The media industry has not been very optimistic about the future, and that is understandable.
Despite the crisis, I would say this is the best of times to be a journalist.
Here I list five reasons why this is a good moment for the media industry:
1. Against the odds, there is money coming to journalism. As the print model is declining, the media industry is looking for new sources of revenue. Vice Magazine flirtation with brand content is attracting a myriad of investors, from the A+E Networks to the huge British communication group WPP. After a new round of investments last month, the once hipster-underground magazine claims to be valued at more than US$ 2,5 billion. Another enterprise, Buzzfeed raised US$ 50 million at the end of August from Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. These are examples of some companies that are more than just surviving.
2. This is a time of experimentation: While ad dollars fly away from magazines and newspapers, some billionaires from the tech world are trying to reshape journalism companies. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who bought The Washington Post last year, wants the paper to expand its reach and is soon transforming it in an Amazon product. Another billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, has invested US$ 250 million in the new enterprise First Media Look, which has in the front Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA/Snowden story. As it is said in this article, Omidyar plans is to hire big names to back up a big brand, which is what First Media Look aims to be. It will be interesting to see the impact of these entrepreneurs on the media space in a few years.
3. New skills, new roles: as digital becomes more prominent, other disciplines, such as design and coding, are being embraced by the world of journalism and hacks are expected to master new skills. And new roles are emerging too: from news curators to visual storytellers, from data journalists to developers, the possibilities are much broader than it used to be. And this is good news.
4. Everyone is trying to innovate. And that’s exciting: The New York Times launched earlier this year The Upshot, a website “to help readers navigate the news”. It is a separate website from the NYT’s home webpage, mainly data-driven, and attempt to use data as a tool to help “clarify reality”. What a task! Here in Britain, the 126-year-old Financial Times is reshaping the newspaper for the digital age. Now, production journalists at the paper “publish stories to meet peak viewing times on the web rather than old print deadlines“.
5. The boundaries are blurred (and that’s good!): this is not a time for silos. There is no longer print and digital, TV and radio operating in separate universes. Have a look on what Condé Nast has done: the once magazine publisher launched last year a division focused on digital video and entertainment. The company is struggling to make that work, but that isn’t surprising: such a move couldn’t be easy. The good news is that the industry knows digital content is the future. Condé Nast will have to find the best talents to help them work it out – and there is where we, journalists who are looking attentively to the changes in our industry, will fit in.
Of course the media industry is not just about good news. Far from that. Just a week ago, NYT announced cutbacks in staff. Bezos at the Washington Post hired 100 journalists while cutting pensions and other retirement benefits for current employees.
These are tough times too, but certainly an opportunity for those who are excited about change and passionate about learning.
Featured image: Photo by Got Credit