Over the past two decades, the news has experienced several seismic technological shifts. Traditional news sources and organizations have been forced to reckon with these shifts in order to remain relevant as news sources, and in order to remain afloat as corporations. Some have failed; others have prevailed through adaptation to the current news climate. The successful news organizations of tomorrow will continue to be dynamic and flexible in their approaches toward consumers, business models, and their effects on democracy. Although it is a futile effort to simply guess at what tomorrow may or may not hold for the future of news organizations, the following are some guiding principles for successful news organizations, better democracy, and more informed consumers of information. In this sense, the following should not be seen as predictions of future events, but rather as prescriptions for tomorrow’s news organizations.
I. We Should Remain ‘Standing On The Shoulders of Giants’
Isaac Newton once wrote. “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” The “Giants” of print news, namely The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc., created the print news industry, as we know it. Media conglomerates such as ABC, NBC, and CBS laid the foundations for television news dissemination. Without these organizations, the news industry would be vastly different. Even more importantly, these news organizations must remain afloat in order to ensure the best news possible. While news outlets such as Google News or even the Huffington Post may be drawing consumers away from the sites of their traditional news counterparts, the “Giants” are often the first to break the most important stories. Moreover, the “Giants” have the global infrastructure to quickly, safely, and effectively disseminate news to consumers all around the world. They often also boast prize-winning editorialists who provide key insight and analysis on breaking news. While some believe that the “News Giants” are merely a relic of the past, the truth is that organizations like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the Associated Press not only created the modern news industry, but will also continue to shape the news industry of the future.
II. We Must Use Technology to Enhance Democracy, Not Profiteering
While the Internet has been used to market products and advertise goods to millions of consumers around the world, it should also be used as a means for responsible citizens to engage in public dialogue. We have seen the results of giving disenfranchised peoples a voice on the Internet in Egypt, Libya. Syria, and Bahrain. The Internet, especially it social media sites, offers great potential for information delivery and response. The Internet facilitates the delivery of important information and allows its users to respond with opinions, counterarguments, and critique. Successful media in the future must remain true to democratic ideals such as free speech in order to enjoy fully the benefits of the Internet as a mode of communication. Although it may be easy for news companies to use the Internet as a new forum for sales and profiteering, news organizations should always be mindful of their online actions (business or otherwise) and how those actions may enhance or hinder democracy.
III. Leave It To The Experts!
Amidst the cacophony of facts, opinions, and lies perpetually being disseminated via the Internet, there will arise a new niche of news organization: the subscription aggregators. These new news organizations will be charged with the task of distilling the “word vomit” of the Internet into clear, cohesive, and coherent news for consumption. The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report have already begun to experiment with this niche. I believe that as time goes on, consumers will increasingly rely on aggregators for reliable news. The consumer of the future may even have to pay for a third party to sift through the muck of information on the Internet and re-package his/her news in a clearer form. Leaving the selection of news to subscription aggregators or “the experts” may the most viable way for consumers to stay informed as the Internet, its resources, and its users increase in size, quality, and numbers, respectively.
No one can accurately describe what the news industry will look like in twenty or thirty years forward. The future of the news, media, and journalism will be spelled out over time. The principles described above can, and should, be used in order to maintain a free press that not only delivers a relevant product, but also respects consumers and enhances democracy.