Open Professional

In Can Data Revitalize Journalism?, an article about the way data can be used to enrich the journalist’s trade [via @paulbradshaw], Frédéric Filloux asks:

What about monetization? Well, first of all, there are already many private entities who make a nice living processing public data. Why not the newsmedia? Take the education market: Why not having editorial products, designed by professional journalists, capitalizing on powerful label such as Le Monde, VG or The Guardian to address this audience with well designed products, in print or online? Think about students, how they could use this new knowledge with their laptops or iPhones. This market is up for grabs. And medias are well positioned to enter it. (Or someone else will.

My gut feeling is that with the news media trying to redefine itself for a future where revenues aren’t guaranteed by ad-sales in daily or weekend papers, and the higher education market (in the UK at least) potentially looking set for a fall in the short term as graduate openings disappear and institutions look for ways to increase student fees, there is an opportunity for a new sort of service provider, perhaps not dissimilar to a professional institution, to take up the slack and provide quality comment, analysis to the media (think: paidContent for the quality papers’ analysis sections, powered by academe redefined (i.e. Academe 2.0;-)); and FE/HE level lifelong training “learning” to whosoever needs it.

When the OU was founded 40 years ago, it opened up access to Higher Education in the UK for those who couldn’t otherwise access it, and opened to doorway for many to membership of a professional institution. One of the driving reasons for the institutions was to keep their members up-to-date with innovations in their profession. However, those institutions have suffered terribly in recent years, (declining numbers of members – you can probably guess the rest…) so maybe it’s time for a rethink…

Indeed, maybe it’s time for something that combines elements of Higher Education, professional institutions and “products” like Guardian Professional (such as their research service, and maybe even the events* part?) wrapped up with some form of verification service that blends elements of professional, academic and maybe even vendor certification?

And maybe data analysis and commentary is one way in to that?

* I keep wondering why it is that Guardian, TED and O’Reilly conferences (as well as a wide variety of unconferences) are of far more interest to me than academic ones? It can’t just be that they tend to publish their audio streams online?;-)

PS see also Guerrilla Education: Teaching and Learning at the Speed of News and its associated comments.


  1. Kevin McConway

    I think this is potentially exciting but also difficult. I think Filloux gets close to confusing the availability of data with the availability of information wrung out of the data, and shows signs of assuming that the (generally excellent and informative) graphics he shows are the only way of presenting the data, or (worse) that the stories they undoubtedly tell were simply there to be discovered, in essentially only one way, from the data, rather than having been constructed from the data. That matters, and I think this feeds through to the idea of a “verification service”. One can verify, up to a point at least, that data were collected in the way the data description says, and, pushing it a bit further, perhaps one can verify that they measure what they purport to measure. But one can’t (in my view) “verify” that a particular way of looking at the data is “correct”, let alone that any conclusions drawn from it are appropriate.

  2. Laura James

    I think I enjoy unconferences more for the variety, and the amazing selection of people willing to chat. Academic conferences tend to be less varied, more clique-ridden, and generally full of people presenting because they have to, not because they care.