The Case For Media Industry Optimism
Things are tough, but there is cause for positivity.
Too often, media coverage i.e. coverage about the media industry, is negative. It comes from the “we’re all doomed” school. And, to be fair to those who write such columns, it isn’t hard to see why. Just recently, we’ve seen some of the big hitters of the social media news era collapse, including Vice Media filing for bankruptcy on Monday.
In her latest Guardian column, Margaret Sullivan rightly noted the falls in valuations and layoffs that other similar publishers have suffered and said “many of the biggest experiments are failing.”
Then there is AI, the current freakout topic du jour. It’s coming for all our jobs, right?
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I continue to remain far more optimistic. As Sullivan also wrote:
“It’s heartening to see the success of quality digital-first news sites like ProPublica, which depend heavily – though not exclusively – on philanthropy… The small local-news site Mississippi Today – funded through membership, events and philanthropy – won a Pulitzer prize last month; it was founded only seven years ago.”
Then there are mega-brands like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others that continue to perform strongly because people need them, whether that is because they want recipes and games or essential business news.
I like to look at the other end of scale too. People are building successful media businesses with podcasts, Substack, YouTube and other platforms. Now, some of that is entertainment not news, but there is plenty of good reporting going on too, particularly from people deeply engaged in a certain niche or topic. You can also look at Politico, Axios and, more recently, Semafor, which are relatively new but hire hugely talented journalists and provide important reporting and analysis.
As for AI, well, I’ve long argued that while there are a huge number of issues, ranging from disinformation to the replacing of human writers, there is once again cause for optimism. I think that AI will get to a point where it will be able to do the boring, formulaic bits of journalism, such as filling in market data, pretty effectively. What it will surely never be able to do is the crucial human elements of journalism such as encouraging a source to speak.
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