Jim Spanfeller is president and CEO of Forbes.com. He is also treasurer of the Online Publishers Association and chairman emeritus of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
It is a tough time to be a professional journalist. Newspapers are downsizing or disappearing completely, magazines are failing every day and the ones surviving are getting thinner. Online, the rage is all about aggregation and consumer-generated content. But I firmly believe that in the future we will need more professional journalists than we have today and they will be as valued — or perhaps even more highly valued — than they were 10 years ago.
Will these professionals work for the same institutions that they work for now? More likely no then yes. Certainly some of our current journalistic enterprises will survive and thrive but only the ones that make the transition to a “now economy” that demands “entwined content,” or stories told in prose, video and data all at the same time. The majority of the current kings of content don’t understand these changes or perhaps they do but feel helpless to respond to them. Today consumers wants to know what is happening right now (not 20 hours ago), and they want personal insight into the events. And by personal I do not mean from the point of the view of the writer (although clearly that is part of the puzzle) but rather personal to them. What do these events mean to me? How will they affect my world?
News for news sake will continue to be commoditized, but news that is specific to the end user and filled with real-time education will be hard to come by and highly valued. This will require smart, diligent reporters who do most of their work before the event happens. In other words, they know the topic inside and out, they know who the movers and shakers around that topic are, and, more importantly, they can get those movers and shakers to respond quickly at almost anytime of day.
Stories will still develop over time and across many specific installments of reporting. But the idea of a