Business journalism in 10 years will look radically different than today. But not even experts at a seminar focusing on the future of business media could say what it will be.
The industry is just experiencing too much disruptive technology to make any predictions. Five years ago, who ever heard of iPods? said Roger McNamee, managing director of Elevation Partners, a private equity group that invests in media properties.
Even more startling (not to mention disruptive), who ever heard of social-networking sites?
Such sites are the hottest trend on the Web right now. Leading players like Myspace and Facebook are drawing huge audiences of highly desired 18- to 34-year-olds. (As well as eye-opening valuations on Wall Street.) It kind of makes you wonder what’s been going on in the corporate suites of mainstream media companies. For the most part, they have been blindsided by the trend.
Traditional media should have been thinking outside the box and trying to figure out what the Web truly represents. Instead, they were preoccupied with recreating their print publications online. Big mistake. You can’t look at the Web as just another medium, said James J. Spanfeller, president and chief executive of Forbes.com. Rather, it’s a platform for a variety of media, he said.
McNamee and Spanfeller offered those insights in the opening panel discussion on transforming the business media brand. They specifically looked at the evolution of Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, in which Elevation Partners is an investor.
Although they couldn’t foresee what business media would look like in a decade, they gave a hint at what we might not see — journalists! McNamee projected that 90 percent of the words on Forbes.com of the future will be written by audience members. “Our goal will be to provide guidance and filters,” he said.
That undoubtedly caused publishers in the audience to perk up. The traditional print media model has always been highly labor intensive. A staff of professional journalists not only takes a big bite out of the bottom line, they are often thorny to deal with as well.
Bloggers, on the other hand, usually provide content for free. In these days of eroding revenue and profit margins, the future looks bright indeed.