The Future of News

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

Three of our generation’s most culturally relevant news outlets shut down this month. MTV News is kaput, Vice News is going bankrupt, and BuzzFeed News let their whole staff go. Complex is hanging on by a thread.

In different eras of my life, these channels meant the world to me and were trusted sources of valuable cultural information. Their collective closure has me reflecting. Maybe 2023 really is the year of great consolidation or, as Zuckerberg nimbly spun it, “the year of great efficiency.”

Excuse my eye roll.

Generally speaking, the news cycle during the Roaring Twenty-Twenties has been a non-stop barrage of 24-hour madness. From January 6th to the pandemic, from deep fakes to AI, from Elon to Kanye, critical thinking has become so important as we navigate an era of hepped up polarization and conspiracy theories. But where is news headed?

Is it going to be social media generated? Could TikTok (and the Chinese government) take over? Or will Twitter revive itself? I know the TikTok algorithm is feeding us bad information already. If you look online, it’s easy to get the sense that America has fallen from grace. I’m not convinced of that narrative, but it’s undeniably being pushed.

In my mind, the major news orgs are pretty much out to pasture. The Fox Newses and CNNs of the world had their chance to gain universal trust and credibility but they squandered it. Anchors are dropping like flies. I don’t want to live on either pole.

As an entrepreneur, I respect the bottom line, but I can’t help but think the death of news began with the subscription model. Sure, we always paid a little for the papers, but on our phones it felt different. Time, under new leadership, just bucked that trend and made its articles available without a paywall, attempting to move back to an advertising-first model. I think this is the only way Time and others will remain in the picture. More publications will follow suit.

On the other hand, I commend the New York Times for how it reinvented its business, adding things like Podcasts and Wordle to create innovative value within the subscription model. But even the Gray Lady has her biases. I see who they’re selling to, too.

I’m a voracious consumer of podcasts and newsletters – hell, I’m writing one right now – but my issue with these communication tools remains the presence of bias. Everyone is working their book.

So who can we count on, truly? Will AI revolutionize the newsroom? It’s beginning to seem so. But AI thrives on what has already happened, not what is happening. It can be customized, curated, and mass produced to infinity, but I don’t see it killing off good reporters and writers, the same way it won’t kill off good DJs. Instead, it makes a good DJ even more in demand. Fresh ideas and strong voices will be at a premium in an AI-produced world.

News could become community-driven and -generated, but I believe the dream of DAOs will fade. We’re seeing the cracks as more and more DAOs that made an early impact are losing steam. The models aren’t making sense and bad actors still have too much influence.

Lately, what has been hitting are chat groups. They combine community with an open flow of information that moves at the speed of culture, but capped. Some of these chat groups are building legendary reputations and fostering real movements.

This week marked the launch of a new media company that I advise called ON_Discourse. OND is all about a community-powered, membership model for open dialogue. I love the flow of conversation on there and they’re doing something very smart to popularize it: putting together awesome events to amplify their platform. Events are still a big component of media success and will continue to be vital for bringing new players to market.

In recent years, I’ve fantasized about being a journalist or news editor who sits around contemplating which stories will move the masses. I may be romanticizing it, but being part of a news team, up late on deadline, sounds exhilarating. The only way to keep that fantasy alive in the minds of young writers is to develop and promote new platforms for stories to be told. Thanks to communities like ON_Discourse, I’m excited about where the future of media is headed. What platforms and players do you have your eye on?

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Also published on Medium.