Steven Johnson, the driving force behind the exceptional Outside.in local content site, delivered a talk at the Austin South by Southwest Interactive Festival that bears noting.
Johnson described with a nice metaphor the media ecosystem and how he does not worry unduly about the disappearance of, say, investigative and international work as newspapers diminish in the years ahead. If anything, he believes what will emerge will be stronger and more diverse providers and better funded enterprise work.
But, while he is bullish on the future of news, he is not on the future of the newspaper.
"It is ugly, and it is going to get uglier. Great journalists and editors are going to lose their jobs, and cities are going to lose their papers." Still, he finds too much time is being spent on trying to save relatively small pieces of what's left instead of building bigger pieces of what stands to be ahead.
He echoes many others in lamenting the excessively speedy process of change: "There should have been a ten-year evolutionary process: the ecosystem steadily diversifying and establishing its complex relationships, the new business models evolving, the papers slowly transferring from print to digital, along with the advertisers. Instead, the financial meltdown – and some related over-leveraging by the newspaper companies themselves – has taken what should have been a decade-long process and crammed it down into a year or two."
What we need, he argues, is "that we try to imagine how we’d like the future to turn out and set our sights on that, and not just struggle to keep the past alive for a few more years."
Here is his speech from his blog.