May 7, 2012
Every once in a while — OK, pretty often, actually — I run across something so smart it makes me wish I’d written it. I ran across such an item by a guy I’d never heard of on a site I’d never heard of. But I expect I’ll be hearing more about him in the future.
Stijn Debrouwere lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he creates information architecture for the local newspaper and TV station. And he recently posted on his blog a long item about the many information sources that are replacing traditional journalism.
It’s worth a read, but I’ll highlight a few of his key points. Some of these bullet points are direct quotes and some are my paraphases.
“This is not sharing cat pictures, this is stuff that matters,” he writes. “People can read the health section in their newspaper and get drip-fed badly researched advice about how to live a healthy life, or they can visit the NIH or the Mayo Clinic online, or create an account on one of the many bulletin boards about anything from fitness to dealing with cancer.”
The traditional media haven’t found the right ways to get people to pay for news and media online, but these other sites have. It’s not journalism as we’ve known it, but it’s information that matters in people’s lives.
While the traditional media cry in their beer, Debrouwere writes, the rest of the Web world is “having a party on the other side of the river with their not-really-reporting and sort-of-journalism and maybe-media.”
Journalists are slowly realizing that their competition isn’t just other online news sites and services; it’s every other thing that is competing for people’s time, attention and money online.
I’ve been reading these essays on the future of journalism for at least five years. I’ve read dozens, maybe hundreds of them. Debrouwere’s is one of the clearest and smartest I’ve seen. If you’re at all interested in how people get and use information (and most people reading this blog are), it’s worth a look.