Monday, September 24, 2001

Predicting after the fact is easy: I stick to that.
Working in a department of media and journalism studies, I am fascinated with the new trend of personal journalism. I predicted 5 years ago that what the department needed to emphasis for the future editor isn't a print, television or radio-editor, but a multimedia editor, coordinating print, pictures, television and radio from the same site. We are beginning to see this type of editors, although they are still sticking to a very traditional way of publishing by keeping the different types of media seperate, rather than creating composite media. This is most likely due both to the slowing down of technological development and sales, where the connections and hardware of the users can't handle mixed-media heavy with advertisements - particularly under the pressure of larger events - and to the next, necessary step to truly innovate: make the news-serving computer as accessible and portable as a newspaper.

The new editor today is a figure I did not foresee: the personal editor. While the web has been offering personally tailored news-services for a long time, this has had the flaw of all search-engines: if the key-words you feed into the machine isn't in the news-item, it's excluded... if it's present, it doesn't matter whether the article is interesting or not.

With a personal editor the search has been cleaned up for you, and you get the intersting, important and sometimes surprising parts.

So where do I find these personal editors? Actually... they don't work anywhere yet, they are volunteers who do this for their own pleasure, search, link, connect and comment on media content online. Of course, media stations try to convince their readers that they provide this service through their web-stires, but as far as I can see - they don't.

The web-editor of one of the larger Norwegian newspapers explained to a colleague of mine that they don't want to link out of the newspaper's site for news: it will lose them readers. Instead they insist on re-writing stories (carefully quoting sources of course) to avoid the links. The logic from a news-paper point of view is clear: You want the loyalty of the readers, and you want as many hits as possible on pages where your advertisers are displayed. To ensure that they spend their energy on rewriting the stories of other media institutions instead of searching and hunting for new content or alternative views.

I don't have the statistics of which internet-based businesses (except porn-sites) do well these days, but I know the online versions of newspapers are not particularly good business. But personal editors in the shape of web-loggers are getting hits and gaining online fame! Without a news organisation at their backs, they don't promise pre-approved truth, but give suggestions and comments to agree or disagree with - and they flourish!

If I was to predict anything today, I think I'd go with this personalisation of the news: the human factor in a media world where the organisations have grown so similar to each other and so dependent on each other that if the Norwegian papers didn't write in Norwegian, I'd have no idea which country I was in.

No comments: