Jul 20 2009

Breaking News! New Media Depends On Old Media

New media attempts to use old media sources to generate content. In return, new media sites help promote digital content of newspapers and magazines. But my colleagues in the literary and journalistic worlds perceive a future where old media plays at best a marginal role.

For anyone who blogs, reads blogs or uses any social networking sites to post or view links, the idealized symbiosis between new media and old media should be obvious. But is it symbiosis or parasitism?

The old paradigm of news delivered in print may be dying, but without good old fashioned investigative reporting by paid journalists, I believe that most of this new media content, including this blog, could not exist.

There’s no doubt that new media news sites like Now Public can provide quality citizen journalism. But even there, how much of the stories on those sites is inspired by previous reporting done by paid professionals?

To take an analogy from renewable energy sources vis a vis fossil fuels, citizen journalism can only do so much to meet our entire information needs as a free society. Finding the right mix will be the challenge of the next decade.

Excerpts from New Media vs Old Media: A Portrait of the Drudge Report 2002-2008, which provide an excellent example of the dependence of new media on traditional media content.

The Drudge Report is one of the founding flag bearers of “new media”: a U.S.–based news aggregator founded in the late 1990s that has developed a reputation for breaking tomorrow’s news today…

As the argument of “new media” versus “old media” has intensified in recent years, the Drudge Report’s decade–long tenure offers an ideal case study in how “new media” sites evolve and adjust to changes in the media sphere…

Yet, rather than an all–powerful news outlet that controls the topic of the day, a picture emerges of a news aggregator whose ticket to success seems to be a particular knack for finding the small stories on the news wires and in obscure outlets that will grow big the next day, and having an extremely fast update rate that continually brings in the latest news on major events. His site is extremely dependent on the mainstream media he draws from, with his daily and hourly update cycles closely matching the update cycle of the U.S. outlets he draws almost 90 percent of his coverage from. He is also at the mercy of those outlets…

In a time when mainstream media is coming under increasing pressure from “new” media, this portrait of one of the Web’s longest–lived and most commercially successful news aggregators paints an image not of a new media paradigm to replace the old, but rather of a symbiotic and highly dependent relationship between old and new…

Free societies depend on massive amounts of information to create an aware population that can provide direction to its elected representatives. If new media kills vast swathes of old media publications, our society may find itself at least temporarily unable to get the information it needs to make informed decisions. Even if plenty of new media news sites rise in the wake of the defeated publications, it is difficult to see how genuine sources of hard investigative journalism will replace the old paid models.

If private companies can’t hack the old media model, a massive expansion of government-subsidized CBC-like entities hardly seems a viable alternative. Even with the best intentions, it could only become a mouthpiece of agitprop. So a private solution will need to make the old print model and purely online new media companies truly symbiotic if we’re going to have access to the information we need in the future.

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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Breaking News! New Media Depends On Old Media”

  1. […] Jonathon Narvey: Breaking News! New Media depends on Old Media. Share and Enjoy: […]

  2. Barbara Hannanon 21 Jul 2009 at 6:14 am

    You are so right. New media would be no media without old media. Much as I embrace new media for many reasons – the main one being there is no stopping the train – as a schooled journalist I am concerned that the two worlds operate with little or no respect for the other. You say finding the right mix will take the next decade. I think it may take longer but I certainly hope that signs of progress begin to take shape sooner than that.

  3. Maurice Cardinalon 22 Jul 2009 at 11:10 am

    As always, great points and insight J.

    I’ve found from personal experience that one of the most important aspects of citizen journalism is its capacity to put pro journos on notice and let them know someone is not only watching, but also “reporting on their reporting.”

    I use a system called “adopt-a-reporter” and one of the journos I follow can’t seem to understand I am NOT a reporter. A media critic maybe, but I have no interest in doing his job.

    Social media holds great promise to keep people and companies honest.

    I don’t think it is necessarily bad that a company has direct access to the public through their internets. It’s also amazing how much a disgruntled employee will leak and how easy it is to verify their accusations.

    Over time this self leveling system will only get better and more efficient.

    Not all companies are cut out to play in the social media sandbox, but in the beginning most of them want to try.

  4. […] as a free society. Finding the right mix will be the challenge of the next decade,” read a post on the “New Media” Blog under the headline “Breaking News! New Media Depends On Old Media” a while back. And […]

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