Gavin Sheridan, a great mind in the journalism community (formerly of Storyful), shared some solid points on why the future of news is all about software. This is a counter perspective to his article which I really recommend you read here.
“Why the future of news is software: Newsrooms and journalists are not in the content business. Rather, they are in the information business and the sooner we embrace that fact, the better.” – Gavin Sheridan
We think differently…
The current trend and notion seems to be that journalists need to be everything from hackers to self-shooting editors. This simply isn’t healthy for the state of the news and journalism industry. Software already is (and always will) making difficult human tasks easy and accessible to all. We have more software, open data and social networks thrusting us into the information overload era. The skill set, and much more importantly, the mindset of software (I’ll emphasize scalable products) and journalism is very different.
There is a fundamental and beautifully hard coded DNA difference between these two worlds. Of course journalists can make software and newsrooms can build great products. I would argue that many are (new CMSs, live-blogging tools, apps, interactives, not to forget many brilliant data journalists in their own category), although perhaps not as stand alone products/services, but as great and powerful delivery mechanisms of storytelling.
We can’t confuse the issues here; software can and will undoubtedly make newsrooms better, faster and more profitable. For newsrooms not to be in the software game would be very ill-advised. However; to fully say that building products is the future of news, to me, is a grim boring binary world.
Getting back to the importance of mind set for a moment, one’s motivation for building products vs telling stories is key. Both are very hard to do and require a craft difficult to master. Can you code? Sure! Can you build a product that provides value to people? Probably not at any respectable scale that you can monetize. Don’t forget tech startups have an alarming failure rate – 9 out of 10 fail. Not because people can’t code, but because it’s hard to provide value at scale. Just because you can code or write doesn’t mean you can sell products or sell subscriptions.
Machines suck at storytelling. Humans are great at it. Will each camp benefit from each other? Of course. But, there is an entire post to be written here on knowing what your value proposition is. Solving problems and telling stories are two different ones.
I believe the future of news is about great storytelling. To regurgitate content from a newswire or competitor isn’t great storytelling, so of course ads will fail you and building an audience or pay walls will be difficult. You’re not actually providing any value! Digging up original stories (in data too), verification, contextualization, packaging, narrating, explaining, visualizing, annotating, curating and oh so importantly telling the story in a way that people care, is what I hope for the future of the news. Providing information is useless. Providing value from information is everything and something the craft of journalism is very well suited to do.
We hold ourselves to the same belief at SAM. Our role is not to decide what the story is, and in fact, our tool is useless without storytellers. So of course, this will be our diplomatic stance on the industry. What we believe is why we do what we do, so they are inseparable and part of our value proposition, and what we believe, is that the world needs good storytellers more now (in the information overload era) than ever before.
The best part of Gavin’s post (and the many responses on Twitter), is that newsrooms need to innovate. We couldn’t agree more. To do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome is indeed insanity. Here’s to the future of news – get out an innovate!