The other day I wrote a piece about news aggregation and curation and found myself at the center of some pretty nasty comments. Newspaper writers, it seems, are worried that "curation" won't "save their ass."
Oh boy, that makes me sad.
I'll tell you why in a sec, but first - two quick stories.
About five years ago, my older son was pawing around in an old storage locker and came across something he thought was "cool." It was a record player. And, for a moment, I was nostalgic. Because records were cool. Those great cardboard covers - the great art, the sense of owning a piece of music that you could hold, store, share, cherish. CDs, just not the same. Where did all the album cover artists go? Did they stage a protest, write Op Ed's about the demise of their art? I kinda wish they had. I miss them. But, times move on.
Going back even further - when I first moved my company to New York, I had dinner with a friend of a friend that owned a very large video editing shop. All videotape-based machines, fifteen or more edit rooms. After a few drinks he exploded with a barrage of curses about the new-fangled "Avid" machines that would ruin the industry. "These kids, with computers, they think they can edit - but they're hacks" he ranted. The industry moved on, his facility went bust.
Railing against the march of time hardly ever goes well.
Yet today, between the Associated Press and the endless hand-wringing about either the end of newspapers or the end of Journalism, it seems that there's a lot of noise coming from folks who can only be called Luddites. (Ok, I'm going to get hate mail for that. Sorry.)
But here's the meat of this post:
Newspapers vs. The News.
Newspapers are in trouble. As a delivery mechanism they're going to go the way of the record album. Ink on Dead Tree, whether for an LP or the Sunday Times, just isn't going to survive. That's ok. Devices are slow in coming. But between the Kindle and the iPhone there's light at the end of the tunnel. Portable readers will evolve. The feeling of flipping through pages will go from being a common everyday occurrence to a luxury. Magazines will inherit the physical 'object' category. Newspapers, which by their nature need to be urgent and updated, will go digital.
Ok, now what about the News?
Here's the thing. People talk about MP3s in terms of their impact on the music business. And yes, labels are in terrible trouble. But music? Heck, I can't imagine a time in which music was more a part of our lives. The art form is thriving in all kinds of small, personal, niche ways. And as for the music business, well, that's kind of a mess.
Ditto News. I'm overwhelmed by the number of voices, sources, streams, conversations, and ideas that I'm exposed to. News is by any measure experiencing a golden age. The so-called 'business model' is upside down, and there's no doubt that there's going to be a gully between the time when advertisers spend money on the old audience delivery mechanism (heck, they call readers 'eyeballs'), and when they find new metrics and new methods in new media.
Bob Garfield, wrote a piece in Ad Age recently chronicling just how bad the economics of the current media landscape are. For anyone who's got a job, and a mortgage, and kids who need to pay for college, it is for sure a terrible state of affairs. But best as I can count, Bob has at least four jobs (host of On The Media, columnist for Ad Age, regular on the speakers circuit, and well-regarded author). And most of the writers I know who've got real chops have a blog, some royalties, a side gig, and a project or two in the works.
So, to sum up. News is changing. Delivery systems are changing. The noise level is increasing. Professional editors and publishers (curators) are in increasing demand. The Internet will replace inefficiencies in distribution and news-gathering (like 50 cameras at a lame news conference) with new focused, topical, regional, editorially coherent mechanisms.
Some media companies will downsize, innovate, embrace change, and emerge as bright new examples of participatory media. Keep an eye on those companies, bet on them, and if you're a brand manager, make sure your media buyers support that kind of innovation.
There's a bright future ahead. Being part of building that is something to be proud of.Steven Rosenbaum is the CEO and Co-Founder of Magnify.net - a fast-growing video publishing platform that powers more than 50,000 web sites, media companies, and content entrepreneurs to aggregate and curate web video from a wide variety of web sources. Currently Magnify.net publishes over 50,000 channels of Curated-Consumer Video, and is working closely with a wide variety of media makers, communities, and publishers in evolving their content offerings to include content created by, sorted and reviewed by community members. Rosenbaum is a serial entrepreneur, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, and well know innovator in the field of user-generated media production. Rosenbaum Directed and Executive Produced the critically acclaimed 7 Days In September, and his MTV Series Unfiltered is widely regarding as the first commercial use of Consumer Generated Video in US mass media. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org