Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Web and the Future of Journalism

I just came across a blog, Invisible Inkling, written by a very fiesty and perceptive grad student in Mass Communications at San Jose State University. Ryan Sholin's site is full of thought provoking commentary on the current state of journalism and its need to come to terms with new communication technology. For a quick and concise look at some of the basic tenets, read through this thread on "10 obvious things about the future of the newspapers"; not only the original list but the copious responses too contain lots of good ideas that all of us must seriously consider. There are huge opportunities here in terms of distributing our work, reaching more people in new ways using new narrative tools -- if we pay attention to what is happening on the web in a comprehensive manner. But I have to agree with Ryan that newspapers and the media as a whole have been very slow to adopt and adapt -- and have done so in a very desultory piecemeal fashion. For example, they all have "multimedia" pages, but they dont bother to exploit the technology to the fullest in order to give us a deeper "reading" experience. You want people to enter the tent, you had better provide an experience that lives up to the hype you're barking.

Just look at points five and eight for starters:

5. You don’t get to charge people for archives and you certainly don’t want to charge people for daily news content. Pulling your copy behind walls where it can’t be seen by readers on the wider Web. Search rules. Don’t hide from it.

8. You ignore new delivery systems at your own peril. RSS, SMS, iPhone, e-paper, Blackberry, widgets, podcasts, vlogs, Facebook, Twitter — these aren’t the competition, these are your new carriers. Learn how to deliver your content across every new technology that comes into view on the horizon, and be there when new devices go into mass production.

Quite so. We are all looking for ways to make money from the net so that our work does not go uncompensated and we can continue to do it: but charging readers in this manner is probably a retrograde procedure. For an analysis of the problem, read Vin Crosbie's article on "Rebuilding Media." Above all, and this is something I have been working on steadily ever since I got my first grant, we must look into all the "new delivery systems" so as to extend our presence in every direction. Really, the web presence of most media outlets is rather disappointing in comparison with other websites -- even the so called "multimedia" productions are rather conservative in approach and offer little more than slideshows. MediaStorm is a notable exception, but when you visit, say, Time Magazine's site do you ever see anything approaching that level of innovation? No. Why not?

I will be writing more about this important theme, but meanwhile you couldnt do better than to have a look through this stimulating site, as you will be well rewarded. And kudos to Ryan for taking on the industry head on.