The legacy press — or the traditional media, or whatever we’re calling newspapers these days — has one main challenge for 2010, and it’s not finding a new business model. It has to do with vision. It has to do with being able to imagine a world that does not yet exist.
While the news media’s woes come from lagging ad rates and content that’s scooped up by aggregrators, those are symptoms of the main problem: an inability to imagine what media consumption will look like in one, five, 10 years.
My point is news organizations need to imagine how people will consume news in the future — even though it might not make sense to them today. Newspapers owners may want ink on their fingers, and a paper they can feel, but many of their customers don’t now — or won’t in five years. And they may think a newspaper web site should look like a newspaper, but it shouldn’t. (It’s normal to build something new based on something old. That happened in the computer world, too, with the first microcomputers modeled on a mainframe.)
The challenge for the news biz is to look ahead and imagine how people may want their news and information. It’s about format (online, by phone, through social media) and content (aggregated, local, tailored to their needs.) For local news operations, this mean “organizing a community’s information so the community can organize itself,” as Jeff Jarvis puts it.
For all media organizations, it means adding more value to what they offer readers, according to Jay Rosen. What it doesn’t mean is forsaking the journalistic mission in search of the “almighty hit,” as Lehigh University journalism professor Jeremy Littau puts it.