Student Journalists reluctant to change; New Media is on the backburner

November 5, 2008

I spent the past week in Kansas City, MO attending the ACP/CMA Convention, a collegiate media conference. As the publisher of The Quinnipiac Chronicle and a new media junkie, I was excited to learn about the new and exciting things that college journalists were coming up with. I took it upon myself to attend as many New Media sessions as possible. I could not have been more disappointed.

On a lighter note, the two best things to come out of this conference were the keynotes by Rich Beckman, a professor at the University of Miami School of Communication and Mark Glaser, Executive Editor of PBS’ MediaShift blog. I got a short clip from Mark Glaser as he was talking about consumers taking control of their media that you can see below.

So back to journalists and their thoughts on new media. Once again, I have to stress my disappointment in the sessions and presenters that were brought in to speak to the attendees of this conference. In an age where new media is becoming mainstream, one would think that experts would be brought in to teach the future leaders of the journalistic world how to use these new and emerging technologies. Instead, the presenters were college students with little experience or advisors who have not used these technologies much before this point in time.

One of the major themes of the conference was the idea that traditional media and journalism are obsolete. After talking to many students and advisers, as well as my own staff members who attended, it seems to me that people are very afraid that their jobs may be in jeopardy because of this shift in technology. I have asked many people why they are so afraid to adopt these new ideas, and one person recently responded, “I went to school for four years to learn how to be a writer, not so I can learn to edit video and make slide shows.” This is a pretty powerful statement in two ways. First, it shows the reluctance to change due to fear of the unknown. Second, it shows that students are not yet receiving the proper training and education that is needed to become a successful journalist. A journalism student who is not being taught how to write, edit video and create multimedia stories is like an orthopedic surgeon going to school and never learning how to operate on a knee.

Another trend that was talked about extensively over the week was media convergence. If the state of the industry dictates that journalists must be well versed in multimedia, then journalists should be working with the video staffs and audio staffs at their schools. There is no resource that is more valuable than your peers that often work in the same building, if not only on the same campus. These students know how to operate cameras, they know how to edit video and audio. Take advantage of their knowledge and skills, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can even assign stories to a “multimedia” staff that is comprised of writers, videographers and sound technicians and then let all departments involved use the piece for their own organization.

Basically, I am trying to say that the times are changing, and students need to recognize this and adapt to these changes. I realize that change is not always easy, but it is almost always necessary. So don’t be afraid to try something different. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As the entrepreneur in me would say, fail fast and fail often, because the faster you can make these changes in your organization, the faster you can gain an advantage over other college media organizations and be recognized as one of the leaders in your field.

As always, let me know what you think. Do you think that journalism as we know it is changing? If so, Have you adapted?

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Where Do We Go From Here?

March 31, 2008

With so many social networks, mashups and social aggregators popping up nearly every day, it seems as if we are running out of new and innovative ways to connect and share ideas. Of course I don’t believe that social networks in general are going to fade away, but I do think that the way we use them are going to change. I also believe that newcomers to the industry are going to have to find new ways of gaining users and monetizing their ideas. Here are some things I have been thinking about lately.

Target markets will become more specific. What is Facebook’s target demographic? Is it internet users in general? Are they marketing toward a specific age group? There must be an answer, but it is unclear what their strategy really is in relation to their market. I think that since there are now so many different networks that it will become much harder to gain a user base because people already belong to the ones they like. Instead of relying on users to find you and join, new sites are going to have to market to a very specific demographic in order to gain users.

People will start charging for their services. It seems like a silly thing to have to say, but it’s just going to get harder and harder for people who are not charging for their products and services. Ever since money was invented, people have charged others if they wanted to buy something. Why have we drifted away from that practice? Yes, it is easier to gain a user base when you give something away for free, but it just doesn’t make any business sense. Especially in a time where the economy is faltering, revenue from advertising may just not be enough.

Social networks will be targeted towards “new” markets. Does anyone know why the Baby Boomers and the older generations have been largely ignored by social networks? Me either. They are one of the largest segments of the population and they are about to become the wealthiest generation in the history of the country. So why aren’t people targeting this market? There is the misconception that they do not use the internet. This just simply is not true. Seniors and boomers with internet access go online daily 15% more than all other segments of the population, and 94% of them use email compared to only 91% of everyone else.

Mobile technology will take off. This is becoming very apparent in today’s market. With the iPhone and its SDK, the possibilities of mobile online browsing has become commonplace. Now there are GPS enabled phones that tell your friends where you are (which I’ll admit is a little bit too “transparent” for my liking). This market is going to become the next big thing.

Where do you think the web 2.0 wave will take us next? Let me know!


How Will We Be Remembered?

March 28, 2008

Anthony LaFauce wrote a compelling article for the Social Times called “History Will Not Judge Social Media”. Just to sum it up, Anthony believes that since we have become such a digital culture, we have nothing analog to store everything we do, thus our identities will be lost forever. The internet and digital information are a bit like thoughts: you can create them and share them with others, and they can even be recalled … but they are not tangible things that can be stored for someone else to look at. For me, this article brought up the question that many people ask themselves, “How will I be remembered?”

Nobody knows how long the internet or culture as we know it will last, that much is obvious. When the technology changes, what will happen to everything that we have created in our digital worlds? All of the blog posts, pictures, comments, etc. could be like the ideas of past generations that were never acted upon or written down. This seems like a heavy subject, but I decided that I won’t let it weigh me down.

I don’t think that everything we have achieved will be lost at all. If you think about it, not many things are ever truly or fully erased. Many people have found that it is actually quite easy to find lost or deleted files on their hard drives. You can even go back days, months and years to see a comment that someone posted on the internet. Everything is stored somewhere. Short of nuclear devastation or a direct asteroid hit, that should not change. If one really were paranoid that their contributions to the world could be lost forever, start creating backups. As Anthony states, print out your posts, comments and pictures so you can have something to show your kids when the internet is gone (is that even possible at this point?).

I think the main point here is that if you have enough faith in yourself and your message is broadcast to the world, it will be remembered – either by you or others. No one wants to be forgotten, but I don’t believe that anyone – or anything – ever truly is gone. So don’t worry about how people 140 years from now will discover and watch your video blog. Chances are it will still be around in one form or another.

UPDATE: Just saw this video and thought it had a lot to do with how everyone will be remembered. Thanks Gary!