Will we drown in a Sea of Mediocracy? / The Future of the Newspaper Companies in the Age of Social Media

newspapers

The Movie

Just recently I watched the Movie “PressPausePlay”, an Open Source movie with famous artists like Moby, Seth Godin, and then also some less famous up-and-coming ones. It talks about the future and current state of Art – Music, Movies, Texts and how they are produced and how people could potentially live from it.

It makes several statements:

  • free ideas spread faster and wider than those that require payments
  • everybody can contribute now and art is becoming democratized

Based on this it also raises some questions:

  • Do we drown in a sea of mediocracy if everybody shares and most of them do not have talent?
  • Also unknown artists can potentially make a living out of music and become famous now more easily as opposed to before – the (music / film / …) industry as a gatekeeper is dead

The best example of those theories are the ones in the movie and also the (open source and free) movie itself – check it out for yourself on vimeo (see below) or on their website www.presspauseplay.com

PressPausePlay from House of Radon on Vimeo.

newspapers
Newspaper boxes (source (1))

The Questions

I also took these questions to a barcamp on Social Media and even went one step further: if it is possible to still make money in different way with music (e.g. pay-what-you-want, concerts) and books (publish online free and pay for hardcopy) as proven in the movie – what about newspapers and journalism? How can people live off that in the future? What is the role of Social Media in this?

Apparently the big German magazine and online newspaper “Der Spiegel” already had the debate and decided against paid content. In general most German news agencies seem to also not have found a good approach for this problem and did not quite get the internet yet, as a series of interviews at the internet conference re:publica suggests. My brother is also working in the journalist world on a more prominent scale and asked me how journalism should actually embrace and deal with Social Media to be ready for the future (which is already happening NOW mostly btw!)

The Answers

In our discussion on the barcamp we came to the conclusion that we will probably not drown in a sea of mediocracy since we still have some gatekeepers for topics that we are not personally the expert in – we have experts or friends we trust or who just happen to dig out interesting content and share it with us over social media. These experts may gain their reputation in different ways – by knowing much about the topic or simply by being so connected and linking to interesting content all the time – this happens through social media. It might also simply be friends. This keeps us from information overflow. Depending on our interest in the topic we can still dig deeper into it and potentially become such a trusted expert ourselves. The platform of Klout is going in this area and even giving out company-sponsored rewards on the basis of your Klout Score! We will still see if this is really the direction it should go into … Just remember to also stick your head out of this information stream every once in a while!

As for the newspapers and their future: in different countries newspapers already work profitably online and gain a lot of their revenues through advertisement and not through paywalls that block non-paying users – those are rather counter productive unless the content is highly specific and on a very high level. The problem is that single news will not be read again and again and are thus mostly a surprise every time. The only thing that we might already know something about are articles that are going deeper on topics we briefly read about – like in a weekly magazine, for which people are still willing to pay. A lot of the rudimentary daily stuff is already starting to be covered and written by bots as well. Besides that people want content that is more engaging than just a copy-and-paste version of the print content – they want interactive graphics and visualized and interactive data that the reader can probably still draw conclusions from that the journalist could not. (According to Thomas Knüwer, editor-at-large at the German WIRED magazine)

Also the responsible from Google on this topic has some interesting points.

For me it were very interesting discussions (after the movie had thrown me the question) and I keep thinking about how the future of it may look like. What do you think?

Some interesting articles (in German) on this matter can also be found here:

– Die interessante Podiumsdiskussion zur Musikurheberrechtsdebatte auf der re:publica : http://ow.ly/aSy2E with a cool quote: “It is easier to make money off musicians than off music” 🙂
– Die 5 größten Irrtümer im Urheberrechtsstreit: http://ow.ly/1M7kNC
– Zankapfel Urheberrecht: Der ungelöste Grundwiderspruch der Piraten – auch interessante Kommentare! http://ow.ly/1M7PVh

If you think this is interesting also do not hesitate to share this with your friends – you might be their gatekeeper on interesting information! 😉

 

Sources: (1) = Creative Commons photo by Tom Magliery, obtained from http://behindtheheadlinesblog.com/2011/12/community-news-the-next-legacy-media-pillar-to-fall/

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