If things that are not journalism entertain, inform and facilitate agency better than things that are, don’t bet on journalism to thrive.
I work for a newspaper and I think about how to reinvent newspapers and reassert their relevance all the time. And people are consuming more news than ever, so we must be doing something right. My guess, though? Most innovation in media and most of the revenue and most of the value will come not from the incumbents and not even from news startups, but from people who unwittingly stumble into producing media as the solution to another problem.
He argues that journalism’s disrupters are companies that don’t actually produce journalism, but fulfill the same underlying consumer needs that traditional journalism has sought to fulfill.
I will repeat this because it’s important: YouTube nor Facebook or any of these other companies aim to be an alternative to journalism and much of what they facilitate or do doesn’t look like journalism at all. A good chunk of it contains written or spoken words, but sometimes not even that. It’s not journalism. But you’d be naive if you thought their services aren’t often consumed instead of news. It’s the same kind of functionality in a different package, after all, and that new package happens to be rather attractive a lot of the time.
Thus, the shift in journalism is radical—“from narrative and stories and reporting to entirely different and entirely unrelated ways of sharing knowledge.”
News organizations and publications may be able to survive in the digital era, but that’s about it:
I’m confident that strong digital players like The Guardian and the New York Times and Digital First Media will survive. I’m less confident that they’ll ever thrive. I mean, we’re congratulating The Guardian for losing money online, NYTbecause its paywall isn’t the crash-and-burn we expected it to be, and because the Journal Register Company is in the black. If you don’t go out of business, you’re a hero.
Through this same lens, he comments on effective changes being made in the news industry, and what more can be done.
If people tell you, as they did assistant professor Amy Zerba’s research assistants, that they hate not being able to multitask when reading a newspaper, does that mean we should try to find ways to make it easier for readers to multitask, or is it simply a symptom of people not caring all that much about the news? And does that in turn mean they just don’t care about stuff in general anymore and have become jaded and uninterested in politics and world news (for which there is some evidence), or is there more to it and are people perhaps getting their information needs met in other, more convenient or more exciting ways? Are we trying to get better at something that doesn’t matter anymore? Perhaps we should take the best traditions of journalism and do something entirely new with it.