Online Journalism Conf: Traditionalists vs. Pioneers

I went to the International Symposium on Online Journalism this past Friday and Saturday.  There were a variety of speakers at this conference.  I noticed that there were three types of participants.   There were:
  1. Traditionalists
  2. Journalists
  3. Pioneers looking for new ways to publish.
The current revenue model in publishing is changing and the traditionalists resent this.  Newspapers and print media, which once had a good business model, are now losing money.  This one change has dramatic impact on journalism and media.   Some speakers, such as Jim Moroney at the Dallas Morning News, are enamored the newspaper structure.  In his speech on Friday, he mentioned that it costs him $36 million a year to staff his newsroom and he’ll look for every way possible to pay for this, from raising prices to charging for specific pieces of content.  He specifically said that he won’t shrink the staff nor use citizen journalism.  This strikes me as stubborn and destined to fail.  First, people – especially younger audiences – don’t want to pay for content and asking them to do so will just alienate them.  Other traditionalists such as Jim O’Shea are moving journalism into the non-profit realm.  Maybe this is the best place for hard-core journalism, because as Jim stated, advertising will supply only 5% of Chicago News Coop revenue.
On the other end of the spectrum there are the pioneers that are embracing the Internet. The web is proving to be best at interactivity. It’s not a place to simply replicate the written word of newspapers and magazines.  The sites that win are sites that embrace the social or interactive nature of the web.  The first speaker of the conference, Steven Kydd at Demand Media, is one of the pioneers.  While it’s debatable whether it’s journalism, Demand Media is discovering new business opportunities by interacting with the web and with writers and creating new opportunities from the crumbling media businesses.  David Cohn at is another looking to create a media business around the interactivity of the web by creating a platform to crowdsourcing funding and sourcing of news stories.  New media will be interactive and vibrant.  Several great panelists such as Cindy Royal on Friday Jan Schaffer on Saturday understand this and gave great talks of how they are showing us new methods of journalism that actually work.

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