Wick Communications

The future of news

In Online media on 16 Aug 2012 at 2:58 pm

Did you read Richard Gingras’ keynote address before the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication? No? You should.

Gingras is the director of news and social products at Google. As he notes, he is an unusual speaker before such a body. He is not a journalist and has never reported a story in his life. He describes himself as a “technologist.” I know, I know. It’s annoying to hear people like Gingras tell us what we should be doing. Believe me, I know. But he has an interesting perspective on the future of things that will intimately affect all of us, particularly those of us in news distribution. For instance:

The open distribution of the Internet destroyed that (traditional newspaper) leverage, but the openness of (the) Internet also brought the potential for many new voices. Would anyone really want to flip back the clock on that change? Disruptions of media marketplaces have happened before and will happen again. The 40-year golden period of newspaper profitability began with a disruption and ended with one. …

The openness of the underlying distribution architecture of an ecosystem has a huge impact on the number of voices and the levels of profitability. The more controlled the distribution, the higher the profitability but the fewer the voices. …”

Would you argue with any of that?

Gingras closes with some really interesting questions: …

What is the nature and purpose of a website when most of the inbound traffic comes from search and social? That is something I think we will be thinking about more and more. Most of us treat our homepage as a virtual front page. That has certainly been my theory up to now. But that only makes sense if readers are visiting (in my case) hmbreview.com. If they are primarily interested in, say, surfing, they are not likely to find our surfing stories that way. They will be directed to individual story pages within our site.

How do we approach content architecture in an edition-less medium with a near limitless capacity for storage and accessibility? He’s still talking about the website and the homepage. He’s suggesting “living stories” and working off what he and others call “the link economy.” That may require some explanation, but not if you are already thinking about these things.

What is the evolution of the narrative form in a medium dominated by updates, bullet points, and posts? Another really good question. There are news startups like this one that envision changing our prose into little smartphone-friendly bytes. Apparently, there is a feeling that objectivity, as a noble goal, is back and that our narratives are too … boring? Long? Subjective? It’s an interesting topic, don’t you think?

Gingras asks other questions, too, about what a journalism curriculum should look like and how to get the best from 21st century journalists. I probably don’t agree with all of his suggestions but they definitely provide food for thought.



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