Sunday, 11 August 2013

Changing Media Landscape

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales is proposing to fix journalism... all ideas welcome
The Wikimania conference wrapped up in Hong Kong today, with over 500 people from 90 countries attending.

Co-founder Jimmy Wales addressed the crowd and proposed an interesting question -- journalism is broken. How can we fix it?

"This is one of the greatest journalistic opportunities of the century. That we live in an era where possibility to expose wrongdoing is great... these are serious times and we deserve serious journalism," he told a packed auditorium. "The question is, is it possible to fix this, and what is our role in all of this?"

He was wondering aloud about a publicly funded journalistic enterprise, what it would look like and how it would function. He imagined professional journalists and the community being on equal footing -- or even where the community was the boss.

"Wikipedia is good at this sort of thing," he said. "We tend to avoid the tabloid nonsense and get to the important facts. If you go and you read the Wikipedia entry on Edward Snowden... Our main headline is not, Edward Snowden, who's he dating now?"

During his speech Wales presented several news clippings that showed the gossipy, sensationalist side of the story. He hopes instead that through some kind of partnership, there would be more stories of substance and quality rather than many of the shallow articles we're seeing now.

"The solution for journalism isn't going to be a purely volunteer effort, in the way Wikipedia is," Wales said. "A lot of journalism involves getting out to interview people, to produce stories, and that's really hard to do without a salary, without support. So the right way forward is some way that's a hybrid model."

We agree that when it comes to the internet, sites like Yahoo, Google News and MSN Hotmail are putting up certain stories to get clicks for advertising dollars, and these are mostly tailored to young people, thus the strange skewing towards wanting to know the latest exploits of Kim Kardashian.

But there are others like The Economist, The Atlantic and The New Yorker that are doing alright -- and these are the ones with long-form stories with quality journalism. These readers are not interested in knowing how much weight the Duchess of Cambridge has lost since she gave birth.

We already have a sort of hybrid relationship with the community, thanks to their online comments or Facebook posts that give journalists an idea of what's happening or tips on story ideas. While Wales points out today the public has a direct line to the media, we do need to figure out how to use it more effectively.

More importantly, how are media outlets supposed to be able to financially survive in this fast-changing climate? When The Boston Globe was sold for only $70 million when The New York Times bought it in 1993 for $1.1 billion?

What are Jeff Bezos' plans for The Washington Post?
What's even more interesting is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' personal acquisition of The Washington Post for $250 million this week from the Graham family that owned it for eight decades.

While he says things aren't going to change much at first, Bezos has hinted there will be some experimentation. We are interested to see what he'll do and if it'll work. Everyone has been trying to figure out how to monetize the news and make a profit. Now it's Bezos' turn.

Does he understand the news business? Does he appreciate what it takes to make good journalism?

We shall find out soon enough.

There are many ideas on how to fix journalism out there this week. May the best man (or woman) win.

No comments:

Post a Comment