For all of the talk about ‘the future of news’, we’re actually already in that ‘future’ right now.
This was the opening argument at this week’s “The shapeshift of tech media: why, how and where to now?” event, organised by EML Wildfire with the PRCA, in what proved to be a wide-reaching and thought-provoking overview of the state of the industry today.
For that is where we are – with multi-platform access and declining ad revenues very much a reality, the subject of the tech media’s direction and strategy is all about the here and now.
Leading the discussion was a panel of some the tech media’s most influential journalists: Matt Warman (The Telegraph), Duncan Geere (Wired.co.uk), Bobbie Johnson (GigaOM), Bryan Glick (Computer Weekly) and Mike Simons (ComputerWorld UK).
To monetise or not to monetise?
Earlier this year, I attended the Guardian Open Weekend where there was a clear indication of the publication’s positive progress towards integrating with technology and remaining a relevant force in the future.
While much has been made of The Guardian and The Daily Mail’s successful use of online content and social media integration, the question was raised of whether this actually resulted in revenue generation, and how publications can really achieve this.
Publications simply can’t get away with charging for content if their competitors don’t, and even if they all charged for access to content, readers have never paid for it; they’ve simply paid for the platform (the paper itself) they used to access it.
The publications that will ultimately be the most financially successful are those that start with a clean business model – those that try to plug new tech into their archaic business models are destined to fail… if they haven’t already.
Of course, tied closely to revenue is the proliferation of mobile devices used to read articles. 12% of ComputerWeekly’s traffic comes via mobile devices, but there is still a learning process for what content works best on these platforms.
Similarly, the general consensus with the use of social media was that traffic generation is minimal, but it does add the extra dimension of opening up interaction between journalists and readers – arguably a crucial component for the future buoyancy of this industry.
Has digital destroyed the long form?
Just as I found at the Guardian Open weekend in March, the issue of the need for long-form journalism was something that provoked a wealth of discussion.
The notion that a time-pressed, mobile-savvy audience is only interested in short, snappy news pieces was completely dismissed.
Instead, there has been a growth in the appetite for in depth investigative journalism, with more long-form content available digitally than in print.
The future of tech media
Arguably, the area of tech journalism is emerging from a trough that has seen its landscape change dramatically. Certainly, the interest and the resources are there to ensure a bright future, if they are utilised properly.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent points of the evening came from Bryan Glick. Tech journalists write about how technology is changing the world of business, while the world of technology changes the business of journalism.
Given that they have arguably the best all-round view of the path of the industry, surely they are best placed to adapt accordingly? Time will tell.