How will journalism survive the Internet Age?
Chris Ahearn is President, Media at Thomson Reuters. The following is the text of remarks prepared for the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on how the Internet has affected journalism.
Good afternoon. As I only have a couple of minutes, let me get straight to the point.
First, journalism is not synonymous with newspapers and today the discussion has focused too much on newspapers alone. Second, journalism will do more than survive the Internet Age, it will thrive. It will thrive as creators and publishers embrace the collaborative power of new technologies, retool production and distribution strategies and we stop trying to do everything ourselves.
I agree with Mr. Murdoch that the bold will survive and the timid will fail. However, the newfangled aggregators/curators and the dominant search engines are certainly not the enemy of journalism. Nor are they the salvation. They do not always refrain from doing evil in their pursuit of profit and audience. And they do fail to “do unto others” at times -– some do steal and use complete or near-complete copies of our and other work and use ad networks such as AdSense to unlawfully monetize without sharing.
That said, most are a constructive and competitive part of the news ecosystem, I welcome them and I continue to believe and support the link economy.
At Thomson Reuters, I am lucky to oversee the business of both the world’s most indispensible news agency as well as our innovative publishing arm, Reuters.com. Thus, I see the challenges and opportunities from both sides of the aisle. Many of you in this room are clients of ours (or should be) and some of you are our competitors. Perhaps different from those who wish they could roll back the clock, we prefer to lean into the winds of change.
Like many we grapple with the coverage, cost and value issues of content scarcity vs. abundance as well as content uniqueness vs. utility. We choose to maximize the value of each of these four quadrants and have adaptive business models and markets which allow us to. For example, we focus principally on the importance of vertical and niche markets that have subscription-oriented models — this where our firm derives the vast majority of its revenues. We focus obsessively on the needs of professionals in those markets we serve. We don’t want to be all things to all people. We want to create journalism that has unique value to our clients, and partner with creators as warranted and needed. Most importantly, we focus on creating and providing valuable services — not just content.
As the world’s most indispensible news agency, we are very focused on the long-term health of our clients and the particular needs of news professionals. To foster cost-efficient growth, we see an opportunity for greater collaboration and partnership amongst all content creators.
We see a world that opens up the newsroom and news gathering process to allow the highest quality and valuable content to flow better from creators to publishers. This new network of syndication is predicated on serving the needs of publishers and their audiences – not what one organization or another simply wants to produce. It is inherently multisource, with rights defined and carrying multiple revenue streams, be they subscription, a la carte, bulk purchase, link-back or revenue sharing. This is a network based on choice and it must be collaborative.
This is the B2B content network the world needs now – and that is what we are building.
We see this platform as an open network that applies consistent metadata to create “intelligent information” designed to help publishers and broadcasters better manage their own and 3rd party content. This is not about locking publishing partners down or blocking search engines – but is about helping all content producers to develop new revenue streams as both a publisher and syndicator of their content. It is about letting the creator choose the most appropriate monetization model for themselves.
We fervently believe that value must always be conferred to the original creator – whoever that is, big or small, incumbent or insurgent.
This is an open platform which will allow publishers to save money by specializing and focusing on what they can uniquely do best – and (to paraphrase Jeff Jarvis) outsource the rest.
It will allow publishers to right-size their coverage efforts and stop wasting resources on writing the umpteenth undifferentiated story that is available elsewhere. Let’s be honest, too much resource and money is spent on regurgitation as opposed to unique and differentiated labor. It will allow creators to specialize on meeting the unique needs of their audience and will foster creativity.
Coupled with responsible behavior by all participants in the link economy – and I do mean all, both incumbent and insurgent – we will see the evolution to a new golden age of journalism and much, much more.