For centuries the world of Journalism had developed into a profession that required a Journalist to organize information gathered from researched sources and place it in a container of prose palatable to the masses. It had the implication of integrity and skill that inspired public trust. It was the channel people relied on to understand the world beyond the immediate. And in a decade has been rendered completely obsolete.
The advent of the internet has made information immediate and accessible. If we want to know something about anything we just need to type in a search and it’s there at our fingertips for no cost other than for the connection to the internet.
So the whole industry’s gone then?
News agencies still operate on the physical paper model which does not translate well to the internet. This model means you charge for a newspaper (so it has value), they then value advertizing based on number of subscriptions and then charge advertizers for space. Online they also charge to access all their news so the visitors have value which translates into what they charge for online advertizing.
Then they should be ok.
Not reallly. Why would I pay when other news sites offer it for free? Exclusively online news sites tend to write about articles posted in the more reputable sites. This kills the traditional news agencies because they can’t compete with the cheaper model. And what will the free News Sites write about when their sources go out of business?
In the last few years there has been a social media news trend. We get our news from individuals on the street about what’s going on. The Arab Spring is a great example of this. People in those countries Tweeted, Blogged, Vlogged and Facebooked their info so the rest of the world would know what’s going on. This is all useful information, but it tends to be full of passion and subjectivity.
And that’s bad?
Yes. Part of the value of reporting agencies is that they present the information and let us decide what to do with it. Someone in a protest might only see the tear gas and riot sheilds of the police, but they missed the small group with guns that incited them. A whistle blower exposes their company for bad practices, but a journalist might expose that these practices are common in the entire industry (for bad or good).
How can google fix that?
By changing news. Think of the last time you read a news article. Do you know who wrote it? Who published it? What did the writer look like? If you did, it was probably because of Google. They have instituted a new system to track authors and publishers. It allows an author of an article to put their name on it in a way that Google displays it in their search.
You will now get a better grip on who you like reading and where you like reading it. When you see the picture of the person who wrote an article you liked on a different article in your current web-search, you are more likely to click and read. If the articles you like keep popping up on the same publishing site you might start going there first to read about something. In the end you will be supporting the people you like instead the people you find.
And that’s what Google’s going for. They want to promote good content and, in so doing, not promote bad content. So those guys who make their money reposting or rewriting other people’s articles will have trouble making money in this scenario.
And news is saved?
Yes, for those companies that can conform to this type of news environment. They will be able to gain a strong following and as a result make more from advertizing. This will in turn give them more resources to pay professional journalists. The same journalists we like to read and the cycle continues.
Has Google saved Journalism? I don’t know, but I suspect this new development in online search will help real journalists stand out. In a world flooded by information, standing out can make all the difference.