What’s new in news- and who’s doing it?
25 October 2018
By Jacqui Park
There’s plenty of chatter in news media about innovation - of the business model, of the product design and of the nature of the journalism craft. We’ve been on the journey of disruption for more than a decade, yet we are still far from knowing just what media and journalism should look like.
What has happened so far? What are the experiments that provide the the building blocks for the future. This calls for a sort of map that shows: who’s doing what; Where are they doing it; What’s working; What’s not; and what’s journalism for today?
As a senior fellow I’ll be working with the Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology, Sydney to chart out this sort of map of the journalism challenge and innovation scene so we can see where we are and to help work out how we get to where we need to be.
What will we do?
To craft this sort of an innovation map, we will:
Identify the major challenges people are trying to solve in journalism and how they are innovating to do it.
Identify key Australian/New Zealand developments and personalities working in each of these trends, whether as individuals, start-ups or in existing media organisations
Identify and review programs here and globally that foster and support innovation in journalism;
Provide ideas on how to understand the ongoing changes by tracking how significant innovators and innovations understand the challenge of building sustainable and useful journalism;
Develop a framework for innovation with recommendations: What are the problems to be solved? How do we identify best practice in news media innovation? What actually is it? How does it link into current practice?.
Identify the key centres in the Asia-Pacific and highlight journalism developments and innovative news media in those centres.
Where are we now?
Innovation in the media in the face of disruption is at a pivot point: The two initial waves of innovation have crashed - the foundational strategy to build a sustainable mass model around digital advertising and the subsequent attempt to develop tools to piggyback on the giant digital platforms as distribution tools.
Effectively, both of these failed because, at heart, they were attempts to shoe-horn old mass media of the 20th century into emerging digital frameworks. They under-estimated the power of social in digital media and, perhaps, didn’t do enough pre-planning to put the needs and desires of the user at the centre of journalism design.
Now innovation in journalism involves rethinking journalism with the reader, listener, viewer -- the engaged citizen -- in mind, with thinking about “what’s is the job they are seeking us to do?” At the same time, the traditional enemies of a free press are attempting to exploit lack of trust and traditional disengagement, requiring us to rethink how to entrench trust in what we do.
Right now, around the world, journalists are embracing this pivot by innovating:
The business model: Advertising was great while it lasted (and it may still work for some), but now we need to reach to our readers, our listeners, our viewers for revenues -- paywalls, subscriptions, donations, memberships. This cannot be understood as simply shifting our marketing focus from advertisers to readers. It demands a rethink of the relationship. It means shifting from the traditional business-to-business model to a business-to-consumer model, building, on a almost reader by reader.
It’s more than sales. It’s deep engagement. It’s a different journalism model. Innovators are using AI and crawler bots to drive audience-of-one journalism and blockchain to bring the audience into the editorial conference. But more than anything it is a strategic question that each media organisation must come to terms with.
Inputs: New digital tools let us transcend the traditional institutions. Innovators are embracing data. They are constructing deep dive tools. They are experimenting with AR and VR, “open source” journalism, mining social media for stories to tell.
Distribution: The social web provides new tools for telling stories -- chat, voice, messaging apps, the social platforms -- even our old friend email -- as well as the ways of merging the traditional text, sound and vision.
Structure of the craft: Journalists are innovating with new ways of structuring a story with deep background, choose your own adventure maps, open-ended conclusions, engaging the audience from story selection to news gathering.
Nailing the truth: Without credibility, journalism is worthless. In the face of the “fake news” attack, journalists are innovating new ways to fact check, block falsehoods and build trust in what we do.
And what can we learn from cases specific to Europe, Asia and North America (eg reader revenues, data journalism, deep dives, audience of one, bots, blockchain, models to promote democracy)
How will we do it?
We’ll be seeking to tease out how each organisation sees the role of journalism today, and the challenges and priorities for them, what each organisation is doing (or intending to do), what they are trying to achieve and how they see their future. This will enable us to map the existing innovation ecosystem, identify gaps as well as experiences and trends we can share and learn from.
We are looking particularly for news media that is framing the challenges in new and revealing ways and experimenting and innovating to secure the future of journalism. We’ll:
Interview leading innovators, media researchers and thinkers, and funders of journalism models here and globally;
Analyse the innovation ecosystem in Australia and evaluate its impact and effectiveness; Sift through the experimentation to see what can be learnt;
Review programs and efforts to foster innovation in journalism; Interview leading editors and journalism leaders about how they understand innovation and its challenges and their plans to face these challenges.
What do I need from you?
If you’ve read this, I reckon you’re on the same sort of journey. Be in touch -- and I’ll be in touch with you. The best way to answer these big questions is if we do it together.