James F. "Jim" Moore

December 2, 2010

Making Bill Densmore’s “infovalet” concept successful

Bill Densmore, the well-known journalist and philosopher/strategist of journalism futures, is in town this week, and I will be meeting with him later today. His concept for “infovalet” as a new vision of journalism in society is, I think, quite interesting. Here is a link to his very wiki-like material on the concept.  http://newshare.com/wiki/index.php/Infov…

Bill’s strategic challenge is how to get traction on creating a very broad new ecosystem, with new roles, new ways to pay for value, and new institutions.

I’m going to make a few suggestions.

First, in my view infovalet is as a disruptive technology to the various form of high-priced consulting now thriving in society, not as an extension of journalistic institutions. Infovalet can sell journalism’s highest values and virtues, but in new and disruptive institutional forms.

For example, information networks funded by hedge funds are currently in the news for helping promote insider trading. Can an infovalet network pull information out of companies and industries–information the companies and the industries don’t necessarily want out in the market–and make it available to the public by (expensive) subscriptions? Can the legal issues by resolved? The hedge funds won’t get exclusive information–in any case that is illegal–but they could get fast access to limited release information.

Controversially, a number of social commentators believe we need more exposes like those of Wikileaks, not less. Indeed, Wikileaks is rather tame compared to Bob Woodward’s excellent Obama Wars account of the disturbing and dysfunctional run up to our current “strategy” in Afghanistan. Is there a way to create something with the reach and power of Wikileaks, and with the insight and reflective excellence of Woodward’s book?

Second, I believe strongly that Bill should start with a for-profit entity focused on disrupting high-priced consulting in a particular niche. Les Vasdez of Intel Capital has long pointed out that startups should be focused on attaining their first ten million dollars of revenue, not their first billion. Only in this way do they force themselves to identify, serve, and learn from a real market. Capitalism, for its ills, assures focus on solving problems someone is willing to pay for. My contention is that vast sums of money are today being paid for information of exactly the type developed by high quality journalism. This is not recognized by journalism professionals because this money, this market, has a business model that is not understood by the journalism world. Vast sums are paid quietly by customers to firms based on consulting business models working mainly in niches. These businesses are just waiting to be disrupted.

New models of journalism should not, with all due respect, be funded mainly by foundations. Foundation decision-makers are not close to real customers, real markets, real social needs. They do not co-evolve their offerings with markets, but rather with donors. I genuinely believe in the value of good journalism. It is because of this belief, and my optimism about markets, that I simply don’t believe foundations add that much to the conversation, beyond supporting the startup costs and new thinking that folks like Bill do.

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