Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I Was Never Here ...

About 10 years ago it was considered heresy at Reuters to propose building a web site with real-time news and rich multimedia content. So the North American Editor secretly conspired to build one even though he had been specifically told to do no such thing.

Of course, our prescient leader knew a thing or two about the company and guessed -- correctly, as it turned out -- that it was just a matter of time before his superiors told him that what they had meant was build a web site with real-time news and rich multimedia content.

So it is with some amusement that I read this week -- 155 years later in Internet time -- that Reuters has "opened" a news bureau in the virtual world, Second Life. Reuters is getting scads of press attention -- all positive, for a pleasant change -- and the company seems to have made genuine inroads at establishing the street cred which had not so much eluded it as they seemed to intentionally evade. Now, with all the positive reinforcement, can a decision to embed a reporter with some team in World of Warcraft be far behind?

Everything is timing, as they say, and it helps to have a CEO who at least says he is into these things to get everyone to agree to what is then clearly a great idea.

None of this may be as loopy as it sounds, and it does sound odd. This could be pure science -- brainstorming and riding the wave and trying to be hip and cool, looking for new ways to reach a new and soon-to-be influential audience, just like doing business with Yahoo and AOL was in the early and mid 1990s. Or could it be purposeful R&D to engineer the perfect business model for a news gathering organization? Let's see:
  • Offshore packaging desks (only reporters need to be in expensive places)
  • Citizen journalism (we don't need reporters in all expensive places)
  • Cover the story from your room (we don't need reporters in any expensive places)
Naturally, if Osama and Bernanke decide to make news in The Matrix, everyone is off to the races. Or the whole thing could be killed off if Congress decides to tax it.

Either way, this is the sort of idea that will eventually make a lot of people look either like geniuses or dopes. And it is a little tough for a journalist to justify covering non-events in a place that doesn't exist.

In fact, I think there was a time when doing that would have gotten you fired. But maybe only if you put in for travel expenses.

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