Comments: The New Business Model Is the Old Business Model, Sorta...


I think you're attempting to invent something that already exists, but by another, more familliar name - bias. People increasingly find that, through the Internet, they're able to find sources of views that match their own beliefs. They no longer have to settle on the prevailing views of the local newspaper editorial staff.

That's all true and obvious - and has nothing to do with "metaphors and trust." It has all to do with bias. Blogs and other elements of your "new distributed horizontal media business" mainly dish out interpretations and perspectives, all of which relfect certain points of view (aka, biases).

To give them credit, conventional media editors worry not so much about the existence of opinions other than those expressed in their editorial page. Rather they are concerned that opinions are increasingly (it seems) passing for news. Newspaper "news" has to pass through a gauntlet of fact-checking and copy-editing - that's what produces true credibility and trust (and, if done right, an absence of bias). But that has little if anything to do with the editorial page (although, hopefully, the editorial statements will also be based on accurate, verifiable facts).

You describe the new business model as "filtering information for a community that understands truth and credibility in a certain ways and wants to interact with each other. I describe it in the old familliar way as "providing opinions and interpretations that reflect a certain set of biases and interests to people who like to interact with like-minded people."

As old as time itself.



Posted by Terry Steichen at September 16, 2004 07:15 PM

Hi Terry,
Actually, in referring to frameworks of trust, I don't mean it in terms of opinion verses verifiable fact. What I mean is that some people believe that say, Fox news is a trusted venue, because it fits with their framework of the world, while others believe that the NYTimes fits with their framework where Fox does not, and still others believe that word of mouth is best, and so believe what they hear from those they know, whether they get it on a blog or in person verbally. The point is that the framing is not actually about opinion or fact, but rather that framing has to do with the story of their world they understand it and their information needs to fit into this. All of those sources I mention are capable of giving both fact and opinion. So if a particular group sees information as credible when it comes from say, an elder, or a teenager, or whomever or in particular terms and metaphorts, it's the way the information is delivered that matters in causing the information to appear credible, regardless of the backend system of editors or fact-checking or algorithm that actually pulls the information together.

People believe information if the words used to frame it fit with their concept of things. For example, in the old business model, where everyone agreed to community definitions of their stories and people, then when more news appears about them, the framing of what is trusted and agreed to is already in place. While facts may be reported and editorial control is there, the fact that the information fits that community's frame of trust means that it will be more credible.

For example, in my community where I grew up, which was a one paper town, the framing around who controlled things was around business men in the town and at the time people believed this was the way things should be and that it meant things were secure. So when something happened, and a business man was quoted in the paper, it always was framed as the final word and the descriptions were often metaphors such as, "stands for the x thing." Standing meant authority and power and brought respect, where as everyone else who wasn't his peer, was below, or less than and needed to be led by those who were powerful and stood tall. The metaphor we agreed to was that standing as an authority meant we trusted the authority, who were men in business who framed whatever was happening from a position of strength. The facts were facts, but the reported ones were framed to reinforce them as being important and relevant and the ones we should pay attention to as opposed to other facts that were removed because they didn't fit the metaphors about what was important.

For people in communities where business leaders were not symbolic of authority or trusted leadership, describing the person as "stands for the x thing" would have produced laughter and ridicule among readers. That person would be seen as condescending and overbearing of those less powerful.

The same words ("standing for...") in a story can mean very different things, because of different frameworks of trust and the meaning of credibility.

So when I say that there are frameworks of trust, that is separate from bias, although bias affects it and may help shape it. But when thinking about how a community of interest sees what is trusted and how they frame credibility, people who wish to create information filters (newspapers or online information systems) need to think about what the community understands as trustworthy, and what it doesn't. If the community sees sources and frames and situations as untrustworthy, they simply won't access that information, no matter how great it is and no matter how hard you try to give them credible information.

Posted by mary hodder at September 16, 2004 08:46 PM