The big secret project I've been working on...

With the official press release out the door, I can finally start talking about the project that has been consuming most of my time for the last several months!

StoryMarket is an online system for making finding, buying, selling and sharing content a la carte easy. It's primarily focused towards journalists and the news industry, but we expect there to be a large contingent of bloggers and other new media content creators from all sectors. StoryMarket was developed as a partnership between Revolution Systems and The World Company, publisher of the Lawrence Journal-World the same great company that brought us our beloved Django.

The news industry is in trouble, with declining revenues and increasing costs, the old content syndication models are proving to be more than smaller organizations can bear. You can think of it as a mashup of eBay or Etsy and iTunes with a strong social component similar to LinkedIn. Sellers are given extremely flexible tools for managing their individual prices and rights. From being really open and cheap, to being really restrictive and expensive and everything in between.

For example, I could give this particular blog post a price of $20 to all StoryMarket users, $10 for users in the 'Django' group, $5 to my Mom, and make it free to Steve Holden (because you have to keep the Steve Holden happy). As for rights, I could choose to only allow it to be used in print and not online, or vice versa. I could also exclude certain competitors from even being able to view the content inside of StoryMarket, let alone be able to purchase the rights to republish it.

But it's not limited to textual content. StoryMarket also supports images/photos, audio, video, and data sets. The uses of each should be obvious with the exception of maybe data sets, organizations could for example share polling data in say CSV format between each other. Or demographic data they've collected, anything that might be useful to another party.

What I think will be most interesting to watch about this project is the "long tail" of the content. If the Lawrence Journal-World writes a story about a new organic beer being made at the local FreeState Brewery, many other publishers wouldn't think there would be a secondary market for that story, being so locally focused. But they would be wrong, beer related blogs might want to re-run the story, treehugger.com might want it, and so might zymurgy related magazines.

Or imagine a college football game and the thousands of press photos taken at one. Only a couple make it into print or online, but I would wager most of them are in focus. I'm sure these other shots, even if not the best or most interesting shots of the game, might find buyers in the featured player's home town paper.

Many of you might be saying, "But doesn't the industry already do this today?". They do, but not with the frequency they should be due to all the friction in the process. You have to hunt down someone to talk with at the original organization, wander your way through voicemail hell, and hope they even respond. Then comes the price negotiation, faxing a contract around, etc, etc. Could be days before you're given the rights you wanted last week. With StoryMarket we make this a simple e-commerce transaction so if you find a story you want at 3:14 AM on a Sunday morning, you can have it live on YOUR site a few moments later.

So why is this project of interest to the Django community? Three main reasons, jump out:

  1. Larger funded projects like this help employ Django developers. While I did most of the original development, we've been really lucky to snag two huge Django stars Malcolm Tredinnick and Danny Greenfeld to help us finish up the last bits before our public beta launch. And we managed to entice the awesome Greg Newman to do the design.
  2. Projects like this also bring small hidden benefits to the community as a whole. Because of this project there are a couple of new re-useable Django Apps (django-tos, django-app-metrics, and django-taggit-suggest) out there for everyone to use and build upon. We've also contributed back several bug fixes to various Open Source projects we use in StoryMarket.
  3. While Django is used for all sorts of projects these days, it's very heavily used in the news industry from which it came. By helping keep journalism strong and vibrant we're also indirectly helping Django itself.

I think it's important for all commercial projects like this to highlight their contributions back to our community. Not only for the warm fuzzy feelings, but to help other developers out there convince their superiors that it is ok and/or even very useful to Open Source the generic reusable aspects of their work. This needs to become more common place and the best way to do that is to talk about it publicly.

So what app/libraries/patches has your company released lately? Go shout their praises so we all know about it!

Tags: django, journalism, postgresql, storymarket