Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Disruption

Posted on | June 22, 2006 | No Comments

Rick Edmonds at the Poynter Institute has a great essay/overview on the future of news. It’s part of a broader coverage of a conference Poynter held on the topic with leading editors from across the country.

I’ve just begun diving into this coverage at the Poynter site but Edmonds‘ opener is rich with insight, some of it troubling. It gets me to thinking of the whole notion of disruption in business. Many of you are probably familiar with Clayton Christensen’s books on the topic, The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution.

If you’re not, it boils down to this: successful companies are prone to being disrupted by new business models and technologies precisely because of what makes them successful: a focus on the customer. In addition, “good enough” can displace great if the price or utility is right.

In the newspaper business, there hasn’t been a youth movement for years, as anyone cool enough to want to be a journalist migrated into television, where there were jobs and money. “Print” is populated by people who’ve been in the game a long time. And newspaper people are by nature skeptical, so any new media that come along have hard time winning adherents in traditional media companies. (Plus the structure doesn’t really exist in media companies to be flexible and fast to offer new types of media (see earlier ramblings)).

Add to that the rise of the Internet and cheap publishing tools and, voila, media disruption. And it’s not just disruptive to print. Think of America‘s Funniest Home Videos–really popular TV show whose lunch is being devoured by sites such as YouTube and Revver. And it’s being eaten by a demographic that has money to spend.

On thing, however, that IS in the win column for traditional media that the need for objective (and investigative) reporting is more important than ever. Societies have always looked to authoritative voices for guidance, be it a tribal elder, a priest or a council. (Yeah, yeah, I know objective media, such as it is, is really only a 150-year-old phenomenon, but I like to think its value has become timeless).

But it’s imperative that media do a much better job at creating community and working within it, and that’s not something media has been particularly good at. It’s no longer just about reporting the news. It’s about being five-tool players. And that screed will wait until tomorrow.

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