Today’s Media Industry: Death Throes or Birth Pangs?

In March, at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Steven Berlin Johnson presented a framework for understanding how the media landscape has evolved over the past decade – and where it may be heading over the next.  (You can read Johnson’s speech on his blog,

Johnson suggested it’s too early to conclude that the disappearance of the traditional newspaper business model will result in dire consequences for investigative journalism, which is typically made possible by deep pockets.

Johnson correctly reminded his audience that blogging, social media and countless other Web 2.0 tools have brought readers more information and analysis about a broader range of topics than could have been imagined a little more than a decade ago.  In retrospect, the traditional newspaper model offered little that was truly local, and only now in hindsight can we appreciate that society was being underserved at the micro-news level.

Perhaps, as Johnson noted, the innovations of Web 2.0 that have enabled specialized coverage of technology, politics, local communities and other areas will free traditional newspapers with shrinking budgetary resource to focus on investigative journalism, which is what they do best. What’s more, traditional media could act as an authoritative filter of the original information already being generated on the web.  It’s a reasonable forecast.

In the meantime, how do newspapers and other traditional media companies and professionals cope with painful downsizing?

As reported by Fishbowl NY, Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently announced MediaNYC 2020, a program of eight initiatives designed to revitalize New York City’s media industry, a sector that accounts for $30 billion in annual revenue.  The program, developed after consultations with area media movers and shakers, includes various initiatives for supporting and attracting both new media start-ups and established companies. Among other things, the program will help fledgling businesses with IT purchases and attracting investment, as well as provide social and digital media skills training for laid-off professionals with traditional media backgrounds.

New York City is both a media center and home to Silicon Alley, a renowned incubator of emerging technology companies.  Hopefully programs like MediaNYC 2020 will facilitate greater cross-pollination of these two industries, helping both to thrive in the not-too-distant future.

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