Here are the five media trends I’m watching and will focus on in future articles on this site:
I have a heavy emphasis on journalism, but most of these actually apply to other media fields as well.
Sources and Advertisers Going Direct
Dave Winer coined the the phrase “sources go direct” to describe how organizations and individuals are routing around traditional media by using their own web sites and social media. Jay Rosen, as I recall, used the phrase “advertisers going direct” as well.
Another expression of this trend comes from Tom Foremski: Every Company is a Media Company.
But this is by no means limited to companies – activists, watchdog groups, whistle blowers, politicians, sporting leagues (which I guess are usually companies), etc. are now media organizations and all individuals are now media personalities.
This has a profound impact on how journalists gather and report news, and, obviously, how news businesses monetize journalism.
A personal example: I get much of my local news now by following the mayor of Portland (do other mayors do this sort of thing?) and a city run alert service on Twitter and reading an e-mail newsletter from a local watchdog group. The rest of what I learn is what gets filtered through my Facebook and Twitter friends from other sources, and what I hear on the local community radio station (which I make monthly donations to).
Context is King
As content becomes increasingly commodified, news organizations can provide value by providing context. “He said, she said journalism” is becoming less and less valuable because I don’t need a reporter to tell me “both sides” when sources are going direct – I can just get each source’s POV directly. Actually fact checking both sides and providing context (historical or otherwise) still has value.
But “providing context” is easier said than done. Here’s an excerpt from James Fallows’s recent piece “How to Save the News“:
The Financial Times might have given readers better sustained coverage of European economic troubles than any other paper. But precisely because it has done so many incremental stories, no one of them might rise to the top of a Google Web search, compared with an occasional overview story somewhere else. By the standards that currently generate online revenue, better journalism gets a worse result.
Google’s Living Stories is one attempt to rectify this.
Blogs, even ones with no journalistic aspirations, can have similar problems as content and links start piling up. The dossiers I’m doing on my blog Technoccult are an attempt to add contex and to some of my extensive archival material.
Posts like this one you’re reading now can help “connect the dots” between different subjects on a blog. Eventually I might actually create a separate hub page for each of these trends.
Journalist as Brand
Jeff Jarvis has a good post introducing this concept: journalists and writers can themselves be brands independent of their newspapers/magazines/whatever.
True/Slant seems to be basing their business model on this trend.
How can a journalist, blogger, or writer establish a brand identity? Here’s one idea from Rosen:
What a great goal for any journalist with a beat, though. To be the country’s “single most understandable person about…” 
I’ve covered how The Economist and Forbes have businesses doing “journalism for hire” here before. Here’s an excerpt from Nieman Journalism Lab explaining Forbes Inisghts:
To get a sense of how this works, take a look at this list of Forbes Insights reports. One report, “Has the recession changed the talent game? Six guideposts to managing talent out of a turbulent economy,” is the seventh in a yearlong series on managing talent. The research was sponsored by Deloitte, the consulting firm, which offers services in the talent management field. Rizy explained to me that Forbes would not do research that specifically promotes a company (e.g., a report on why Deloitte is so great) — but as in this instance, the research can promote the type of work they do. The divide is important, Rizy said, to maintain the credibility of the work.
There’s also room for professional “explainer” services, such as Common Craft.
How can something like this be scaled down to the individual journalist or blogger? One method may be fundraising. Joshua Ellis raised money to write a long-form journalism piece called “Dark Miracle.” He was able to do that just by raising money among readers of his blog using PayPal back before Kickstarter existed.
Journalists with established brands could probably do much better at raising money in advance for research and/or investigations with clear deliverables by targeting communities with specific needs and interests.
I’m considering offering Technoccult dossiers on commission under similar parameters as Forbes Insights – I wouldn’t do a dossier on a specific company or organization but would do them on a particular subject or issue. Sponsors would benefit from increased awareness of the subject or issue, and by being explicitly tied to it through their sponsorship.
I think journalists, bloggers, and news agencies would do well to consider what else they can offer as a service, besides research/reporting, but I’ll address that in future posts.
Media Companies as Technology Companies
As every company is (or is becoming) a media company, all companies that were media companies before this shift started happening need to become technology companies.
The New York Times is a leader in this, creating interesting interactive information visualizations.
But things are going to need to go much deeper than clever info-widgets. The most disruptive force for news businesses is the unbundling of information they previously had a monopoly on mostly by tech companies – Google, Craigslist, Expedia, etc. Media companies are going to have to start employing more programmers and technology people and create new and better ways to find and filter information, competing head-on with companies like Google and Facebook.