The future of news is likely to be all about personal production, not just big media publishing and packaging. At least that's the sense I got after participating in “The Next Big Thing in Digital News Innovation” at the Paley Center.
Supported by a Knight Foundation grant, Paley brought together more than 75 executives and entrepreneurs from the news, media and investment community: folks like News Corp.'s Jon Miller, Sii Media's Saul Hansell, Edelman's Steve Rubel and NBC Universal's Vivian Schiller -- to hear "pitches" from six news-related startups. Moderated by former CBS News president Andrew Heyward, the entrepreneurs presented their companies and their respective visions for the future of news in a digital world.
The companies were: Zeega, an open-source platform for documentary creation; NewsiT, a crowd-reporting platform; Contently, a marketplace and management platform for freelancers; BiblioCrunch, a services platform for eBook authors; metaLayer, an open platform for data-driven visualizations; and Engagio, an "inbox" for social media conversation aggregation. While the companies were focused on discrete and different market opportunities within news, I was struck by the fact that they shared some very consistent themes:
Focus on content creators first and foremost, and leverage social networks. Each of these companies’ platforms were geared to make it easier to report, write, produce or distribute news, with a focus on the people doing it. They were all sensitive to the problems those individuals faced, and all found ways to leverage social networks to help them solve those problems.
Enable disruptors rather than defending disruptees. Consistent with the focus on content creators, each of the platforms enabled more disruption of traditional media models, instead of defending incumbent companies from disruption. While most of them were willing to work with incumbents, they weren't interested in compromising their products for them, only in enabling incumbents to participate in the disruption.
Delivering better tools than Big Media has. Ironically, the authoring and management and packaging tools these startups showed off, and which they have created for the content creators, are light-years ahead of the tools that large incumbent media companies have to offer to their own teams. The days when big media companies had better printing presses and production studios -- and could win on that basis alone -- are over. They are being leap-frogged.
Fixing the content supply chain. Every one of the offerings have the potential to significantly and strategically improve the news content supply chain. It's not what I would intuitively expect from start-ups not focused on serving enterprise customers, since they each primarily focused on serving individuals, but each had ways to operate parts of the news supply chain at much lower costs than legacy systems.
All about personal production. As several audience members noted, the future of news content, like many other businesses, appears to be irretrievably headed to the control of individuals, not enterprises. The future of news will be about personal production, not just media company-factory production.
What do you think? Is the future of news software, social networks and personal production?