Journalism as we know it will be disrupted — will this be the better way?
Like the TV before it, the internet changed the face of journalism. Print circulation went down, websites went up, and anyone with a blog competed to purvey information. Journalism that fills specific needs, like investigative reporting, may persist, but over the next 10 years, the person trained in being a journalist will fade in importance as the democratization of the news disrupts journalism as we know it. Like all technology made obsolete by a better way to do things more efficiently, old-fashioned journalism is dying, but for good reasons.
Technology will continue to democratize the news
Perhaps journalism as a medium isn’t dying but rather the idea of non-experts acting as journalists and reporting on matters that they don’t understand. The capacity of the internet to host information, along with the ease of reporting events as they happen, will democratize the news. Already, witnesses on the scene can report information faster (and often, more accurately) than the professional media. As a light example, I posted a video of a palm tree bending at almost 90 degrees on Twitter during a hurricane, and The Weather Channel reached out to me for permission to use it. My direct experience of a hurricane was more valuable to viewers than a weather reporter discussing the storm from states away.
The eyewitnesses are the people.
A news organization capturing and distributing information can never satisfy the insatiable need for more and faster content. When TripAdvisor emerged, for example, its creators knew there was no way they could list every single bar in every country in the world by themselves, so they democratized it. The companies’ owners set themselves up with a business page, and users add value with current photos and reviews. All TripAdvisor did was create a directory; the world populated it.
Concepts like TripAdvisor could never function as a single entity that creates and distributes its own content. People are always begging for more, and there aren’t enough journalists to keep up with demand — content on that scale can only be user-generated. But by leveraging the technology available to them, anyone with the skills can curate the right news stories told by the right series of experts and become the next big trusted name in news.
Related: The Beginner’s Guide to User-Generated Content
Rising demand for accountability will thin the herd
Media organizations need to focus on providing value to their readers. Part of Google’s intent in its 2018 update was to better safeguard content with the potential to affect a user’s happiness, health, financial stability, and safety so it would improve those conditions, not threaten them. As a result, the major media platforms that relied on unverified contributor content needed to hire writers with more authority or have their work verified by experts in the field.
This new system was put in place to protect readers and prevent publications from spreading false information or “fake news.” People deserve to hear the truth from sources qualified to give it, but providing value to people’s lives also keeps them coming back. A high-quality Google rank connects you with more potential readers and builds a trustworthy reputation. It reflects a commitment to authoritative content that keeps loyal readers returning to the publication for the benefit and added value the content brings to their life.
Sensationalism will always sell, but maybe the face of sensationalism will change as the demand for accountability in the news rises. If Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have a public disagreement or conflict, this will still likely result in a clickbait headline that sells. At least, in a democratized media, Bezos and Musk or people who witnessed it will be the ones describing the conflict — meaning users can trust the content as coming from a reliable source.
Related: 10 Telltale Phrases That Indicate Somebody Isn’t Telling the Truthhttp://www.basebaba.com
Straight from the expert means more facts and fewer middlemen
If expert opinion is what people want from the news, business journalism will be the future of democratized business news. In the majority of news stories, the media already calls upon industry experts to corroborate their reporting. Eventually, the news desk will simply cut out the middlemen, and the expert guest will become the journalist.
If all the experts need is a platform to convey their expertise, the journalist becomes obsolete. A financial trader turns to Barron’s or The Wall Street Journal because their authors are people who have actually made money living and breathing the trends, not yoga moms with three kids writing contributor content. The media companies that will thrive are those finding expert sources to generate the news, not the other way around.
If you can accumulate the top experts across every vertical and churn out authoritative content, there is no better source point. If I want to learn about startups, I’d be better off reading content produced by an entrepreneur with 12 startups under his belt than the reporter behind a desk with a degree in journalism. Bob the local fisherman might be the best source to report on the flood in the marina, and with the right platforms giving him a voice, he can.
The emergence of new needs in the face of journalism’s death will come with innovative solutions. A new blockchain-based news app may come along to verify a user’s expertise profile so anyone can become an authoritative reporter, and those outlets providing the most value in their content will rise to the top of the pack.
News organizations will become aggregators of news, people will look to experts in their field for information, and the traditional model of a trained journalist telling stories they aren’t familiar with will start to fade away. Journalism as we know it will die because the democratized news taking its place will be better.
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