Reuters columnist Felix Salmon has glimpsed the future of news, and he is well pleased.
Twitter and Facebook are showing the way, he says, thanks to “millions of unpaid editors.” For “high-minded editors who extol the wonders of investigative journalism and who disdain cat videos as being beneath them,” this is unfortunate, Salmon acknowledges. “But,” he argues, “most news bundles have always included their fair share of fluff.”
The bottom line, according to Salmon: “We’re at an excitingly early stage in working out how to best produce and provide news in a social world,” and “for the companies which get it right, it will be extremely profitable.”
Peter Drucker, himself an old newsman, saw many of the same broad themes emerging when he published Management Challenges for the 21st Century in 1999. At that point, he wrote, we had entered “the fourth Information Revolution in human history.”
The first was brought on by the invention of writing some 6,000 years ago; the second, by the written book around 1300 B.C.; and the third, by the invention of the printing press and movable type in the 15th century. Each of these transformations was, in Drucker’s view, as momentous as the explosion of information online.
Among the effects of “the printing revolution,” Drucker pointed out, was the creation “of a new class of information technologists”—namely, printers.
“Nonexistent—and indeed not even imaginable in 1455—they had become stars 25 years later,” Drucker wrote. “These virtuosi of the printing press were known and revered all over Europe, just as the names of the leading computer and software firms are recognized and admired worldwide today.”
Salmon asserts that one reason this is “a particularly exciting time in the news business” is because “the technologists are getting involved,” making “multi-million-dollar bets that they can . . . use their software advantage to win the battle for consumer attention.
Wrote Drucker: “The market for information still exists. And, though still disorganized, so does the supply. In the next few years—surely not more than a decade or two—the two will converge. And that will be the real new information revolution.”
Do you share Felix Salmon’s rosy view of the evolution of the news business?