Disruption. Disintermediation. Destruction! Those are de factos of life when technology rolls into lives and results digital transformation and change. Travel reservation sites challenge travel agents, digital content delivery strains local and chain booksellers, algorithmically armored car services send traditional taxis on a one way trip towards a seemingly inescapable demolition derby. Yeah, it’s like Uber, but that’s how business works. New technologies along with personalization strategies strain the old way of doing things; some survive, some don’t.
But news is different.
One can easily argue that traditional media properties are getting what they deserve after largely failing to adapt to the digital and mobile uprising; a shift that has been felt, but one that they could see coming for more than a decade. Adapt or die. Consumers shifted their reading habits, marketers changed the rules of the game and added measurement to the mix, and now Apple is giving readers the option to block ads altogether.
It’s hard to feel sorry for the news organizations that have utterly failed to pay enough attention to the top story of a generation. Consider the story of Volkswagen and the software that fooled emissions regulators and car buyers for years. Yes, it’s true that it was West Virginia University researchers who performed the tests and uncovered the deception. Did you hear about it then? Nope. But you know about the story now because of publishers.
Consider a whole host of recent stories by the incredible reporters at Reveal. Organizations like Reveal can keep investigative reporting alive because they operate as non-profits. But they can’t do it alone. For-profit journalism, even with its flaws, is an absolutely critical pillar upholding the values of a free society.
So yeah, they might deserve it all. The ad blocking software, the new upstarts, the new economic demands for streamlined operations and more creative revenue strategies and more importantly, the voiceless victims of atrocities and unfairness don’t deserve it.
Everyone who gets into any business knows the rules. But the rules have to be different when we’re talking about news. What’s the answer? I’m not sure. But I am sure that we all have a stake in finding one. That much, at least, is still a black and white issue.