Chris Brogan’s vision of a new media entity

Chris Brogan isn’t — and as far as I know has never been — a journalist. He’s a new-media marketing consultant and the founder of Podcamp (his bio is here). When I saw that he had written a blog post about what a “new media” company of the future might look like, I confess that I was expecting something with a focus primarily on marketing (perhaps that was unfair, but there it is). What Chris came up with, however, is very similar to what I see when I think about the future of the online media business — a business that takes advantage of what the online world allows, rather than treating it as an afterthought. Among other things, Chris says such an entity would realize that:

  • Stories are points in time [and] don’t end at publication.
  • Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff.
  • Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc.
  • Everything must be portable and mobile-ready.
  • Everything must have collaborative opportunities.
  • Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue.

Be sure to read the whole thing. A good debate is already emerging in the comments.

Me on a panel at U of T tonight

If you’re in Toronto and you’re interested in the future of journalism, and how it’s being affected by blogs and other forms of “social media” or “crowdsourcing” or “citizen journalism” — or whatever we’re calling it now — feel free to brave the sudden return of winter and come on by the University of Toronto tonight for what I hope will be a lively and informative discussion.

Yours truly is on a panel with my friend and former National Post journalist Mark Evans and advertising buyer Hugh Dow, on a panel moderated by the lovely and talented Amber MacArthur, the new media specialist for CityNews. It’s at the Robert Gill Theatre at 241 College Street and attendance is free, but seating is limited. You can register here.

The future of newspapers — a Q&A

Michael Urlocker, a former Bay Street technology analyst who is now a management consultant, has a relatively new blog called On Disruption, and an interest in how industries such as media are being disrupted by Web technologies. He and I got talking via email about how newspapers are (or should be) dealing with some of the forces that are acting on them — something I’ve been writing and thinking a fair bit about, and something we talked about at the mesh conference last month — and then it kind of turned into an email Q & A about those issues, which Mike has posted on his blog. Here’s an excerpt:

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Web is one of the biggest growth areas, and one that news organizations of all kinds need to find some way of working with. Not that people won’t continue to read newspapers, because they will — in the same way people still go to the theatre to see plays. There are just a whole lot fewer people doing that than there used to be, and anyone in the theatre business or the play business has had to deal with that change somehow.

To me, a news organization has to focus on what its core skills are — whether it’s breaking news, investigative journalism, social and cultural coverage, opinion and analysis, political coverage or local news, or some combination of all those things. If anything, people need the kind of filtering and aggregating and analyzing function that newspapers bring to the table even more now that there is a firehose of information coming at us on the Web. News may increasingly be a commodity, but context is more important than ever.

If you need any evidence that newspapers are in a world of hurt, Mike has links to some nice (or not so nice) graphs, including this one — which tracks readership declines from 1964 to 1997 — and one which shows the decline from 1999 to last year. It’s interesting to note that the industry has seen the same size of decline in the past seven years (about 10 percentage points) as it saw in the previous 30 years.

Mike also points to these recent comments from legendary value investor Warren Buffett:

“Newspapers face the prospect of seeing their earnings erode indefinitely. It’s unlikely that at most papers, circulation or ad pages will be larger in five years than they are now. That’s even true in cities that are growing. But most owners don’t yet see this protracted decline for what it is.

It’s hard to make money buying a business that’s in permanent decline. If anything, the decline is accelerating. Newspaper readers are heading into the cemetery, while newspaper non-readers are just getting out of college. The old virtuous circle, where big readership draws a lot of ads, which in turn draw more readers, has broken down.”