Xark 2.0 report outlines what’s next for news


WWen I give a presentation, I talk the language I was raised on: newspapers. It’s a language my audience understands. We relate well. We share acronyms that are increasingly becoming global (CPMs, ROI). The common language facilitates so much.

During questions at a presentation recently in Sweden, a newspaper’s chief digital officer asked me a detailed question about the commercial value of a syndicated online audience and the metrics and algorithms associated with this.

I froze.

I was busted.

No clue. Over my head. What language is he speaking?

I increasingly feel as if I need to learn this emerging language of media.

Two weeks ago, a blog called Xark 2.0 pushed me out of my comfort zone to take on “2020 Vision: What’s Next For News.” It was written by Dan Conover, and he speaks of things to come I know to be true – yet are uncomfortable since they aren't part of my native language.

Let me boil down the essentials of this seminal article:

  • After the fire: Over the next two years, the newspaper industry will see the weak fall. That means marginal newspapers will go away, unprofitable days of the week will be eliminated, and duplication in reporting will stop.

  • Trends, signals, and influences: Through 2014, “quiet forces” will rise in importance for media companies. For example, open source solutions will push proprietary systems “to the brink” because of the “rate at which they adapt to change and innovation.” The “Semweb revolution” (Web 3.0) will emerge after 2011. Advanced tools such as fact-checking informatics will emerge.

  • The known competitors: Newsmedia missions will splinter. This will include newspapers, web-only news sites, premium content consisting of “passionate or profitable niches,” tabloid “bottom-feeders,” crowdfunding, non-profit news, sponsorships and micro-sponsorships, volunteers, interest-funded journalism, direct subsidy, copyright licensing, selling the context of news, and intelligent aggregation. Said Conover: “Ask not what business model is best; ask what business model is best for your mission.”

  • The new exotics: “New exotics” that are difficult to put into words today will change the media ecosystem through 2020. Conover says the top issue in modern communications is the “superhuman rate of expansion in global information production,” so information scalability becomes vital. Writing for machines will become more profitable while human-readable narratives will be an important sub-set. The author predicts human-readable products (narratives) will be given away while they sell the datasets – GPS coordinates coded for relevance and subject. Data “mashups” will rise in importance as will automated machine-readable metadata. Intelligent agents, predictive intelligence, and virtual businesses will become the norm.

Are you still in your comfort zone?

This article was written from the perspective of the U.S. news industry, which we know is a peculiar entity on the world stage. Yet much of what is written is viable no matter what happens to the traditional advertising support for news organisations.

One of the reasons we need to adjust downward editorial and production operations at today’s newspapers is to open space in time and financial budgets for this fast-emerging future. We need national and international collaborative bodies that can be incubators for these ideas, and the major publishers must find budgets to fund them if they plan on being players in this pool during the next decade.

Opening up the transformational “bandwidth” to adjust to the Xark 2.0 vision for what’s next in news is a challenge that must be confronted today.

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