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Wed., April 27, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. (CDT) Infovalet Project work session: "From Paper to Persona"

Help plan research/action:

Making the marketplace for privacy, trust, identity and information commerce

Plan to participate in a critical assessment of the potential for industry collaboration through a public-benefit organization that would help make a marketplace for trust, identity and information commerce. Help identify next research or action steps.

The challenge of meshing privacy, trust, identity and information commerce in a common system with the potential to help sustain journalism has been undertaken conceptually by Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute consulting fellow Bill Densmore. He will lead a fast-paced discussion of his draft white paper, "From Paper to Persona: Managing Privacy and Information Overload; Sustaining Journalism in an Attention Age."

The draft paper, starting with a two-page executive summary, is available as a download from:

Agenda/Schedule (watch live stream)

  • Slide walkthrough of "Paper to Persona" (20 minutes)
  • Q&A (10 minutes)
  • Describe discussion process (5 minutes)
  • Groups of 3-6 discuss questions/concerns about notions of trust, identity, infocommerce ecosystem (25 minutes)
  • Report backs from discussion groups (15 minutes)
  • Consideration of next steps (10 minutes)
  • Quick highlights of InfoValet Discovery Service beta effort at The Missourian (if time) -- 5 minutes


"As the news and paper come unglued, what will pay for journalism in the new news ecosystem? Densmore's research leads to a landscape view, a set of four assertions and a hypothetical solution.

1. Landscape view

An emerging Attention Economy is transforming the news business. It represents for the institutions which practice journalism a chance to survive beyond the era of mass-market advertising, by becoming “information valets” for their readers, viewers and users. Trust, access, identity and value are core issues, affecting convenience, privacy and personalization. In less than a decade, we have moved from a world of relative information scarcity -- access restricted by a variety of technical choke points -- such as presses -- to a world of such information abundance that the average user's challenge is not how to access information, or even how find it, but how to personalize, trust and make sense of it.

The attention economy will invite new collaboration among news, advertising, publishing, entertainment, technology and philanthropic services . . . [T]he defining challenge for news organizations in the 21st century is no longer managing proprietary information, but helping the public find and then manage our attention to quality information from anywhere.

The Internet as we know it today is not up to this task. It can be -- with a new, public-benefit initiative to create a shared-user network for trust, identity and information commerce.

2. Assertions

After surveying the landscape for the news business, we might make these four assertions:

  • Siloed three-party content and ad networks are doing fine for now.
  • To continue to grow and provide public value, they will need to learn how to share users and content without giving up their silos or users, and within the bounds of looming privacy regulation.
  • Consumers want simple, convenient, privacy-respectful access to information from anywhere, some of which they will pay for and some of which will pay for their attention (by providing services in exchange for advertising views or promotional credits).
  • Marketers and content providers need a universal, neutral way to exchange value with each other and with consumers for this content and commercial messages.

3. Hypothesis

  • Stakeholders should organize a public-benefit consortium, probably nonprofit, to specify and govern a neutral, "one-pass" registration, authentication and event-logging infrastructure. Give a working title to this fourth party: The Information Trust Association.

Synopsis of white paper

"From Paper to Persona: Managing Privacy and Information Overload; Sustaining Journalism in an Attention Age" suggests the Information Trust Association would -- within the limits of existing antitrust law -- convene publishers, technologists, foundations and the public to create a system for exchanging small bits of content -- a sort of microaccounting system -- among multiple independent publishers. In Densmore's "InfoValet" system idea, public users would be able to choose from a plurality of information agents from which to open a one ID, one-bill account that would work to purchase information broadly.

Densmore also sees the Information Trust Association as making and enforcing protocols governing users' "persona" -- personal information -- and allowing consumers to barter that information for value across the same microaccounting, or “value exchange,” system. The ITA will guide not run this trust, identity and information commerce environment – sanctioning and enabling multiple competitive businesses. The banking industry might play a role in the back shop processing.

Densmore sees all this as necessary as news organizations switch from producing products -- newspapers and broadcasts -- to a service -- helping users to find the information -- in any venue – which they need to be informed, effective citizens.

In this role, Densmore writes, publishers will have to rely less on a mass-market advertising and undifferentiated markets, learning instead to understand and deliver the personalized information needs of individual users. This will require that each publisher be able make money referring their users to each others' content -- hence the need for the microaccounting and a four-party approach.


  • Old journalism is not sustainable on traditional ads alone
  • News organizations have to reinvent (or rediscover) the user relationship
  • No longer about print, now about managing 'personas'
  • Become 'infovalets' -- curatorial information brokers/agents
  • Open a dialogue with users; respect and assist their privacy management
  • They will respond, trust and share (Rachel Mersey's argument)
  • Infovalets will help with personalization, privacy control
  • This requires a shared-user network, overlaying silos (see ppgs. 46-49 of white paper)
  • Because no one 'infovalet' will meet all needs
  • First enable trust, then identity, then commerce
  • Trust and commerce door must swing both ways
  • The method, an open, four-party architecture
  • Guided by a non-government, public-benefit organization
    • Federated authentication
    • Web-compliant protocols for 'persona' info exchange
    • Microaccounting of activity for period settlement


VIDEO: The Information Valet Project: Origins in 12 minutes

  • VIDEO: In August, 2008, Bill Densmore arrived at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism with a mission -- create a shared-user network owned by the nation's news and information-services industry which could address privacy, enhanced advertising and charging for content. Watch this 12-minute video of Densmore’s May 5, 2009 presentation of his research: