Sink or Swim: Adapting to the New Media Environment

Bob Dylan once sang about adjusting to rapid change with his song, “The Times They are A-Changin.” No doubt today’s media environment can relate.

Leading journalist researchers from around the world offered advice on how to take advantage of the changes in online journalism during the third panel titled, “Strategic Positioning in the New Media Environment” at the 8th annual International Symposium on Online Journalism on Saturday.

The five panelists spoke on challenges facing current news providers everywhere, from topics like British newspapers charging for online content to the Latino podcast audience.

All researchers addressed the key question: how can news providers benefit most from changing online media trends?

Jack Herbert, digital publishing manager of Cambridge Publishers Ltd. along with journalism professor Neil Thurman of City University in London, surveyed numerous British newspapers charging for online content to observe the experimental business models.

They found although none charge for online general news content, users can expect to pay for what content the newspaper considers unique to its site.

“As it is not available elsewhere, newspapers are willing to charge for it,” Herbert said.

Online news content availability spurs another widespread legal debate——the right to access information versus the rights of editors and authors. Loreto Corredoira y Alfonso, professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, explains “press clipping” by different derived information services can make clients less prone to read full stories.

“It’s like a vitamin complex for those who can’t or don’t want to eat right,” she said.

However, the solution is for online newspapers to share the table with derived information services, she said. Providers could form a contract with these services and create a new business model for online journalism.

David Domingo, researcher at the University of Iowa, studied changing media trends in Spain by sampling media companies who had engaged in the buzzword “convergence”.

He found multi-skilling to be more important to local and regional media, who benefit the most economically.

“The business side of convergence seems to be a big part here,” Domingo said.

Alex Avila, journalism graduate student from the University of Texas at Austin, confirms convenience is the one force driving changing media trends as he explores the podcast audience for Latino USA, a National Public Radio program.

Today Avila estimates close to 100,000 podcasts, making the web activity as popular as blogging or online dating.

Journalism professors Richard Stevens from Southern Methodist University and Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, University of Texas at Austin studied how people search for personally relevant news content.

“We don’t know all the potential uses of information,” Stevens said. “So, it’s still journalists’ job to filter information.”

And as journalism embarks into unmarked territory flooded with new opportunities, those in the industry have the choice to either sink or swim.

The panelists, in agreement with Dylan, think journalists better start swimmin’.

ISOJ 2007: Strategic Positioning in the New Media Environment, from Knight Center on Vimeo.