Just read the transcript of Stephen Johnson’s talk on the future of news media which he gave at SXSW in Austin, Texas a couple of days ago. In the talk he gives an optimistic assessment of the prospects of news reporting in the future with two possible exceptions: war reporting and international coverage.
Johnson uses the past as a guide to future developments and points out how difficult it was to get information about Apple in 1989 compared to today when there are literally hundreds of sources of up to date information to choose from – ranging from conventional magazines to blogs of all sizes and specialisations. This is true of the whole technology information space.
And what started in the technology information space, and spread quickly to politics, he says will spread to all sectors in time. And in local reporting, where there is currently a lot of angst in both the US and the UK, the situation will also be better in the future, he argues, than in the past. He is co-founder of a hyper-local site called outside.in which aims to aggregate neighbourhood-level information, an example of the kind of development he predicts will become commonplace.
The reason for the current depression, he argues, there should have been a decade-long transition from paper to online business models.
Instead, the financial meltdown – and some related over-leveraging by the newspaper companies themselves – has taken what should have been a decade-long process and crammed it down into a year or two.