Go Google, or Go to Hell

If there is a villain in my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, Google is it. I fiercely criticize bad reporting practices perpetrated on behalf of the Google free economy, where a mighty monopoly extends incredible influence over advertising dollars and content distribution. Flip around to one of my other tomes, The Principles of Disruptive Design, and the search and information giant is praised for innovation that promises to usher in the “Star Trek”-era of touchless computing. So what? Is Google devil or savior?

That’s a good question. Google deserves praise for making more information available to more folks and taking away exclusive access that gives a small number of people power over the masses. I’m two minds about copyrights, which Google’s business model disenfranchises for the public good (regardless of motivations) but also disembowels legitimate content creators looking to earn a living. Yeah, me among them.

Over the next couple months, I will seek to find the way between the two Googles. Can someone like me use Google tools to report responsibly and earn a living—apply “David Thinking” to change the rules? Is there a way for others to do the same? After a brief repast, I use Chromebook, Android phone, Google services, and native or web apps supporting the company’s platforms. These are the tools of my storytelling trade.

Among my recommendations to news gatherers in Responsible Reporting:

In the age of context, you must identify your audience and go to wherever it is and build brand share and loyalty—maybe Reddit or Tumblr, perhaps some startup app, like Jelly from Twitter cofounder Biz Stone. You may want to write for three different blogs, vlog one other place, and participate in several different monthly podcasts or Hangouts. The audience attaches to you rather than the branded service or site where you contribute content.

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith describes a “shift in power in newsrooms…from news organizations to the individual reporter”. You are the brand that matters.

How do you stand out from other news gatherers and eke out a living? Produce original content. Don’t regurgitate someone else’s work. Do share stuff that interests your audience, from among its members or produced by your peers. But make the priority producing original content that is distinctive to you and that appeals to your audience.

I will take my own advice, and extend my reach, all while using Google tools along the way. Expect more active engagement from me over the coming months, with Google+ as a hub. I also will seek to extend my writing beyond BetaNews, where I will considerably increase my posting, too. If your site is looking for a good journalist, and you are willing to pay for responsibly reported and sourced content, please private Circle me.

“One reporter, many places” is my motto for at the least the rest of 2014.