The bias and political spin of mainstream news has alienated younger readers and contributed to the popularity of mix and match internet news, says Yahoo! UK editor Simon Hinde.

Speaking at City University's Cass Business School last night, Mr Hinde defended the credibility of news aggregation. Discussion followed a screening of EPIC 2014, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson's project exploring a future of computerised, customised news.

"It's a great snapshot of where we're going," Mr Hinde said.

"There is definitely Darwinism occurring - an evolutionary movement within our media. There is no longer a 'one size fits all' mentality but a collection of niche news sites, and these will need personalising and filtering.

"Our wealth will be measured by time."

EPIC's predictions are actually a rather conservative view of the future in that they focus on news in text form, he added. That reflects an industry still preoccupied with aping newspaper formats.

"The revolution in news gathering and journalism is that there are no longer one or two institutions giving out information in a god-like fashion," said Mr Hinde.

"People don't want Google, Murdoch or any other hegemony - they want democratic, participatory, varied news."


The idea of personally-edited news caused some discomfort among most of the panel. Sue Brooks of APTN said it was 'worrying' that young people preferred the internet as their main source of news. Mr Hinde said that the news industry had contributed to that trend by alienating young people.

"Young people are leaving newspapers in droves because print news isn't trustworthy," he said.

"It's vanity on the part of newspapers to push a particular political view. Facts are distorted to fit a particular view of the world and they don't give a dispassionate view of events."

Recent crises in the traditional media, most notably Rathergate, had contributed to mistrust of mainstream media, said Mr Hinde. The internet gives a range of views and allows the user to choose their own sources.

"Niche subjects are very well covered online because of semi-professional commentary. There are now mechanisms for blogs to be monetised and that is opening up a whole range of possibilities."

An member of the audience described how he compiles his own news package with an RSS reader, mixing feeds from and his favourite Guardian columnists with feeds from his friends' blogs. He said that he did not accept 'top-down' news, where the media had the ethical high ground in deciding what news he should receive.

"I have the opportunity to be both a producer and a consumer. This is not about replacing mainstream news, but adding to it."

It's not groundbreaking if all the internet has done is create mix and match news, said Adrian Monck, head of journalism at City University. He said that news will always be delivered from the top-down, giving the example that President Bush announcing a war tomorrow would dictate news agendas.

"And hardcore, labour-intensive, long-term investigations have to be paid for by big brands," he said.

Barnstorming the internet age

"Barnstormers - clinging to one aeroplane wing while trying to grab hold of another, mid air."

Jon Petrovich, chief media strategist for the News Market, said that the news industry is struggling to cram a traditional news publishing format into a new online model: "There's a mentality from the industry that they don't want change to jeopardise their core business."

From the audience, consultant Nico Macdonald said that there has been a lack of innovation and investment by traditional media. Using the example of the Guardian's impending £50 million* autumn redesign, Mr Macdonald asked why that money could not have been invested in interactive news platforms.

"Newspapers don't know what is going to become of them," said Mr Hinde, referring to Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger's comment that in his lifetime, the Guardian would cease to publish in print.

"Whether the Guardian is preparing for that is questionable, but his observation is very sensible given the rate of decay in circulation."

"I'm sure the industry would love to invest," said Adrian Monck.

"But who will pay for it? There are no great business models for the media."

• The event was organised by Interactive KnowHow and Cass Business School as part of the Cass Creatives initiative.

* CORRECTION - 28 June 2005: This figure is around £50 million, not £10 million as previously published.

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