08 October 2008

Food For Thought On Future Of Media

How the media meets its challenges in an economically uncertain world was the topic for last night’s Journalism Leaders Forum in Preston.

At the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) event, the debate ranged from whether the advertising-supported business model was well and truly broken to how journalists can help themselves to thrive in the digital age.

Among the panellists offering their thoughts was American internet strategist Steve Yelvington, who maintained that newspapers need to increase their range of services in order to succeed in the future.

He supported the view that the ad-supported model is not broken but claimed news by itself is not enough to build the kind of audiences sought by advertisers.

Speaking from Florida, the current VP for content and strategy at Morris Digital Works added that a key new challenge is for newspapers to add extra services to its “town crier function”.

Although journalists are well adjusted to this idea of reporting what happened, they now need to adopt the “town square” function and start to build “community memory” resources, he said.

Explained on his blog, this notion is similar to the one espoused recently by various Google experts regarding journalists creating “living resources” on their websites.

Meanwhile, fellow panellist Steve Gray (speaking from West Virginia) pointed to the importance of encompassing different kinds of advertising in order for online newspapers to succeed in the future.

Gray, who manages the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next project, predicted that video, email and search advertising are the three categories likely to “explode” in the next five years.

And, like Yelvington, he believes news by itself is not enough to enable newspapers to hold on to the large audiences they once had.

Instead, Gray recommended that regional newspapers must become the “information provider of choice across many categories of consumer information”, and help people find “local solutions” to their day-to-day problems.

Panellist Professor Jane Singer added that this information needn’t all come from journalists, some could be provided by regional businesses, local authorities and the audience.

The Johnston Press chair in digital journalism at UCLan noted that this then would free up reporters to concentrate on community coverage and doing the work “other folks cannot do”.

Guardian blogs editor Kevin Anderson also suggested that the changing role of the journalist will play a part in the future of news media, particularly when it comes to utilising social media tools.

Speaking from America, Anderson said that social media can “reinvigorate relationships with our audience”.

And he pointed out that the journalists who succeed in the online environment are the ones who don’t wait for training in using these tools but who follow their “natural curiosity” and find out for themselves.

Lancashire Evening Post editor Simon Reynolds added that the biggest challenge for journalists takes the form of a mental one – thinking about working in two to three different mediums at once.

Subtitled “Hard Lessons: What are the tough times teaching media decision-makers about the way forward?”, this was the tenth in the series of Journalism Leaders Forums.

Visit the Journalism Leaders Forum blog to see video from last night’s event, while for further coverage of the summit take a look at Journalism.co.uk.

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At 15/10/08 2:43 pm, Blogger buddy said...

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