Opportunity Everywhere

Can you compete with the New York Times? It’s a bold question, but the Times isn’t doing so well. As much as I hate to admit it, because I love the Times, newspapers are not the future of news.

But what does that have to do with you? It’s not just me saying that we’re still writing the future of news. It’s people with money

What is the News Challenge?

We’re giving away around $5 million in 2009 for the development and distribution of neighborhood and community-focused projects, services, and programs.

If you have a great idea that will improve local online news, deepen community engagement, bring Web 2.0 tools to local neighborhoods, develop publishing platforms and standards to support local conversations or innovate how we visualize, experience or interact with information, we’d like to see it! You have the opportunity to win funding for your project and support within a vibrant community of media, tech, and community-oriented people who want to improve the world.

And while small, community-focused projects may not look like competition to the Times, as Jeff Jarvis points out small is the new big.

Small is the new big. On the one hand, big has never been bigger: Wal-Mart, $100 trillion derivatives markets, Google itself. But big is, more and more, made up of networks of smalls. Countless small retailers on eBay now make up a market bigger than our largest department-store chain, Federated. The long tail of culture (and the big butt to which it is attached, as Google’s Matt Cutts calls it) adds up to huge attention. Or, as I say in a law in the book, the mass market is dead; long live the mass of niches. We know this already and have discussed it here on the blog.

The added implication of the networked, small-is-the-new-big world today is a loss of control. A single CEO and board do not manage those commerce and entertainment markets. They are open marketplaces. And though marketplaces may have bad karma right now, that’s because they were manipulated by the few. Large, flat markets that can control themselves will be safer.

In business, we still need to reach critical mass. But we won’t do that anymore by buying up companies and going into debt to do so. Not gonna happen. No, we will reach critical mass by building networks: Google AdSense, eBay, Glam…. The key is no longer to control scarcity but to manage abundance.

Competing against the Times doesn’t mean building an organization of their size or infrastructure. It means meeting a community’s needs better than the Times can. Instead of being everything to everyone, it’s about connecting those communities together so they can interact in meaningful ways. The future isn’t in infrastructure, it’s in relationships.

Hat tip Alex and Jeff

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