There is no doubt that technology changes the way we think; this is not a novel observation, nor is it limited to the technologies of today.
Take the advent of writing, for example. The shift from oral tradition to the written word helped to advance language, turned our thoughts inward, and allowed us to process information at our own pace.
The natural liaise from the written word was to the printed one. One of the world’s greatest technological advancements, the Gutenberg press, brought written language to the masses and, arguably, helped to bring down entire class systems and systems of oppression by offering a more equal opportunity to consume information.
Today, just as hungry for information as we’ve ever been, we enter into a new phase in the evolution of content consumption. At the turn of the last century, content hit a boom. Books were more affordable than ever, and a proliferation of small-time proprietors set up competing newspapers in burgeoning cities across the U.S. The influx of information resulted in increased consumption, which in turn fattened the pockets of newspapermen. As the industry grew, smaller media companies were swallowed up by larger ones and eventually everything consolidated into a handful of information super-hubs that were controlled by a small group of elite editors.
Then, something peculiar happened. “Then, into the world comes digital media, publishing, and then social media comes along – and guess what we’re back to? Small proprietors, bloggers, doing their thing again,” said Lewis DVorkin, Chief Product Officer of Forbes, at the thinkLA Trends Breakfast on Tuesday November 19th, 2013.
DVorkin pointed out that journalism, which is driven by technology and economics, no longer follows a traditional media model because publishers can no longer afford to send text from “editor to editor to the city desk.” The demand for information as soon as it is available means that production value has gone down – but this is not without an upside. This new consumption model rewards authenticity and the human voice above all else.
“The new newsroom is complicated yet simple,” said DVorkin. The thread that ties it all together is data. “Every line you see is a piece of data that is going back to editors and writers of the story. That data is telling you what people are interested in, what people want. Informing the type of audience that you have.”
If publishers want to keep up, they must change the way they collect information. “[Company] cultures need to change,” said DVorkin. For Forbes, that meant changing the model from “publishing from the top down, to the audience on up.”
DVorkin predicts an online world without editors: “The internet is self-filtering. If it’s wrong, someone else will point it out. You need to be the marketer, the writer, the promoter, the publisher,” he said.
So what’s the bottom line? If you’re a publisher, get rid of antiquated systems. Use data not to rule what you do, but to inform what you do. Allow users to comment and participate – build a self-assessing community. Understand that authenticity is king and tread carefully with native advertising.
Lastly, know that readers will not find your content through your website. They’ll get to it via social media like Facebook and LinkedIn because they want to read content that was recommended by a friend or trusted colleague. Above all, understand that mobile will be a very, very big part of keeping people on your site – which is the biggest challenge the media business faces.