Being a media guy, I spend a bit of time pondering the future. Of late that has been a somewhat depressing prospect.
Statements out of the New York Times that they don’t care whether print remains viable, from others that if old media hasn’t “got it” already it’s probably too late and most recently from tech guru Andy Lark that he reads what lands in his inbox and drives over anything that lands in his driveway are not cause for a party in the mainstream media.
Computerworld New Zealand is, of course, both a print and an online publication and has been since 1996. Our online endeavours have and continue to develop, as do our “analogue” publications.
But what I sense is that these guys are talking about a lot more than having a news website. Now all the talk is about communities, forums, two-way (or three-, four-, five-way) conversations, user-generated content, personalisation and so forth.
There is no doubt in my mind that this stuff is inevitable and we have to get on and do it. The question remains whether journalists and editors have a place in that new brew.
There are plenty who would happily cheer the demise of my profession. Some are in the media business themselves and see journalists as little more than a cost centre. We have been labelled “content providers”, a term which makes a journalist suspect that for some in publishing management, any old content will do — and there is no shortage of people willing to provide “any old content”.
It is that idea that I rail against most: the idea that our role is to fill the spaces between the ads. Journalists prefer to think the ads fill the space between their stories.
The key to the survival of journalism — and no it doesn’t really matter whether that is print journalism — is about filling that space compellingly.
More than ever before, I think, journalists have to prove their worth. They have to show that a well investigated, well crafted, punchy, funny, hard-hitting story is still capable of winning the reader’s eye among the hubbub.
Journalists tend to measure their performance against their direct competitors, but media competition is now about a lot more than that. We compete not just against them, but against new media forms and more broadly against work, entertainment and family for people’s time.
As I said in my very first editorial here, you, the readers, are telling us loud and clear you want news. That news will be delivered through more and more varied channels, ones that allow interactivity, linking, emailing, digging. It will require journalists — multimedia, tooled-up journalists — to become part of that conversation and to engage in ways they haven’t in the past. And to be prepared to justify their reporting.
That is an exciting prospect, from my point of view. It was only a couple of years ago that a story of mine, one that I was partial to, somehow failed to go online. The result of that was there was no visible conversation about it and that was disappointing. But print has always and continues to generate invisible conversations, action and reaction. Online in that regard is like an amplifier.
Still, I must confess to a strong desire to write a story that makes Andy Lark phone up and ask for a copy of the print edition of Computerworld ...