Friday, 30 July 2010

The future of news? (a quick follow-up)

A few days ago I posted some of my thoughts on the future of news as a response to an email a student sent me.  I was a little pressed for time so I didn't manage to cram in all the points I wanted to make, so this follow-up post will be a slight update to that post.  I had a physical copy of Wired magazine open on my desk at the time of writing and I wanted to include a few points that were in their "The Big Question: New media's effect on journalism".  This is the link to the online edition.  The question they posed was:
In the next decade, what new platform will most affect journalism and self-expression?
They had a variety of guests answering the question including Arianna Huffinginton (Cofounder/Editor of The Huffington Post), Clay Shirky (Academic, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus), June Cohen (Journalist and Director at TED Media), and Nick Bilton (Leader writer at the New York Times blog) amongst others, and this is what they had to say:
"I think we will see an explosion of news sites engaging their communities in the editorial process. We’ll see a great expansion of the ways citizen journalists will help drive the news: recommending stories. Technology has enabled millions of consumers to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation." Arianna Huffinginton
"There won’t be a ten-year ‘Next Big Thing’. Here’s a slice of the last ten: WordPress, Wikipedia, Digg, Meetup, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Foursquare. Twitter is the new headline news, QQ the new agora, ChatRoulette puts the ‘self’ in self-expression. Expect more of the same in the next ten." Clay Shirky
"There won’t be a single dominant platform, but rather many platforms that rise and fall. Overall, my money is on mobile: real-time and massively participatory media that will be primarily created and consumed via smartphones. Twitter is the first platform to truly harness this new ecosystem. But it won’t be the last." - June Cohen
"There’s currently a war taking place between big computing companies including Google, Apple and Microsoft; they are all competing to own the mobile platform. Self-expression and journalism will be born from the same mobile devices and the difference between the two types of content will continue to blur." Nick Bilton
They all seem to point to the idea that news will be social and communicated across lots of different networks and platforms.  It will be social, responsive and more conversational.

With the advent of new tablet platforms I expect we will see more applications like Flipboard for iPad appear, which are capable of creating a news/magazine experiences on electronic devices (you can find a quick review on Wired here).  It's a unique experience in which you get to build your own magazine out of the content being shared across your social networks, including articles and images being shared across a network like Twitter. Check out the video below to get an idea as to how it works.

The interface is pretty neat and transforms the reading experience into something akin to the traditional page flipping/browsing one found in paper formats, except it will have the advantage of being able to play digital media like video and audio. If it doesn't do this yet, services like it in the future will certainly have this kind of functionality.  Having said that, the service hasn't come without a set of problems, especially around copyright and the way in which the application scrapes content from websites and then hosts that material on its own servers.  Joel Johnson has posted on this issue in detail over at Gizmodo.  Mike Masnick on Techdirt points out this is similar to the issue that News Corp had with Google in which they accused Google of stealing their content.

What this points to is that the new developments in technology and software are capable of creating a context in which more people can read more information relevant to their interests (remember Zuckerman's warning about this kind of filtering!) providing the legal contexts in which copyright ownership around content is flexible enough to adapt.  I see that as being one of the potential barriers to the future of news.