Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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Ben Huh and The Moby Dick Project

If you’re interested in future journalism, particularly the ‘open’ model, check out the Moby Dick Project sometime.

It poses this question: Why are we still consuming the news like it’s 1899? That links to a May 23, 2011 blog post by Ben Huh of I Can Has Cheezburger fame.

Although it’s almost a year old, some of Huh’s observations in that post stand up. Here is a summary of his key problems with current online and print news delivery:

  1. Editors don’t know what we already know
  2. News, not front pages
  3. One front page for all the news that’s fit to print
  4. Not your mother’s Google News
  5. The thrill of the hunt

As to number five, Huh wrote:

What I’m proposing to build isn’t going to solve all presentation problems for all types of news. I am interested in tackling the most exciting part of journalism: the Big Breaking News. If you’ve ever been a journalist, you know the exact feeling of a big news hunt. This is the Moby Dick of news, the big game that turns you into Ahab.

Huh delivered the keynote speech at the 2011 Online News Association conference.

He continues on his news improvement quest. Here’s an excerpt from a March 13 Wired story, Cheezburger’s Ben Huh Wants to Break the News So He Can Fix It:

It may surprise some people that the guy who is mainly known for popularizing fat cats with misspelled photo captions has so much to say about the news. But Huh, who got his bachelor’s in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill school in 1999, is at SXSW to work on his latest venture, a news service called Circa. Huh dreamed up Circa with SimpleGeo co-founder Matt Galligan, and they are looking to change the way people consume news on mobile devices.

That may sound trite, but for Huh, the business of news is broken (forgive the pun). What he wants to build isn’t just a sleek new design for a news aggregator: He wants to make a product — likely an app — that would let people “follow a story, not a topic” and create a system where there’s one version of every big breaking news story, and everything else is additional context.

“Why do I need 1,800 versions of ‘Michael Jackson died today’?” asked Huh, who is on Circa’s board, while Galligan is serving as CEO. “I literally want to suck the life out of that market. It’s the disruptive way of doing business.”

To that end, Galligan has been working hard to get Circa rolling, raising $750,000 from a small handful of investors and bringing on a chief technology officer, some developers and a designer. While both Huh and Galligan are long on big ideas, both are pretty tight-lipped about what Circa will become and what its business model will look like, mainly because it’s still under development. …

With a product still very much in the works, it’s almost impossible to tell if what Circa is doing will best any of the efforts already out there. But Galligan has a knack for launching successful startups (he already has two under his belt). And if Huh — the full-time CEO of Cheezburger Network, who is giving up advising other startups to focus on Circa — has proven one thing over the years, it’s that he has a near-prescient sense for what people will find engrossing (try to look away from LoLcats, just try).

“We’re seeing the rise of partisan journalism, and I want to give people what they want, I don’t want to tell them what they need,” Huh said. “And I think that’s a good, sound business model.”

Sat, April 14 2012 » Main Page, Media