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Sustainability in Citizen Media

In a brief but illuminating email thread leading up to a small conference on Friday in LA, we’re looking at key questions about citizen media’s future. One, obviously, is sustainability, which we all agree is key. Another participant in the discussion asked:

WHY do we need to expect individual initiatives to be sustainable? Is there not merit in the launches of serial enterprises, sequentially launched, within communities, with new ones imparting new vigor, skills and maybe even new goals?

Or, conversely: Is there merit in traditional news organizations anteing up some support for CitJ ventures to build a community information architecture?

My response:

Sustainable does not necessarily mean profitable, or long-lasting. An individual effort is sustainable as long as the person wants it to be, and that’s entirely fine.

I’m interested in seeing that communities have sustainable journalism and information ecosystems, not necessarily in the survival and profitability of individual ones. But institutional knowledge and historical/factual context do matter — and if each new entrant makes all the same mistakes someone else did 10 years earlier, that’s not especially helpful.

I still believe, even now, that traditional media remain in the best position not just to seed these ventures — internally as well as externally — but to make them a linchpin in their own long-term viability.

4 Comments on “Sustainability in Citizen Media”

  1. #1 The Modern Journalist » Sustainability: Why Social Media Doesn’t Need Journalism
    on Mar 26th, 2008 at 10:40 am

    […] buddy Dan, who wrote a great book called We the Media, posted a blog about sustainability in citizen […]

  2. #2 Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Wednesday squibs, vanilla edition
    on Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    […] Sustainability in Citizen Media. Great short post from Dan Gillmor laying out his ideas about what sustainability means for the still fledgling citizen media efforts. […]

  3. #3 Il citizen journalism è sostenibile? | Dietro le quinte
    on Mar 28th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    […] riprova di questo vi segnalo una lettura breve, ma molto interessante: “Sustainability in Citizen Media“, dove viene affrontato uno dei temi centrali con cui ogni iniziativa dal basso devo […]

  4. #4 Delia
    on Mar 28th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    The question about the need for such initiatives to be sustainable is a good one. It’s hard to envisage any other models besides the business one. I think good journalism, just like good intellectual work, cannot and should not be measured within the logic o capitalism (return on investment, sustainability, efficiency, etc.). But it is hard to think of an alternative – and maybe that’s where success stories and creative thinking should be nurtured.