiltzik. America’s newspapers have the opportunity to leverage blogs as credibility-building exercises — but the first thing we need to do is to stop architecting our own demise. To avoid meltdowns like this, newspapers need to do exactly what exceptional blogs do: For God’s sake, assume the position of the reader and behave accordingly. Readers want to know what they’re getting, who they’re getting it from and how, so that they can trust their sources — that’s you. Here are two easy steps:

Step 1: No more rookie maneuvers. Call in a blog expert with a journalism background and have this outside person walk you through community scenarios to test what your newsroom (and management) can tolerate and what you cannot. If nudie pictures on your wiki are a no-no, you have a choice to make: (a) Don’t publish the wiki, and/or (b) Don’t publish the wiki without human and/or technical filters. But you have to have someone advising you who knows how wikis behave. Or, say, if you don’t want a blogger to violate fair use acts on this blog or in previous blogs, (a) Check out their personal records, and (b) Say so and sign them to agreement that says so.

Step 2: Repeat Step 1 in an open conversation with your readers and ask them to behave according to these guidelines too. Publish your community guidelines and ask readers what they want and why. Edit your guidelines accordingly.

Step 3: Integrate blogs into the newsroom’s efforts. Starting slow is fine — but the best blogs are a team effort. In a newsroom unused to community conversation, to groaning when readers write and call-in, is to make it part of the journo’s job description — and their editor’s too. That means a conversation with the community via blogging (including Steps 1 and 2) needs to be embraced by the people at the top of the newsroom hierarchy.

Bob Cauthorn
I think it’s going to be difficult for newspapers to do blogs right because their DNA continues to be trapped in the “we talk, you listen” mode. Fundamentally, staff-written blogs are nothing different than what newspapers do now — simply spilling more of the same voices onto the public streets.

Sure, staff-written blogs have a fragile patina of interactively because some accept comments. Scuffing off that patina doesn’t take much.

1) Under the best case, newspaper blog comments are enfeebled interactivity. Only fractional percentages of readers comment on staff-written blogs. Maybe the public has simply given up on the idea of newspapers listening or caring. Consider the case of the Guardian’s staff blogs. The Guardian is one of the best online newspapers in the world and its commitment to the staff blog borders on the fanatical. They throw substantial resources at it. And yet, if you look closely at the number of comments per post (realize in many cases comments are more than a week old) and then you consider the total traffic on the site, you must conclude that the supposed interactivity of the Guardian’s blogs has failed utterly. I mean we’re talking less that 1/10 of one percent of all readers who are moved to comment! (FYI, I did a quick study of this last fall because the Guardian folks had a hissy over my post attacking the concept of staff blogs.)

2) Even if you get a few comments, the moment they turn hostile to the newspaper, suddenly the commitment to interactivity wavers. It’s happened a number of times. And indeed, the Hiltzik incident specifically highlights this. Today’s newspapers are sufficiently thin-skinned that the idea that people might use comments to attack the writers doesn’t go down well. So you either stop comments, or you remove the accounts of critics, or — as in the case of Hiltzik — you create deceptive online personas to respond to the attacks. It’s the “we talk, you listen” attitude taken to the extreme: Even if the public talks back, the media requires the last word! It’s a fatal appetite on the part of the modern newspaper. Some sociologists have pointed out that modern America can exert power on the global stage, but it no longer exerts authority (for authority comes from the nexus of wisdom, restraint, morality and cleaving to higher purposes). Newspapers are in a similar boat — they’re still powerful institutions but their authority is in shambles. OK, let’s get this straight: So we let the public speak and when a tiny number do we come rushing in with fake personas to defend the paper against attacks. We never let anyone else get the last word. That’s wrong and it’s stupid and it’s going to kill papers. Instead of stifling criticism, newspapers should embrace it and learn from it and grow wise.

(Incidentally, The fact that the LA Times perceives the Hiltzik’s actions as a violation of ethics is a *very* good thing. One of the dirty little secrets of newspaper blogs is that many, many of the comments come from unidentified staff members. I applaud the LAT for this move. It’s high time to stop this deplorable practice.)

So if newspapers blogs are not *really* about interacting with the community — and I challenge anyone to demonstrate they’ve been successful at that goal — what makes them different? They just offer the same voices you read all the time.

This is *exactly* what my beef with staff blogs is about and why I’ve been trying to get newspapers to change the approach. Jon Stewart put it nicely when he said mainstream media blogs “give voice to the already voiced.”

Look, it’s easy to get this right: don’t have staff members blog and instead bring in the legitimate outside voices. There are many ways that a mainstream media organization can do this — make a blog about *outside* blogs, point some of your traffic to outside voices (even those who, gasp, criticize you!), invite some of the best outside bloggers in your community to post right on your pages. Give selected bloggers early access to your stories — particularly enterprise stories — so that they can have same-day reactions. (Make sure these are bloggers you can trust not to jump the publication, obviously.) In other words, genuinely and sincerely embrace *outside* voices. Allow the community to have a stake in what you are doing once more.

As stand it stands right now, newspapers keep shouting louder in a room that, increasingly, is emptying around us. Maybe, before the last reader departs we can convince people to stay by letting them know we want to talk *with* our community, not *at* them.

Chris Nolan
This is a pretty big set of issues that really, I think, go to the heart of what’s wrong with newsroom culture these days. Suffice it to say that the contempt that a lot of folks on the floor feel for people working online really has to stop. The problem is that guys like Ben Domenech and Michael Hiltzik aren’t exactly helping to make that argument. I’m not entirely sure that’s anyone’s “fault” as much as it is the result of having the news business open up to its audience at a time when newsrooms are in crisis and readers are better informed than they’ve ever been — thanks to the Internet.

The idea that the Post of the L.A. Times have somehow screwed up royally by hiring folks who cut corners isn’t the end of the world as we know it. It’s a series of mistakes. It’s done. We’ve learned a few things — among them, there should be an intermediate step between running your own website and writing for a big newspaper.

Newsroom editors and writers need to spend a lot more time reading and watching the talent that’s out here on the Web. Lots of folks sitting in newsrooms are going to have to get over the fact that people outside the building really do know what they’re doing much of the time. Just as online folks are going to have to stop cutting corners and claiming that they represent a new form of “media” free of all basic rules and constraints that’s some how superior to what’s being done in the ink-and-paper format. The way you produce your story has nothing to do with what the story says to the reader.

Fundamentally, the rules of the reporting game — be fair, be honest, represent the reader as you do your job, limit the harm you do as you do it, and always be aware that there’s someone on the other side of the story — are not going to change. Part of what’s going on with Domenech and Hiltzik is that those lessons are being meted out in a very public fashion. This, by the way, is how those things used to get taught by foul-mouthed city editors who thought nothing of yelling at new reporters. I knew a few of those guys … didn’t you?

Nick Denton

Gawker Media
Reporters, trained to put aside opinion, make uninteresting bloggers. And it’s notoriously hard to manage, in parallel, a daily news cycle and regular updates for breaking news.

'Why do I love online publishing?'

As we wrap up another year at OJR, I wanted to leave our readers with a touch of inspiration for the holiday break. So I e-mailed several people you might know, or least have heard of, in the online business to ask them a simple question:

Why do you love online publishing?

Here’s why I do: As an American, I feel so fortunate to be alive at a time when, 200-some years after the ratification of the First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution, the people of this country finally have a medium at their disposal which allows any person to speak and be heard by a global audience. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, now, we all do. And the world, ultimately, will be the better for it.

Unfortunately, the Internet is also being used by those who favor schmoozing the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of promoting the welfare of all fellow citizens. I love that the Internet allows the rest of us a powerful collective voice with which to give all readers an alternative to such smarmy propaganda. Now it is up to us to be smarter, sharper and louder than ever when using this medium during the year to come.

And, now, in alphabetical order…

Len Apcar

Len Apcar is Editor in Chief of The New York Times on the Web

What I love the most is the challenge of trying to figure out how a great news organization like The New York Times can succeed in a big way on the Web. It is a daunting task trying to help lead a transformation from a newsroom focused on producing a daily newspaper to becoming a successful online publisher. But I believe it is important that the Web offer a wide array of content including news and enterprise from the nation’s leading newsrooms.

Bob Cauthorn

Robert Cauthorn is the former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle

What do I love about it? What keeps bringing me back?

That’s really simple: the readers. And really, the whole community. Online publishing brings you so close to the readers that they become part of every breath. And that’s one of the greatest feelings in all of publishing.

The readers constantly amaze me with their insights, appetites, intelligence and sheer sense of fun. You learn from them, whether it’s active contact via e-mail or forums or blogs, or from somewhat passive instruction like the contents of your Web logs.

The readers are there when you wake up in the morning and when go to bed at night. They’re passionate. Poetic. Weird, too. Knowing that you’re locked in the hot little tango with your readers is the greatest feeling in the world. And when your readers become writers too, it’s all the better.

What’s next is juicy too. Until now we haven’t really seen an engaged local advertising community to match the engaged readership. A big part of the next wave of development will focus on changing that.

When we see local advertisers as densely involved as local readers, well, this will be a splendid day. Not just because it will be nice for revenues, but because it means we’re well and completely part of the fabric of life in our community.

Pete Clifton

Pete Clifton is the head of BBC News Interactive

The deadlines never end, there is always a story breaking and a race to be first. You can’t beat that buzz – and there are countless readers out there who want to help us with our coverage. That makes it even more intoxicating.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill manages (I found him via Nick Denton of Gawker Media.)

Things I find rewarding about blogging:

Comments from strangers. From someone’s comment, realizing that we are affecting the way people see the world and giving them hope.

Lots of stats. Something about being able to measure your progress in so many ways makes running a blog quite addictive (pageviews, links to you, unique visitors,
ranking compared to other sites etc.). They say “what gets measured gets done” and in my case at least, it certainly keeps me motivated.

It’s pioneering still. It’s exciting as it still feels like pioneering days, where everything is changing all the time and we’re all making up the rules as we go along. the rapid rate of change keeps my restless self happy. It feels similar to 95/96, a time that I found very exciting.

Power moving to the consumer. I love that we can see the power shifting from the company to the consumer. The days of powerful PR and controlling a company’s image are being left behind. There’s something exciting (and a little scary) about the new transparency. My hope is that it helps people to make the right decisions as they realize that doing the right thing will bring them consumers and that cover-ups are no longer possible if they are doing anything shifty.

The world is flat. Love that little guys with great products, e.g. my friend Shayne with the solar backpack ( are getting tons of play in the media due to the power of blogs. I hope that this means that small businesses with great products can be more competitive with larger businesses than before. This is great for all of us as it ups the competition.

Instant Gratification. I love that you can come up with an editorial idea and then implement it really quickly and see the results. It keeps running a blog extremely creative, which I love.

Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is the founder of

Online, everyone has a voice, and the simpler blogging tools makes the ‘net everyone’s printing press … and tools are being developed to let the cream rise to the top, to address the obvious problem.

Chris Nolan

Chris Nolan is the Editor of

What do I love about Web publishing?

Man, that’s a little bit like asking a kid why he likes a candy store. But I’ll try and contain myself.

For long-time reporters like me, working on-line offers a chance to get back to what this business should be about: Good reporting and great writing that presents new ideas in thoughtful and interesting ways to interested and committed readers.

Inexpensive publishing tools like Moveable Type, inexpensive “broadcast” support like that offered by our friends at Feedburner, the growing strength of on-line ad networks for small publishers – combined with the support and interest of larger, established “brand” sites on the Web – is going to make it possible for real reporters to get great stories and publish them to larger and larger audiences.

This is an exciting time to be working online. Anyone who’s still turning up their nose at what we’re doing is missing the most fun we’re going to have in the news business for a long, long time.

Denise Polverine

Denise Polverine is the Editor-in-Chief of

I often tell people that I feel like I won the lottery when I became the Editor-in-Chief of It is exciting, immediate, experimental at times, industry-changing and adventurous. Publishing on the Web combines the best of all mediums; print, radio, TV, online, wireless and those yet to be discovered. We learned earlier this year when Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, that the Internet and the information it distributes can be life-altering and frankly, life-saving. I get to work closely with my talented editorial staff here, the leaders at Advance Internet and the amazing Plain Dealer editors who are embracing new technology and ideas. I have been at for nearly nine years, almost since the beginning of this company and people ask me if I ever think of leaving. No way. When you wake up each day and think of new things to try, new ways to interact, new ways to engage people and can actually make those ideas reality, it’s a good job. It keeps me energized and keeps me coming back each day.

Lisa Stone

Lisa Stone blogs at Surfette and is the originator of the BlogHer conference

I love the conversation. It’s not like people just started talking about events in their world because blogging and social media tools were developed. These conversations are eternal. But they used to exist far away from printing presses and control rooms. Now these stories have a permanent, virtual seat at the coffee house, the water cooler and the kitchen counter. All we newsies need to know is how to join the discussion.

So, let’s join the discussion. What do you love about online publishing? Click the button below to have your turn.