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Tech giants may have their own views on what journalism should become, but some news organisations are questioning what benefits the social vision of future news can really bring at a time when they’re struggling for business survival…
“Facebook will make north of $3 billion in advertising this year,” FT.com MD Rob Grimshaw told the Paley Center For Media’s international council in Madrid on Thursday “This is not doing anything good for journalism – in fact, it’s destroying it.”
Many news publishers now pipe stories through Facebook, which has also become an important referrer. Guardian.co.uk has made itself available inside a Facebook app. Grimshaw was not criticising such journalism efforts. “We have to engage with social media,” he said.
But Grimshaw is concerned that Facebook is beginning to gobble advertising money from news publishers. “I don’t blame Facebook, but I do blame the publishing industry for being very naive about some of these facts,” he told the gathering of digital news bosses in Madrid.
“Not all distribution is good distribution,” Grimshaw said. “We have to bring people back to FT.com, where we can generate revenue from them. It works very well, we’ve built a profitable model. The idea FT journalism could be freely consumed across all media platforms is not a panacea.
The nauseum of crowds?
Some leading news organisations have also concluded efforts to engage readers in journalism may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
Even The Guardian appears disappointed by Open News List, its effort to involve readers in story planning.
“It’s great that people read it, but they don’t really contribute to it as much as we hoped,” Guardian deputy editor Katharine Viner told the Paley’s assembly.
“How much time and effort do people really want to put in to deciding and running their own news agenda?,” BBC News director Helen Boaden asked, suggesting only unemployed people really have the time to engage in that way.
“A lot of people are very happy for an ‘evil’ news editor to run it and to have someone else tell them what’s important in the world that day.”
And, following the call Google and Facebook made at the same conference to invent a better means of communicating news than the traditional narrative story, Wall Street Journal Europe deputy editor Neil McIntosh said that format remains in demand.
“Our readers need us to sift,” McIntosh said. “Readers are often crying out for less, not more. They’re still looking for the nut graf and the sort of stories I was taught to bash out 20 years ago.”
WSJ has, however, recently introduced Streaming Stories, a way of presenting live-updating material alongside conventional narrative.