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Web 3.0 — Can Russia Insider Resurrect Citizen Journalism?

Corporate media has been on the offensive on the internet through the sheer force of money, but with your help we can help push them back

Phil Butler is our regular contributor. This article also appeared at his blog

It should be no big secret to anyone reading, massively powerful corporations dominate the U.S. and largely western media landscape. For us web entrepreneurs who heralded something called “citizen journalism” over the last ten years, our greatest fears have come true. Fat Daddy billionaires own your reality. But wait, there’ still hope! Enter Russia Insider. (I’ve included a number of key metrics from SimilarWeb, please observe)

Before I outline how Russia Insider is a poster child for Web 3.0, let me begin with an abridged  history lesson of what became known as Web 2.0, or the digital craze following the “Dot Com Bubble” which burst. I was a significant evangelist of this movement, as were many of my network and colleagues. For the purposes of this article, suffice it to say Web 2.0 was a gripping and powerful paradigm, one that horrified entrenched media for its ability to empower normal citizens.

Discussions like those on openDemocracy, where Soros and Sidney Blumenthal utter monetary mayhem contributions, they will soon be overshadowed

People like Tim O’Reilly and others within my sphere literally tuned up-side-down, the ways in which communications criss crossed humankind. The traditional media types back in 2006 and 2007, they hadn’t the foggiest how to make the shift from “telling the story” to being a part of it. The so-called “conversation” got loud where it hurt people like New York Times’ publisher. The really good news today is, a new Tim O’Reilly may have emerged. Publications catering to western billionaires like George Soros etc. are in the cross hairs of Russian Insider, as the screenshot above and those below reveal.

Russia Insider
As you can see Russia Insider is about to pass The Epoch Times in all traffic categories – via SimilarWeb

Web 2.0 – Resting In Pieces

If not for web intelligence trickling upward from people like award winning tech guru David Pogue, the NYTs might not be here still at all. The corporate world was skeptical at first, then scare as hell, as Pogue alludes to in the linked post from 2008 there. He discusses a unique “window” into the world of Microsoft and other corporations so:

“They were (corporate blogs with comments) absolutely fascinating. They were glimpses into a faceless corporate world the public had never been offered before. Here were discussions of the process, the feedback, the features that were under consideration.”

Some reading this will have forgotten, or never heard of such archaic infirmities on the web, but I assure you digital conversations were once entirely one sided. Then innovators rose in on the wave. From Jimmy Wales at Wikipedia to ground-breakers in the blog community like TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, a new wave of digital professionals had emerged. The battle cry of Web 2.0 and beyond was encapsulated in Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson’s massively popular book; “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.” 

This is as far as I need to go in laying out a corporate horror story akin to a Stephen King epic. Selling less of more simply could not be allowed to happen. Understand, in 2006 8 companies dominated US media, but they were behind the learning curve, facing blogs and citizen communicators on a massive scale. Networks like Netscape, MySpace, Digg, Newsvine, Wikio, and 100 others captured the time and imagination of hundreds of millions. Then in rapid succession Web 2.0 unraveled, Web 3.0 became impossible, and it was the Fat Cats at big PR firms, select billionaires, and their network of powerful friends off Madison Avenue killed it. Competition in every space of shifting technology virtually ended.

Google and 100 other trusted emissaries of the “open space” — they betrayed the loyal following en masse. This began when billionaire bought MySpace against the wishes of that social network’s founder Brad Greenspan (whom I spoke with on many occasions), and then trashed the community later on. The intentions of Murdoch seem bitterly clear now as media has recovered and prospered since Facebook consolidated the new “walled garden” siloing of community. This discussion gets wordy and geekish, so I’ll spare the reader. Suffice it to say Google’s SPAM wars on sites, and a flurry of other corporate actions into the “citizen space” almost murdered the free web space. Michael Arrington sold TechCrunch to the corporates, so did most other Web 2.0 evangelist/entrepreneurs… big money said “hell no” to an independent media. Here’s a recent quote from Free Press:

“Giant companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are slowly reconstituting the Internet’s walled gardens of old. As these companies try to steer us to their increasingly closed versions of the Internet — and to marketers who benefit from mining our personal information — we must fight for policies that protect our rights as Internet users.”

Now, because of a history of mergers and acquisitions, these companies further concentrated their control over what we see, hear and read. In some cases, these companies now control everything from initial concept or public relations formulations of ideas, to production and final distribution. Just looking at what Murdoch and his colleague control is evidence enough news is really advertising for their interests. Web 2.0 is today, resting in little bitty pieces, except for a few powerful independent voices. Enter corporate media’s recurring nightmare, Russia Today, Russia Insider, and the opposing view for whatever reason.

Russia Insider
Advancing on political magazines like The Root, Russia Insider has a massive reader engagement – note the bounce rate difference!

Powered by People

Sometimes a lie is reason enough for a shift to take place. About the time political/corporate forces made the decision on an all out war on truth over Russia and Putin, a serious mistake was made by some very smart public relations people. And too, advisers to presidents and the all powerful underestimated the intelligence of “the mob” – just as the arrogant elitists always have. The lie that is this new war on Russia and humanity, it’s gone too far. Overkill sent me and 100,000 other interested parties to find out first hand, what the truth in the world today is. What if Russia Today, the people of that besieged country, the essence of Gaza Palestinians, those nasty Iranians Obama and the others have described, what if ten million sound bits from the ruling elite in the west are wrong? What if Google killed 60 million bloggers for corporate reasons? How much money has to be involved for tiers and tiers of reporters to parrot a single note for months on end?

Russia Insider has already eclipsed Page Rank 7 magazine Parade, which has been around since forever

What the 1% have underestimated are the billions of people on the other side of their machinations. The citizen is still here, needed, brainwashed to an extent, but crucial to the plans of politicians and stock brokers still. And the evangelist of Web 3.0 news, not unlike Tim O’Reilly or Jimmy Wales, may just be Russia Insider’s editor and publisher, Charles Bausman. This Moscow expert in finance, investments, economics, financial markets, new media, and international relations launched the new media platform as a bootstrapped venture not unlike TechCrunch or the Huffington Post, a response like my own, over the insane bias of western media, not just for Russophobic news, but news of all sorts. Begun last September, the massive response to volunteer contributions for Russia Insider in the US and Europe is a hopeful reminder a free press is indispensable for hundreds of millions of people. To quote Bausman:

“The problem is media control by a few corporations and interest groups, and their close ties with governments and business interests. Instead of challenging, questioning, and fostering open discussion, they tend to promote those interests.”

It should be clear for you now, what I am proposing about Russia Insider and other independent media irrefutable. The very survival of a free press is resident in movements like these. To further illustrate, Ruth Coniff at The Progressive outlines the fearsome concept (and the hope against) our web falling victim like radio, TV, and cable, to become nothing more than a corporate ad network. The ongoing battle between those behind FCC regulations battles are but one segment of a greater battle going on. This is why you MUST support the efforts of independent media like Russia Insider. And when such citizen powered media once again covers Times Square, we’ll have a say and the truth in journalism again.

The only voice you really do have, the single most powerful tool at our disposal, is a free and balanced information and data conduit. The community of humankind is not just on Facebook, it’s resident in every one of us that seeks both sides of any story. Without news from both sides, your reality is not even solid, it’s made up by somebody you never met.

I leave you with a quote from someone I always considered a friend (though we have disagreed), Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales;

“What can we put into the hands of people under oppressive regimes to help them? For me, a big part of it is information, knowledge – the ability to defeat propaganda by understanding it.”

That said, I am sure we need to absolutely define who the true oppressors are.

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