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Thought-provoking insights: The Future of Journalism

I bookmarked the following article earlier today: The Root Of The Matter: Emily Bell on The Future of Journalism.

It’s an excellent summary of a lecture by Emily Bell (head of digital content at Guardian News and Media). She recently presented this lecture at University College Falmouth, where she was just appointed visiting professor in the media degrees program. Her topic: “Journalism Ten Years From Now” – great insights.

Some excerpts from The Root of the Matter‘s write-up:

Unlike net-culture visionary Clay Shirky, though, Emily doesn’t think that print journalism has no future. Print will remain an important part of reaching the audience – but it will not be the primary conduit for journalism in ten years’ time. Instead, going by the ‘clues’ we can pick up from the way journalism is changing today, journalism in ten years will have some or all of the following characteristics:

1. It will go where the audience is.
2. Journalism will be networked, not siloed
3. Journalists will need to be very reliable and trustworthy
4. Journalists will need to be ready to share information whenever they have it and in whatever way will communicate it best to the audience
5. Journalism will no longer be possible without the audience

Bell also discusses the business model for journalism of the future: where will the money come from to support it? And there are some very surprising insights here, starting with “News has never been profitable.”

Emily pointed out that all this is well and good, but what most people want to know is: where will the money come from to pay for all this professional, multi-platform, ‘always-on’ journalism?
1. News has never been profitable
2. There is no point asking people to pay for online content; they won’t
3. Advertising won’t go away

There’s also coverage of the audience’s questions:

There followed a Q&A, which covered questions including:
1. Will we see an increasing in ‘entrepreneurial journalism’?
2. What is Emily’s view of user-generated journalism?
3. Here in Cornwall there is a big digital divide – a lot of people do not have broadband/internet access. How will journalism serve their needs in the digital age?
4. How does Emily deal with information overload?

Each of the above points has commentary provided by The Root of the Matter, so be sure to click through to read those bits, but here’s the answer Bell gave to #3 in the Q&A:

The real challenge – for journalists and politicians – will be how to get information to those who currently choose not to receive it.

When I read that last bit, I thought, “BINGO! She nails it.” It also made me think that broadcast media as we knew it in the 20th century was a kind of bully, or a bully pulpit – difficult to escape from. Now it seems easier to escape – even though information and access to it is in many ways ubiquitous to the point of being ambiant and always there. But some people really couldn’t care less if the news finds them. That also makes it harder for news and information to share its value.


  1. Hi Yule –

    This is interesting. I wonder, too, if people’s lack of interest in news is related to their feeling detached from their community. If you feel you have a reall stake in Victoria (Saanich, etc. ) you will want to know what’s happening. If not you won’t. Some for voting, etc. of course.

    – Adrian

    Comment by adrian chamberlain — May 9, 2009 #

  2. Hi Adrian, thanks for commenting. I think there is a certain amount of stake-less-ness: I’m reminded of a post by Boris Mann from a couple of weeks ago, where he wrote about the tech community in Vancouver. He’d like to see them stake a bit more of a claim as Vancouverites, i.e., in the community, but the fact is that many of them work “in the cloud,” for example on contract to companies that could be anywhere. So they live in Vancouver for the lifestyle or scenery or whatever, but they’re not as committed to making the place succeed as perhaps previous generations whose members worked in factories or belonged to the Rotary Club or volunteered at the kids’ school PTA.
    At the same time, that whole issue (of whether or not you pay attention to local news, for example) also touches on a couple of buzzwords that are very current: attention economy, which spans news and advertising; and curating/curation of information, which relates to signal-to-noise ratios.
    There’s more, but my head is buzzing right now, ’cause I just got back from an evening of poetry at St.John the Divine, of The Beat Thing, 2 1/2 hours of spoken word, amazing stuff, topped off by David Meltzer’s reading.
    Now that was signal, definitely, and somehow digital can’t quite replicate the whole of it. As they say, You had to be there…! 🙂

    Comment by Yule — May 9, 2009 #

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