Reinvent the media with a tech start-up mentality

11 Feb 2010

Dear reader, it would be interesting to see how many of you are reading this column on a physical newspaper and then compare it with the number of those reading it online – for free.

RTÉ journalist Mark Little, who himself has taken a leave of absence to delve into the world of new media and online content creation, asked this very question at last week’s Dublin Web Summit 2.0 and the simple truth of it was that the majority of the audience did not buy a daily newspaper; they went to the web for their content.

This, as Little pointed out, has probably got something to do with entrepreneurs such as Craig Newmark of Craigslist and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress, who have disrupted the newspaper industry; the former by giving ads away for free online, and the latter by providing a free platform for everyone to become a writer.

However, in an era of democratised information and open business models, editor-at-large for Wired UK magazine Ben Hammersley says that this is not the end of the traditional media organisation but rather a chance for reinvention online: “It is a realisation on behalf of a lot of the large media companies that they have to, in practicality, be a lot more like internet start-ups.”

Ben Hammersley

Ben Hammersley, editor-at-large for Wired UK magazine

Craigslist founder Newmark says: “The (traditional) business model is evaporating”, there are several possible viable models out there but “frankly no one knows how it is going to work out.”

“We’re living in an era of creative destruction for newspapers and other forms of media. Frankly, this decade is a pivotal one in human history. In 2020, it will be very different: we’re moving through a singularity now and it’s both frightening and exciting.”

Hammersley points out that while most of us used to buy the daily newspaper, much of it remained unread. As this translates to an online model, people will simply not pay for content on the web that they will not use but they will pay for the utility of news.

“The utility of news is to get some form of improvement to your life. This is why papers like the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal make money – because it is worthwhile paying for it.”

Chris Horn

Chris Horn, co-founder and former CEO of Iona Technologies

Co-founder and former CEO of Iona Technologies Chris Horn, who has blogged on the future of media, posits that the professional journalist and traditional media organisation can survive offline as well as online by offering expert analysis and commentary that cannot be provided elsewhere.

Meanwhile, this will sit alongside the role of the citizen journalist, particularly when it comes to the internet and the valuable role it plays in protecting the anonymity of whistleblowers.

But all has changed. As WordPress founder Mullenweg puts it: “If Deep Throat was around today he would have started a blog.”