Bulletins from the Future

There is a very good analytical and informative piece in this week’s Economist by Tom Standage (unusual for The Economist to say who wrote a piece) about the future of the news industry.

I was at The Economist a couple of weeks ago and knew the report was coming. It is comprehensive, and I recommend it.

Clay Shirky makes a good point in the piece about newspaper paywalls acting like castles around old models. So the old model does not have to change.

Commentators argue that newspapaper business models will not be fixed until the editorial model is changed. So newspapers need to become more relevant. Some are undergoing radical redesigns, abandoning traditional sections and arranging the newspaper around themes that correspond to the way readers think, with a magazine-like emphasis on analysis and storytelling, Tom Standage explains.

A Brazilian paper, Corrreio da Bahia, underwent a change and embraced four new sections offering a news summary, ‘More’, ‘Life’ and Sport.

This got me thinking….

1. Company web sites in the main are still based on old models. They too need to change to become more relevant.

2. The communications operations of companies need to be radically redesigned, traditional methods need to be abandoned and communications need to be re-organised around new platforms and new themes that correspond to what customers and other stakeholders are interested in.

For editorial to change both in newspapers and company communications, minds have to change. Senior executives have to understand and embrace the new paradigm of news and information sharing.

I’m not sure this can happen if large corporations continue to hire senior communications executives who lack curiosity and a willingness to explore and engage with the new emerging world of communications.

A few other key points I noticed in the report: newspapers are on the rise in China, South Africa, Brazil, and India, which underlines how in certain territories companies need to weight their operations more towards traditional communications.

Referrals from social networks are now the fastest growing source of traffic for many news web sites.

While not everyone is on Twitter, the news is on Twitter.  And Twitter has considerable influence within the new news ecosystem. If you are a company without a strategic Twitter platform – as opposed to simply being on Twitter – then you risk being irrelevant and losing influence.

We are seeing more and more social media editors appointed on traditional media publications. Especially in the US.

The internet is making news more participatory, social, diverse and partisan, reviving the discursive ethos of the era before mass media.

While there are concerns about the facts and sources of information, The Economist welcomes this fundamental change: ‘… there is much to celebrate in the noisy, diverse, vociferous, argumentative and stridently alive environment of the news business in the age of internet. The coffee house is back. Enjoy it’.

Despite the risks and the tough disruption it presents, ItsOpen, through its own consulting and through the Social Media Leadership Forum we set up and run, encourages companies to enjoy the new environment. So, just to repeat, enjoy the new free conversations and start participating!