trinetizen

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Name: Julian Matthews
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Hi. I'm a former journalist and Malaysian correspondent to CNet, ZDnet, Newsbytes (Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive wire agency), Nikkei Electronics Asia and AsiaBizTech.com. I also previously contributed to The Star, The Edge, The New Straits Times, The New Zealand Herald and various magazines. Currently, I train and advise managers and executives on strategies to optimize their use of social media and online channels to reach customers. My company, Trinetizen Media, runs media training workshops on social media, media relations, investor relations, corporate blogging, podcasting, multimedia marketing, online advertising, multimedia journalism and crisis communications. You can connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Future of Journalism: Emily Bell



Emily Bell's speech of the Future of Journalism is worth reading in its entirety or get the gist from this blog.

Some highlights:

Recently Clay (Shirky) kicked off a terrible noisy feedback loop of chatter about the future of journalism when he talked about it in the context of the introduction of the printing press and pointed out that everyone talked about the revolution without acknowledging what happens in the wake of great revolutions and how this was informing the collapsing nature of our business.

This is his quote:

“That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.”

The old stuff has broken before the new stuff is ready. Old stuff is certainly broken, many of our old media brands: ITV, The Independent, The Scotsman, Five Channel 4….in fact, outside the very deep pockets of News Corporation, the family commitment of Associated Newspapers, the unusual funding structures of The BBC -and the Guardian for that matter – just about everywhere the economy and broadband delivery are breaking bits of the media at an alarming pace….

Just to really cheer you up so far this year, and remember companies also cut jobs last year, 900 jobs have gone from newspaper groups, a similar amount from TV stations, a couple of hundred from magazines and radio – but this doesn’t include the many more casual contracts that have been terminated or the contributor budgets that have been cut.

All of this is very sad, but much of it is inevitable, and, more than that, once the pain has gone away and countless titles and brands have closed, which I still believe they will, there will be a new order of journalists and organisations, many of them shaping a future in a way which it is difficult for pre-revolutionary businesses to even imagine and whilst it might seem unsympathetic to say so we will look back in a few years time and wonder at why it took us so long to change.

We can carry on describing the problems journalism and news organisations face until the cows come home, or indeed are shipped off for slaughter in the wake of foot and mouth...

If there is not a cast iron solution, already, still in the depth of recession there are many clues, and clues are useful because cluelessness is one of the media’s key problems at the moment.

CLUE ONE – any communication organisation needs an audience. So find one. If you build it they won’t come because they are busy elsewhere. So go where the audiences is.

The idea that we can shepherd viewers or readers or listeners into one place at one time is gone – we all consume our news comment and analysis through many, many different sources.

If your audience is declining as it is for primetime analogue tv, newspapers, and radio stations, but reading, watching, listening is growing, as it really is, then go where the growth is, be on all platforms. Use Twitter, Facebook, mobile, youtube, podcasts, email and sms. Don’t be afraid to let your content go – what’s the worst that could happen.

Do not just do more of the same – Einstein’s definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

CLUE TWO – networks work better than silos. Rules of networks are that if you are a hub not a destination your traffic will be higher….the same is true of media outlets, the same is true of individual journalists or stories – if you are at the centre of your community not on the periphery, many people will go through you.

CLUE THREE – utility and reliability never go out of fashion and trustworthiness and transparency are crucial. When people know you will tell them something useful they will seek you out, when they know you are trustworthy they will tell you things so you can tell others. And journalism means journalists – trust is placed in people as well as brands.

Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor is an exponent of this – he is a tall poppy who has gathered a following which gives him 1m hits on every blog post – people want to find the good stuff and to have a personal relationship with a trusted source.

The internet allows that. But Robert Peston has a following because he is very well informed by his sources and can tell you things which, on the whole, other people can’t. He is a classic example of where the BBC, the country’s largest journalistic employer, is moving from a bulletin led model to a correspondent led model. They pay Peston to spend time understanding complex stories and cultivating sources… This is basic stuff but oh so important, and there can be no better use of a news organisation’s resource than allowing its journalists that space and time.

CLUE FOUR – Wikipedia is often a better historical source on news stories than news organisations themselves. There are two lessons here – one is that the news business is struggling to understand the language of the web, the second is that tools plus users equals content, both are key to the future of journalism.

Matt Waite is 32 and he has just won a Pulitzer Prize for his Politifact website for the St Petersburg Times in the US. It checks facts around what people in Washington put in their speeches. Matt is now a news technologist, but WAS an investigative reporter – he’s a brilliant example of how you can reinvent a strand of journalism in line with the way the web works..The site is based on DATA – and allows the user to study that data – it tells a story, not in the conventional way, but in a way more powerful on the web.

CLUE FIVE – not really a clue more a statement of the obvious, as Dan Gilmour, the famous media journalist said in his seminal book “we the media” “there’s always someone closer to the story than you”, or as my mum said, at the kitchen table, “whenever I read or see something I know anything about I’m always struck by how wrong it is”.

It amounts to the same thing – your readers and audience know and see more than you ever could. Find ways to let them add their knowledge.


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