Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Future of (Chicago) Journalism – Part III – Aggregating the “Market of the Whole”

chi futureMay 30. The future is hidden in plain view. At  the moment traditional journalists are paradoxically among the very last to see or get journalism’s best and brightest future.

  • In this future, interactive, dialogic media will transform passive readers and viewers of monologic media into active users and participants. (This much everyone sees happening today.)
  • Interactive, problem-solving media will initially disrupt but eventually co-exist with traditional information-disseminating media like newpapers, magazines and non-interactive TV.
  • The smaller, targeted and hence excluding audiences of traditional media will rapidly aggregate themselves into the very large, all-inclusive audiences of problem-solving media and its twin cousins: opportunity-maximizing media and conflict-resolving media.
  • Non-partisan, all-inclusive mediating media – media that aggregate all members of a community, large or small, in order to define and solve problems, maximize opportunities and resolve  conflicts – will disrupt and substantially reduce the impact of media that tend to divide or polarize segments of a community against each other.
  • Believe it or not, mediating media will bring out the best in citizens and government, not the worst.
  • Aggregating media will target the NEW HOLY GRAIL OF MARKETING: the MARKET OF THE WHOLE of all members of a community, old and young, male and female, gay and straight, rich and poor, left and right, native and foreign born.
  • The ultimate market of the whole in America? It’s all 300 million Americans.
  • The aggregation of smaller exclusive audiences into larger inclusive audiences will occur at local, state, national and, in time, international levels.
  • These ideas flow from Marshall McLuhan’s global village and George Gilder’s amazingly prescient little book, Life After Television: the Coming Transformation of American Life (1988).

How could the logic of this future not be any plainer?typewriter_jpg

Didn’t President Obama promise this future to America in 2008: a future where citizens and government actually listen to each other and work together to solve problems?

Yet who’s building the non-partisan, mediating media needed to make this future a reality? (We are, right here, for one.)

Why doesn’t America already have a problem-soving, mediating media? Here are several reasons.

And – most important for Chicago’s underemployed journalists – how can a mediating media be monetized? Well here’s one way of many we’ve thought of.

Wake up, People!


The Future of (Chicago) Journalism – Part II – Two Chicago Media Conferences

May 17. The Chicago Media Future Conference will be held Saturday, June 13 at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash) from 1:30pm to 4:45pm. It  follows February’s Chicago Journalism Town Hall, which “brought tremendous energy, intellectual curiosity and talent together in one room.”bean

I missed the Town Hall, but did hear Northwestern Univ. Lecturer  Jon Marshall’s comments on it during a presentation of his to the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago.

From what I can see, the February Town Hall and the June Conference have common concerns:

  • The future of traditional news reporting in an age of interactive digital media.
  • The employment futures of reporters and other media pros who are losing jobs in droves following the bankruptcies of Chicago’s two daily newspapers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times (not to mention the woes at The Reader and Pioneer Press).

Here are the two panels and the lineup for the June 13 Conference:

Panel 1: How do people consume the news, and what do they do with it?
Andrew Huff; Editor and Publisher of Gapers Block
Amanda Maurer; Social Media Producer, Chicago Tribune
Rich Gordon; Medill Readership Institute; Director of Digital Technology in Education, Medill School at Northwestern
Moderator – Dan Sinker, Columbia College professor, founder of Punk Planet

Panel 2: How do you make money selling the news and who is willing to pay for it?
Patrick Spain; CEO, Newser
Brad Flora; Publisher and Founder, The Windy Citizen
Steve Rhodes; Founder, The Beachwood Reporter
Tom Lynch; Director of Client Satisfaction at IMP!
Moderator – Barbara Iverson, Columbia College professor, Co-publisher, ChicagoTalks flag

My take on Jon Marshall’s comments on the February Town Hall was that journalists have yet to see the opportunities that interactive media will offer at some point down the road: perhaps as soon as a year or two.  Seeing the future that will rise from the ashes of traditional, top-down expert-to-layman journalism admittedly requires something of a quantum leap. I see it as focused less on journalism that informs passive readers in the style of traditional newspapers than on journalism that helps readers – active users of interactive media – make informed decisions on the issues that affect their lives.  Net 2.0 social networking sites are full of people making informal (but mostly non-monetized) information exchanges and deals of this sort with each other.  So as I see it, the reporter/reader relationship of the future will be more of a two-way info exchange and less of a one-way journalist to reader info transfer.

How can journalists can monetize their skills in this new environment? Fair question. I took a stab at this question here, a couple posts ago.

Perhaps I should say I know no one who sees future as I do, even though I’ve been thinking along the lines of a problem-solving civic medai since the early 1990’s.