The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Alice Lee, who continues the focus on online news. She says that online news sites in a Web 2.0 operate like a digital marketplace where people get together and exchange news, and explores how Web 2.0 has affected these sites. The format of online media is particularly important, in other words - the breaking of previously existing boundaries which has occurred with Web 2.0 has upset the previous equilibrium and led to significant changes.
Alice suggests that there is a media code: a system of laws that regulate the format of a medium. With Web 2.0, a new code has developed, providing more power to users and leading to the development of a participatory open media code - characterised by highly interactive information transmission and a proliferation of horizontal networks of exchange.
Web 2.0 changes the power structure and the rules of the game in journalism. The boundary between communicators and receivers is broken, and the established power structure is challenged - user-generated content is incorporated into journalism. Additionally, the boundary between the information and the opinion marketplace is broken - fact and opinion (by both journalists and readers) are increasingly interspersed - and private and public spaces are similarly blurring: private communications are also used to distribute and comment on the news.
User-generated content is incorporated into the news, then (especially news blogs and citizen journalism), and many commercial news sites, too, now publish citizen journalism content or even provide some training and resources for citizen journalists. Additionally, there is greater participatory interactivity - comments are invited (and often published directly alongside the main news article), tweeting and other forms of sharing are deliberately enabled. In
the future, then, news stories may no longer be end products, but only the start of continuing conversations. A new 'journalism 2.0' - Mark Deuze's 'liquid journalism', perhaps - may be emerging. At the same time, news is being YouTubised, Alice suggests - more and more professional as well as user-generated news-related clips are being uploaded to YouTube and incorporated into mainstream news sites. And further, there is a very strong push towards more and more instant, real-time reporting, as well as towards broader connectivity and sharing of stories - many sites actively encourage their users to share the news with friends. This also ties into a growing range of customisable new communication technologies (RSS, Twitter, iPhone apps, etc.).
So, Alice suggests that the emerging 2.0 format of online news media fosters participatory journalism - the potential for this form of news as social dialogue is strengthening. But how much power over this process do online readers actually have - their user-generated content is being utilised, and their participatory contributions are increasingly visible, but the power distribution between news organisations and users remains uneven. There are also strong regional differences in how strongly such 'journalism 2.0' is being embraced - different sociocultural environments create different models.
There may also be a generational shift here - the different information and interaction needs of Generation Y may further push news organisations to move towards more participatory news models. But can they bring their market power to bear effectively? News literacy training, to turn them into more critical and reflexive citizens, may be required to activate their full potential, Alice says.