Nowhere does the idea that news is doomed seem more absurd than at the Online News Association conference.

About 1,200 journalists, thinkers and entrepreneurs are in Boston for this year’s digital journalism pow-wow, along with popular evangelists from Facebook, Twitter and other companies eager to secure a place in journalists’ ever-expanding, ever-influencing toolbox.

Already, I’m whoozy from the chatter. And maybe the jet lag.

Here are four thought-provoking ideas from news geeks that all geeks should know about:

  • Face.com is the most important API of 2011” – Amy Webb, Webb Media Group. “Face and iris recognition” ranked no. 5 in this year’s edition of Webb’s popular annual rundown of top #techtrends newsies should know about. Citing Viewdle in the Android market and other apps looking to capitalize on the capability, Webb, who holds seats on the ONA board of directors and the SXSW Accelerator Advisory Board, stirred up concerns about the ease with which people could be identified on sight. “This is all very scary,” reads the corresponding section in her detailed (and promotional) session notes. “But you can also do cool stuff with it for purposes of data visualization and reporting.”
  • “Fans before brands” – Matt Thompson, NPR and Megan Garber, Nieman Lab. “Brandcastle” is what Thompson termed a “media experience” that “purports to offer content and storytelling, but in reality is obsessed primarily with how a media entity thinks of itself.” Check out the parody. Look like some sites you know? “Brands are not content,” said Thompson, easily the most engaging speaker here. And fans come first. “Your brand represents your users and what they believe. That’s the power of the brand in the new era.”
  • I see my Twitter as an open source newsroom.” – Andy Carvin, NPR. Andy Carvin has written, commentated and most notably tweeted his way to newsie fame since he began digging up revealing details from social media for NPR’s coverage of the Arab Spring revolts. Asked to comment on how he verifies the reports he finds, Carvin said he often taps his extensive public network for help, a practice that makes some more traditional journalists uncomfortable. Scanning tweets surrounding culture-shaking news events is “almost like a form of situational awareness,” Carvin said.
  • SMO over SEO – Facebook’s Vadim Lavrusik and Twitter’s Erica Anderson. So far, at least, search is taking a back seat to social in the conference’s breathless conversations about how news outlets can grow loyalty, interest and traffic. Sessions with Lavrusik and Anderson about the respective networks’ tips and tricks were packed, picked over and eagerly tweeted (maybe too eagerly). See a good summary of the first Facebook session (yes, they had two – but there’s a lot going on over there) here.
Mónica Guzmán is a Seattle journalist and community strategist who consults for startups and media and can usually be found tweeting away at @moniguzman. She’s helping curate quotes and tweets from ONA for the conference’s website until Saturday evening, when she’ll fly to New Orleans to represent the Western Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at the Excellence in Journalism conference. By Wednesday, maybe, she’ll sleep. Also see this archive of her weekly GeekWire posts.

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