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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK


Net users take over news

Journalists need new roles in the online world, Netmedia was told

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Online journalists have been warned that Net users are taking over their role, forging a new kind of people's journalism.

Steve Yelvington, Executive Editor of Cox Interactive Media in the US, told the annual Netmedia conference in London that the rules were changing in the new medium of the Internet.

"We are not gatekeepers anymore, the city walls are down, we don't own customers, we don't control information," he said.

Slashdot threatens extinction

"But they still need us as guides. They need to know what's important, what's true and what's useful. Our new role is as a trusted guide."

Mr Yelvington said in his keynote speech that, in the new journalism, people were telling their own stories on sites such as Geocities, Tripod and TalkCity and he praised the News for Nerds discussion group Slashdot:

"If Slashdot were a mammal, most of our news sites would be the dinosaurs. Many journalists don't understand this and don't think it's journalism."

He added that news sites should note that they are a niche product: MSNBC rated best in a usage survey in March but was only at Number 23 behind the likes of Xoom, Excite, Ebay, AOL, Yahoo and Blue Mountain Arts online greetings cards.

Second era of Net news

The editor-in-chief of MSNBC, Merrill Brown, declared a second era of Internet news was beginning, in another keynote speech.

He said the first era of Internet news, in a very short space of time, had brought "an entirely new global news infrastructure and never before seen - or imagined - storytelling techniques that change the entire news experience. And we've just started".

"What will this new news ultimately look like? Well, we believe that people will, in large numbers, use video and Internet text and applications together in a truly converged environment.

"They'll watch the evening news - when they choose to of course - and review maps and data at the same time they're listening to the anchor and reporter packages. This isn't decades away. It is right around the corner.

"Similarly with software, there is certain to be a new level of product integration as well. We're planning to provide people headlines in any number of ways.

"How about integrating headlines and information into your daily desktop calendar tool so that if your planner says you're headed for London, you're automatically given headlines and weather for London and background material on who you're going to meet.

"This critical integration of the news into the fundamental tools of home and office computing is another part of the next generation of Internet news."

The Netmedia conference is staged over two days each year at London's City University. This year's features an online media roundtable of European journalists, a Cyberlaw lecture, a Digital TV roundtable, and the presentation of the UK's first online journalism awards.

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