Long, thoughtful, thought-provoking piece from Zac Echola. It’s a must read for any journalist with any doubt that the game has changed radically and forever. This isn’t a “transition period” for newspapers. It’s a whole new game.
See, I’m kind of tired of people talking about how newspapers are going through a “transition.” As in, “we just need to get through this transition.”
Transitions have beginnings, middles and ends. Transitions eventually stop and you get a chance to take a breath and say, “cool, we survived.”
This is no transition, because the changing will never stop. This is no transition because this is a radically different world from the one of mass-produced packages dumped on people’s door steps. The fact that there is still news on paper may be a mere echo of history.
It’s hard to believe news on paper will ever die. It’s also hard to believe news on paper will survive.
We just don’t know, but even if print survives, it will only survive because people in our news organizations become adapt at adjusting to constant change.
The print business, if it survives, will never stop feeling the increased pressure of competition, changing lifestyles and evolving audience expectations.
Print revenue is not likely to ever grow again. Digital revenue, at least, has no known ceiling.
If we expect print to survive, then we need to keep those products going while adjusting to change. But we also need to make digital a higher priority, because that’s the once chance we have to grow revenue and save, if not create, jobs.
Part of that adjustment is recognizing that digital media is fundamentally and radically different from packaged goods media. It calls for a different kind of journalism, and a different mindset from journalists.
Here’s the hard part: For as long as it survives, your print product is largely fine. It could maybe use a nip and tuck, but the people who continue to get the print product like what you do and don’t want you to change.
Online, that’s a whole different story. You’ve got to be different, and radically so. You need to write differently, file your copy at different times, make sure to provide appropriate links, include some video or extra photos, make a map or two, respond to reader comments (correcting, amplifying or scolding), participate in blogs related to your coverage area, and you simply must be smarter and better informed about what you cover if you want to retain the respect of your readers.
The hard part is, you must do all this and keep your more traditional print product going in an era of diminishing resources.
I don’t have an easy answer, except “just do it.” It’s really up to each individual to figure out how to reconfigure his or her job to meet the demands of both the print and the online audience. The responsibility for change doesn’t rest solely in the publisher’s office. It’s also the responsibility of every reporter, editor and clerk.
I think it can be done. I see people doing it everyday. My concern is not enough journalists are even trying.
The main point is — stop calling it a transition. If there was a transition, the inflection point passed four or five years ago. We can’t keep calling it a transition hoping someday soon all this turbulance will end. It won’t. The fundamentals of the media business are altered radically and forever.