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The End of an Era

February 23, 2012

How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work

An average day for me involves working on a print publication, and reading textbooks and works published by famous authors for my classes.  I use physical, tangible media every day and get by just fine, but it’s inevitable that the world will slowly phase out these mediums in favor of digital platforms.  I mean the general public has already submitted to the idea of having exclusively digital lives, see Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., so to hear someone like Steve Buttry suggest that news mediums will make the same transition really isn’t that surprising.

The idea of news group focusing on digital content with a print edition as a supplement is just the inverse of what many papers are doing now.  I can see the appeal.  I mean with a smart phone or a tablet, a digital first reporter can supply all of the content needed for a given story and can even crowd source at will.  A potential drawback to this approach is that even more responsibility is heaped on the reporter responsible for coverage because all of the content is going to end up being posted online by that person.  Which means, if the reporter takes the wrong angle for a story everything they posted might need to be altered, or if they are in a place where they have no Internet access the well of content dries up.

One thing I wish Buttry would have elaborated on was the business model for Digital First.  In his introduction he said he would but I never saw it.  I’m curious how the group makes money, what kinds of expenses this approach encounters, what methods they use to cut costs and if the print side of the publication is a burden to the digital version.

All things considered print publications, with the exception of maybe books and magazines, will cease to exist in a decade at the most.  I mean nearly every other form of media has made the transition to digital platforms: television has had satellite for quite some time and recently switched to digital cable, radio has XM and music is now almost exclusively consumed in mp3 format.  The world is changing.  I wish it wouldn’t because I think several of the services used for digital journalism are gimmicks and the idea of looking to Facebook and Twitter for news is disappointing, but what else can print journalism do but grin and bear it?

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