Media companies are within the dumper. Every week, we hear of recent layoffs, price range cuts, diminished editorial high quality, and extra, far more. And but, someway, miraculously, greater than 3,000 journalists managed to search out the funds to journey to Singapore to cowl the Kim-Trump Summit Extraordinaire this week.
How many journalists received to see the summit exercise? From Politico: “Most notably, the variety of American journalists allowed to witness the assembly between Trump and Kim was restricted to seven — a smaller group than would normally be current for such a summit, and one which excluded representatives from the key wire providers” (emphasis added).
It’s an enormous information story, a serious historic second within the relations between the DPRK and the United States, and one which portends large adjustments in that relationship going ahead. The occasion ought to be fervently coated by the worldwide press. Yet, 3,000 appears a stupendous variety of folks to cowl an occasion so scripted and managed. Journalists watched from a warehouse and even got so bored, they started interviewing each other slightly than, I don’t know, a supply.
I discover this similar dynamic watching the keynote movies of any of the highest tech corporations — there are a whole bunch if not 1000’s of journalists overlaying these occasions from the viewers. Exactly the way you construct a singular story sitting there, beats me.
In media, one of the crucial essential qualities of an amazing story is salience — how necessary a narrative is to a specific viewers. Tech readers need to know every little thing occurring at an Apple keynote, simply as a lot as the entire world is interested by what shakes down in Singapore. It is sensible to have a density of journalists to cowl these occasions.
The downside in my thoughts is the sheer duplication of labor, when the more and more valuable time of journalists could possibly be spent on discovering extra differentiated or distinctive tales which might be under-reported. In Singapore, what number of English-language journalists wanted to be there? How many Chinese-speaking or Korean-speaking journalists? I’m not suggesting the reply in combination is one every, however actually the quantity ought to be fractions of three,000.
I’ve given numerous thought to subscription fashions in media the previous few weeks, arguing that buyers are more and more dealing with a “subscription hell” and combating in opposition to the notion that paying for content should only be the preserve of the top 1%.
Yet, if we wish readers to pay for our content material, it must be a differentiated product. This makes full sense to each participant in industries like music, or motion pictures, or books. Musicians could cowl different artists, however they virtually invariably attempt to carry out unique music on their very own. Ultimately, with out your personal sound, you haven’t any voice and no fanbase.
Nonetheless, I really feel journalists and significantly editors need to be reminded of this frequently. Journalists nonetheless cling to the generalist mannequin of our forebears, slightly than changing into specialists on a beat the place they’ll provide deeper insights and unique reporting. Everyone can’t cowl every little thing.
That’s one cause why folks like Ben Thompson at Stratechery and Bill Bishop at Sinocism have grown to be so fashionable — they do one factor properly, and don’t attempt to provide a bundle of content material in the identical outdated approach. Instead, they’ve staked their manufacturers and reputations on their deep focus. Readers can then add and subtract these subscriptions as their pursuits shift.
The largest block to bettering this duplication is the dearth of cooperation amongst media corporations. Syndication of content material occurs often, such as a recent deal between Politico and the South China Morning Post to supply extra China-focused protection to the U.S.-dominated readership of Politico . Those offers although are inclined to take months to hash out, and are sometimes not ephemeral sufficient to match the information cycle.
Imagine as a substitute a world the place specialists are overlaying targeted beats. Kim-Trump may have been coated by individuals who concentrate on Singaporean overseas affairs (as hosts, that they had essentially the most information of what was occurring), in addition to North Korea watchers and U.S.-Asia overseas coverage junkies. Clearinghouses for syndication (blockchain or no blockchain) may have ensured that the content material from these specialists was distributed to all who had an curiosity in including protection. No generalists want apply.
This isn’t an effectivity argument for additional newsroom cutbacks, however slightly an argument to make use of the expertise and time of present journalists to trailblaze distinctive paths and protection. Until the media learns that not everybody can grow to be a North Korea or Google professional in a single day, we’re going to proceed to see warehouses and ballrooms crammed to the brim with preening writers and digital camera groups, whereas the tales that almost all want telling stay ignored.