The Solution Is As Clear As A Picture

Newspapers and magazine publishers don’t need to go the way of the dodo.

I love a good newspaper or magazine — whether it is pulp in my hand or reading it on my iphone. The writers, editors and photographers of traditional media have been the stewards of history and truth for over a century. But the sad fact is, a lot of traditional media continues to die on the vine in the era of new media.

There is still time and hope if those in the corner offices would only start to think differently and innovate effectively. Some financial lifelines have been thrown into the choppy media waters (e.g. Jeff Bezos — The Washington Post or Dr. Patrick Soon — LA Times) but money alone cannot solve the issue. It is still up to the publishers and editors to make it happen and the sands of the hourglass are running out.

So, what must traditional media do in order to survive in a new media world? The following article aims to provide some solutions, though not just my own. I spoke with various thought leaders across the media industry and have included a few quotes to spark a conversation about where we go from here. You are encouraged to join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments below.

“There is not one thing. Transitions are not so simple. We must put the needs of our audience first and we must experiment with purpose. Our mission is to keep iterating, taking educated and calculated risks, and then exporting what works to other newsrooms.” — Kristin Roberts, Vice President of News, The McClatchy Company

I have been building products and marketing to consumers since the early days of new media. In order to effectively engage with consumers for clients, I have embraced and utilized various technologies, trends and tactics over the years. Understanding the incredible evolution that we have lived through sheds a light on how traditional media can innovate and lead again.

Here is a quick retrospective of some notable new media companies. Most have flourished where traditional media has not. Traditional media has adopted many of these technologies and platforms over the years to stay relevant with audiences. (Disclaimer: this is by no means a complete list.)

Fig. 1: Tech Leaders & Trends (a snippet)

We are unflinchingly local and our №1 goal is to get our strongest journalism in front of as many people as possible. We never stop learning, whether it’s from hard data or conversations with our most-engaged readers. We innovate not to check a box, but because we’re always seeking out new ways to tell stories. We care more about community and quality than clicks.” — Tim O’Rourke, Managing Editor, Digital, San Francisco Chronicle

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.” That is how Facebook was described in the Initial Public Offering documents from 2012. It is hard to imagine that Mark Zuckerberg had any notion that his hobby project would one day turn into editor-in-chief of the galaxy.

But thirteen years after the introduction of the News Feed feature, and seven years after its IPO, Facebook has changed the publishing world like none other. It did so by embracing community and UGC along with a myriad of tools traditional media did not innovate or would not readily adopt.

For example, their algorithmic data analysis, coupled with free news content, has disrupted traditional news media production and delivery. Publishers understand this very well and are now faced with how to compete with the biggest news source in America.

Now think about Wikipedia.

When Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started the site in 2001, they envisioned universal access to universal knowledge. Crowdsourced, open-sourced and free was the idea. Today, it is the 5th most-visited website in the world, disrupting an array of business models ranging from encyclopedia publishing to higher education.

It boasts 18 billion page visits every month and has 132,000 volunteers editing its pages regularly.

The effect of these technologies on traditional media cannot be underestimated.

Integrating other technologies is healthy and should be part of the solution but traditional media must think conceptually deeper. Strategy and innovation must be driven by core values and competencies; it must be guided by understanding how users engage and interact with content.

By doing this, they can plan a ‘big picture strategy’ complete with executable tactics for success. This is where successful innovation is born. It does not need to be complex. The best innovation is often a very simple concept.

What you have to look at first is the fact that when a new medium emerges, the previous medium becomes the content to the new medium. And you can’t really stop that. So not worrying about the business and careers and everything else. There’s an inevitability to that.

What’s the content on the internet? Television. So television is no longer the medium. Television is now the content. It’s absorbed by this other medium. And once television is now content rather than context, then it ends up manipulated and piecemeal. Or think about records. Records were a medium and now they’re content for digital music.

So a young person’s relationship to music is different.” — Douglas Rushkoff, Best-selling author and host of NPR-One podcast Team Human

The power of the photograph is at the heart of the stories traditional media has published for more than a century. These photos tell our history. They are meaningful, engaging and part of our memories — forever.

Today’s consumers are increasingly communicating through visual platforms. Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and others have developed successful new media products that leveraged this trend. However, traditional media seems all-too-comfortable engaging users on third-party platforms, as opposed to using their own properties where they would benefit from UGC, social sharing and monetization.

The good news is there is still time for traditional media to OWN the VISUAL PLATFORM. Such a platform leverages editorial expertise, engages users, builds brand equity and benefits the greater good.

That is why I started One Chronicle.

One Chronicle empowers publishers to engage their audiences in telling an ongoing story for the benefit of the greater community. A chronicle is the hashtag. It brings past and present together through a continuing story. And just like a visual wiki, chronicles are co-curated by multiple editors.

Fig 2: Embedded Photo Chronicle

Modern audiences aren’t passive consumers; they want to interact with the content they encounter. They want to be part of the story, to be part of history. User experience and engagement means everything. Enhanced editorial and social workflows that understand this fact are key.

Fig 3: Photo Chronicles — Ecosystem

Learn to think about each customer individually, and how to have a direct personal relationship with that customer (aka CRM-based media).” — Danny Crichton, Executive Editor, TechCrunch Extra Crunch

If new media has proven anything, it is that siloed editorial structures are struggling to keep up. By redefining the relationship between publisher and consumer, you can engage your audience on a much more profound and collaborative level.

Collaboration empowers editorial. It embraces social media, curates user generated content, leverages SEO and deputizes users as the destination as well as the distribution network.

However, One Chronicle is about more than just rethinking the B2C storytelling process for publishers. It is about establishing coherence through shared experiences. Visual stories that were once unavailable to the greater community become accessible. The platform links disparate stories to a single ongoing narrative.

The same is doubly true for archived content. Consider what happens to all those incredible images taken by staff photographers and photojournalists that never see the light of an iPhone screen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they could live alongside curated photos taken by their own readers and the very subjects of the stories being covered?

The core concept of One Chronicle is what traditional media must integrate into their DNA. A single narrative where our disconnected photos preserve and share our history.

Newspapers and magazine publishers don’t need to go the way of the dodo. Traditional media can still be the stewards of history and storytelling. But they need to embrace the big picture.

We are all pulling for you!

Steven McBride

Founder / CEO

One Chronicle Inc

Additional Quotes from Media Thought Leaders:

Make people feel something.” — Kate Lewis, Chief Content Officer, Hearst Magazines

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