Posted by: davidrcollier | July 30, 2009

Editor of Wired on the future of ‘news’

A really fascinating interview which I would urge you all to read. Some excerpts:

I don’t use the word “media.” I don’t use the word “news.” I don’t think that those words mean anything anymore. They defined publishing in the 20th century. Today, they are a barrier. They are standing in our way, like a horseless carriage.

We’re in one of those strange eras where the words of the last century don’t have meaning. What does news mean to you, when the vast majority of news is created by amateurs? Is news coming from a newspaper, or a news group or a friend?

Your local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is fighting for survival. If it was to disappear tomorrow …

… I wouldn’t notice. I don’t even know what I’d be missing.

So how do you stay informed?

It comes to me in many ways: via Twitter, it shows up in my in box, it shows up in my RSS base, through conversations. I don’t go out looking for it.

You just don’t care.

No, I do care. You know, I pick my sources, and I trust my sources.

As millions upon millions trusted the classic media previously.

If something has happened in the world that’s important, I’ll hear about it. I heard about the protests in Iran before it was in the papers because the people who I subscribe to on Twitter care about those things.
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Can classic journalism, which is obviously more expensive to produce, compete with that sort of thing?

In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part-time job. Maybe media won’t be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby. There is no law that says that industries have to remain at any given size. Once there were blacksmiths and there were steelworkers, but things change. The question is not should journalists have jobs. The question is can people get the information they want, the way they want it? The marketplace will sort this out. If we continue to add value to the Internet we’ll find a way to make money. But not everything we do has to make money
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But charging a minority of your audience won’t fund expensive reporting on Iran or Iraq.

Right. The curiosity is that, that is what is left for mass media — it’s the kind of stuff that niches don’t do well. Politics, war, disaster, scandals, et cetera. You can’t charge for it and advertisers don’t like it. Unlike in the old offline world, it turns out they would rather not have their ad for Coke be up against reports from the streets of Iran.

Many worrying trends but, like the Clay Shirky article I mentioned, there is a hope that viable business models will exist in the future. Just as the publishers of newspapers in 1809 could not imagine the explosion of the penny press that was just around the corner, perhaps a similar enterprise will appear to save and continue journalism for the 21st century.

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