Published on February 21, 2014
Experiments in newsrooms George Brock Professor and Head of Journalism City University London World Editors Forum Berlin| October 2013
Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age
Throwing spaghetti at the wall
Words that scare people • “Innovation” • “Experiment” • “Think outside the box” • Most people can’t – and don’t want – to do that to order. • People who love the idea are rare.
Why? • “No institution wants to dissolve itself. Getting that old mindset to accept that everything that it has done as a business and editorial model is now over, pffft, gone is very hard.” Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, 2012 • Fear • Habit • The peculiar conditions of journalism is the second half of the 20th century • Media businesses became operations companies
Conquering fear of flying • Look back at history • Focus on experiment • Worry about quality of experiment • Drive up quantity of experiment
Journalism is always being disrupted • When did more papers die in New York City than any other time? • British “national” papers – when was their circulation peak? • Tension between what people want to know and what they should know always unstable • Even universities get it: “teaching hospital” projects and EJ courses.
Quantity • • • • • • Imagine a media “launch” process Now imagine an array of experiments Split the money into 10 Do enough to make lots of mistakes “Error is useful” (Buzzfeed) Long, repeated cycles of change (so keep doing it)
Quality • • • • • • • • Speed Ruthlessness Measure of success/failure Adaptability + agility Measure of value Learn from other experiments Unleash your inner anthropologists Watch out for consultants and cosmetics salesmen
For instance…paywalls • Dogma has no place in experiment: ideas are stress-tested: – “Information wants to be free” – “People ought to pay for our news” • Set up as many experiments as possible • What did Andrew Miller say here on Monday? • = there is no single answer
Disrupters wear disguise • SE1 • Wannabehacks • Gothamist • Curbed
Did I mention the book?
• www.georgebrock.net • @georgeprof • www.city.ac.uk/journalism
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