Future media: ‘Don’t be afraid to fail’

No one knows exactly what the media of the future will be like, not even 10 years from now, but the important thing is to keep the ball rolling, experiment, and not be afraid to fail – this was the keynote of the Future Media international forum hosted by RIA Novosti on Friday.

Evolution or revolution

The forum raised more questions than it could answer, but most speakers agreed that the key one – whether the ongoing media transformation should be described in terms of evolution or revolution – was that it’s definitely a revolution.

“It’s a big mistake if we speak about evolution – there are several simultaneous revolutions,” said Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of Guardian NewsMedia.

One important change is that world media is becoming more open and those who want to stay closed are not going to survive, he said.

Open journalism is about readers feeling involved, not passive, not just being part of the “congregation,” he said.

“More involved readers are more engaged. That’s what advertisers want, too. There’s a greater diversity of voices and views. There’s more depth and richness.”

While the media are in competition, they are also collaborating.

“If you miss the collaboration bit, then you are in trouble,” Rusbridge said.

Traditional vs. new media

Part of the “revolution” is the evolution of new media and its interaction with mainstream media.

Thomas Kent, deputy managing editor, The Associated Press, wondered if traditional media was more trusted than new media.

“We are seeing the moving together of the two – you have to go where the reader is,” he said.

Each trend has a lot to offer each other, for example, the standards of verification in mainstream media are higher.

“Professional journalism is about aggregating a wide variety of different things – like going to a supermarket: You know that the food there is fresh and you don’t go to a farm to pick up a product.”

Natalya Loseva, deputy editor in chief at RIA Novosti, said the role of professional journalism was more about adaptation to the needs of its target audience.

“The audience sets new laws, choosing a suitable content format while the media is tailoring content to the audience, using diverse formats,” she said, adding that RIA Novosti was currently using 32 different formats.

About 2,000 “citizen reporters” currently contribute to RIA Novosti and it plans to increase the number of contributors to 1 million over the next five years, editor-in-chief Svetlana Mironyuk said.

In April 2010, RIA launched its YouReporter multimedia citizen journalist project, which encourages people who have found themselves witnesses to events that have made the news to post their reports on the website www.youreporter.ru.

Professional vs. civil journalism

Angela Zaeh, responsible for international development at Facebook, said industries are organizing around people, companies are restructuring and the web is being rebuilt around people; people are increasingly discovering content through people they trust.

“Globally, borders are being replaced with connections – people are connected around the world through friends. People trust friends’ recommendations more than they do professionals’.”

Yelena Vartanova, dean at the Moscow State University School of Journalism, said, however, that the audience not only gains but also loses as a result of the “revolution.” Civil journalism is fine, but it raises the issue of reliability, verification, and digital illiteracy, she said.

Professionalism may also be disappearing, she said.

“Why train for 4-6 years, and pay for education, if any blogger can do it,” she said, adding it was crucial to rethink the mission performed by traditional print media journalist.

Wilfred Ruetten, director, European Journalism Center, saw no conflict between civil and professional journalism.

Making money

Madhav Chinnappa, head of Strategic Partnership, Google News EMEA, said: “No one knows how to make money out of the media business – it’s all about experimentation, you need to try different things, and most important of all, you need to fail; failure is the key to success.”

While the Russian internet market is currently Europe’s second largest by audience and its digital advertising market is expected to grow about 40% in 2011, advertisers are competing with users, said Esther Dyson, chairman, EDventure.

“They don’t understand that users do not go on line to buy, but to get information. Media is being bypassed: users are generating content without mediators.”

One big question that remained unanswered was the relationship between paid and unpaid journalism, and the implications for professional journalists.

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