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Chris Anderson: Journalism jobs will be lost and news media could become smaller in the digital future
The Long Tail author says news media has to add value above that available from amateurs to survive in a digital future where getting content for free is the norm
Speaking from San Francisco - via an audio link - to the Journalism Leaders Forum, at UCLAN, Anderson expanded on a recent article in which he suggested that getting things for free was the future of business by telling delegates 'adding value' that amateurs were unable to offer was critical to the survival of existing journalistic enterprises online.
"What can we do as media organisations that others can't do, the answer is we can't do the long tail easily, we can't zero in on topics with incredible narrowness, there is absolutely no point in repeating commodity news from the newswires, so we need to do something that the internet has not either not already done or done too well, that may be original reporting, maybe it's investigative reporting. Maybe it's long form narrative; maybe it's the packaging of stories with photography and diagrams," Anderson said.
"That's basically our mission, I think, to figure out where the market failure is in the amateur internet and there in lies the commercial opportunity for us to do something that still has value and which people will pay for, either directly or in terms of their attention which can be monetised through advertising.
"It's our job as media professionals to figure out how we can do something that adds value to the internet, that people will pay for, and that still costs less than the income that we can derive from it - that's our job, that's business, that's the competitive marketplace."
Panellist Peter Kirwan, author of the Press Gazette's Media Money blog, suggested there was insufficient advertising cash available to support all online capital ventures and that as a consequence a certain number of journalistic operations could be put under pressure by amateurs on the web.
He asked Anderson if an advertising model based on giving content away for nothing could ultimately lead to the loss of journalism jobs and the impoverishment of some mainstream media outlets.
Anderson said this was 'the inevitable consequence of digital economics.'
"Craigslist has demonetised a section of the newspaper economy, especially classified ads," he said.
"It's not like it has shifted it from one place to the other, it had removed it entirely. That's what innovation and evolution and competition does. It will put people out of business, but this is the market place speaking.
"People are speaking with their feet, they're shifting attention to something that is relevant to them. This is an opportunity for us to figure out what our place is in the world - there is no law or God-given grant for the media industry to be any particular size.
"Maybe the professional media industry wants to be smaller in the future. Maybe there is less money on the table, that happens. The typesetters aren't as numerous as they once were either.
"I guess we are just going to run that experiment. It's going to happen and we will find out what the result is, and my bet is that there's still a place for a vibrant commercial media going forward but that our role is going to be different than it was before."
Anderson went on to describe the future role he saw for news media organisations (listen here):
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