(photo from http://spotlight.macfound.org/main/entry/ondrejka_fanton_macarthur_island/)
Newspapers are getting hammered. With the possible exceptions of neighborhood and ethnic papers their business model has been unable to keep up with the Internet. This is common knowledge and the quest to find new business models for quality journalism and investigative reporting is of such import that the U.S. Senate has held hearings on it, major investors are convening roundtables, and the Internet itself is practically aglow with blogs and tweets and alternative proposals.
None of that is news. But what is interesting is that the first thing the Internet did to newspapers, in theory, was remove two of their biggest costs - paper and delivery. Had papers looked at it this way way back when - "hey, this new technology will allow us to reduce our two largest cost centers to close to zero, lets run with it!" - I wonder if we'd be in a different situation today?
With this bit of 20-20 hindsight, shouldn't "the rest of us" be asking ourselves how our organizations/businesses could look " if our costs went way down, our ability to reach globally went way up, we could be far more inclusive of outsiders's ideas, and so on and so on...?"
I have no idea if that is what is behind the MacArthur Foundation's forays into Second Life but I can dream, can't I? Who knows what may come from Monday's "in world" discussion between Cory Ondrejka and Jonathan Fanton, President of MacArthur, but at least it shows a high willingness to experiment with global-reaching, low cost alternatives to the typical foundation press conference or in-house meeting. The discussion will be held in ways that people with lots of different types of internet access can participate - here are the details:
"For the URLs and login details for the webcast and the island, check this same page the morning of May 18, 2009. The hour-long event, scheduled to begin at 2pmPT/5pmET, will include Q&A in both Second Life and from the web using Treet.tv, and for those in Second Life, a 30-minute reception will follow."Now Ondrejka, an early staff person at Linden Lab, the company that created Second Life and now an executive at EMI Music, has clearly considered the ways entire industries can be disrupted by technology. His blog is called "collapsing geography" - kind of a clue to what he sees technology doing, eh? Perhaps the MacArthur Foundation is asking these same questions about philanthropy. Tune in on Monday and maybe we'll find out a bit more.
*Full disclosure: My company works with the MacArthur Foundation, but we have not been involved with planning this meeting.