From suppliers to content distributors
Jun 24, 2011
SEO richest words: companies
Transforming Traditional Journalism: Embracing Collaborative Content and Local Bloggers to Adapt in the Digital Age
Rarely is a sector of any industry prepared for changes that shake the core of its activity. For example, pre-Gutenberg Catholic copyists could hardly comprehend that their activity would become obsolete with the invention of the press. Manufacturers of items such as typewriters, combustion engine carburetors, and polishers could not envision a world without their products. Football team masseurs did not imagine that science would introduce new ways to prevent injuries. Traditional journalism is facing the same issue. However, if we avoid Freudian denial, solutions can be found.
Large journalistic companies are beginning to find their greatest asset - the infrastructure - becoming a burden due to the costs they incur. With the audience shifting to new media, the difficulties in finding alternative revenues exacerbate the problem. However, the greatest challenge might be to let go of the profitable past to make conjectures and plans for the new scenario.
The production of collaborative content is one solution. A newspaper in Vermont, USA, the Burlington Free Press, has a nearly bicentennial history. It is one of the examples of the freedom that the country enjoyed until the beginning of the 80s when the freedom of press and market still made Americans the most progressive society in the world. The country had thousands of circulating newspapers with over 100,000 daily copies, and virtually every city of over 10,000 inhabitants had at least one local newspaper that operated professionally.
Worldwide (even in countries with a much more mature newspaper market than Brazil), the local newspaper sector was the hardest hit by the emergence of digital media. The global reach of the Internet broadened people's horizons, and local journalism began to seem nonsensical, at least commercially. Advertisers (even local ones) began to find other ways to reach their audiences, newspaper readerships fell, and large trading groups arrived in smaller cities, eliminating local traders. Of course, by indiscriminately adopting the use of news agencies (and scrapping their newsrooms), local newspapers had already shot themselves in the foot, killing their competitive advantage - the journalist who knew the local problems and circumstances - but that's another story.
In competition with the universe of global news, the Free Press site is quite simple, which is to be expected when a small business is pitted against global titans. However, the competition shifts in the publication's favor in the department of editorial blogs. There, the newspaper relinquishes some of its control but gains a new type of reader, interested in the discussion of matters more related to the community by people who are in the community, and yet, endorsed by the brand of a newspaper they trust.
The feature of the Free Press blogs shares similarities with the Guardian and the BBC, and despite being a good idea, it is not exploited as well as it could be (I explain this below). The blogs rely on the reputation of good journalists, something that only a media body can provide. The part of giving up editorial control is what catches in the hierarchy of the companies because, in his blog, the journalist is the king. Of course, one should not expect a journalist from TV network X to speak ill of it (or rather one should expect that, but for obvious reasons, it does not happen), but there is more independence, at least regarding the general news.
When we talk about local coverage, then, blogs should significantly fill the gap left by the large publications, which aim to give cities national coverage, while they do not talk about what happens on their street. The ability to investigate is limited to the local as long as there is no discovery in physics that alters that. Vermont residents have every reason to trust someone who is there, and not in some technological hub in Bangalore.
This is where it gets interesting: the bloggers, who thanks to technological advancement ate the shins of traditional media just as rodents did with the dinosaurs that did not have nervous systems throughout their bodies, could be a great tool for these groups. Networks of content producers - remunerated, of course (because the story of "You Reporter" is simply a roundup of slave labor) - could perfectly give the big communication groups the capillarity they do not have. Large communication networks do this with stringers, journalists without an effective employment link but who can be activated in regions where there is no office or correspondent. Between bloggers and occasional content providers, everyone could come out winning.
The establishment of networks of non-formal content providers stumbles upon Mesozoic labor legislation (going back to talking about dinosaurs...) that could create problems for those trying to solve them. But the corrupt inefficiency of the government, as well as the self-inflicted wound mentioned a few paragraphs above, is also another story.
One thing seems to become increasingly clear: the time of a few companies holding 70/80% of the audience is over. The distribution of this audience made the game less authoritarian (it is not democratic yet, because the chances in the game are far from being equal), and the dinosaurs will have to learn, for better or worse, to share the profits to which they got accustomed in the time of concessions decided in political deals, cartels, and monopolies. For those who shed the antiquated shell faster, the chance of survival in the new environment becomes much greater.