The media revolution. Who saw it coming?

Ian Gill is the author of No News Is Bad News, and an expert on the current media revolution. He’s an experienced journalist, documentarian, entrepreneur and catalyst for boundary-breaking media.

According to Gill, legacy media has completely missed the boat when it comes to public discourse. Instead of dwelling on new technology and hedge-fund backed expansion as a panacea, Gill believes we need to rethink the role of storytelling, engagement, and crafting ‘public service journalism’ as the antidote to click bait and fake news.

Check out our lively conversation by clicking the link below. Or just jump ahead to the highlight notes. Either way, enjoy!

Highlights from our media revolution interview

We’re seeing the destruction of the traditional mode of funding media – that is, advertising dollars. In fact, ‘legacy’ media outlets have seen their ad revenues decline about 40% in the past few years. This is a total disruption of the legacy media economic model.

Certainly, philanthropy can help fund media. But journalism is a quasi-political activity, which precludes many foundations from getting involved. And there are only so many philanthropy dollars to go around. If media takes them, what other worthy causes are neglected?

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Content is ubiquitous. What’s needed is perspective.

Content is ubiquitous. We can get instant news from countless sources. What’s needed is perspective. This is the role of ‘public service’ journalism. More than telling us that there’s been another accident at a particular intersection, tell us what the underlying causes of these accidents are.

Journalists need to be thinking about the impact they can have in helping stir conversation, promoting balanced understanding, and helping the populace form educated opinions.

A collapse of traditional media conglomerates is imminent.

Media barons in Canada and elsewhere are aggregating properties on the shoulder of huge, hedge fund debt. A collapse of staggering proportions is imminent.

Meanwhile, the journalism that made these organizations great is being decimated. More than 3,000 jobs have been shed at Post Media in Canada, many of them journalists.

Legacy media aren’t optimizing digital media. Many media organizations have implemented crude paid subscriptions, or simply transplanted the front page to digital. People want to consume media story by story, and have shown they’re willing to read thoughtful, long format writing – if it’s served to them the way they like.

Good, innovative things are happening in the media landscape, despite the gloom. De Correspondent in Holland has created a wonderful, thriving model where there are no corporate bosses, and the journalists are tasked with interacting with readers to provide them with the stories they need. In effect, they told readers to give them 60 Euros to give them the stories they need.

The NY Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica are similarly creating interesting, highly interactive and multi-media journalism.

Canada has missed the boat in new technology journalism. But what we can do is be more attentive to changes in journalistic practice. How can Canada help create a new form of journalism, providing a public service of indepth analysis that our democracy needs?

At Discourse Media, there’s no desire to feed partisan ideologies or create echo chambers. We don’t want to be taken to the margins. We want to appeal to people who want to cut through the noise.

We need to curate a space where people can satisfy their curiosity about a perspective that isn’t necessarily their own. The only way that you can change people’s minds  is by giving them conversations that make them uncomfortable.

Quotable Media Revolution Quotes

“People feel traumatized and overwhelmed by the media they see every day. Responsible, public service journalism needs to exist so the citizenry can navigate important issues instead of being terrified by those issues.”

“Mainstream media needs to hit rock bottom before it’ll change. We haven’t seen the bottom yet, though.”

“The head of Axel Springer Publishing in Germany compared public service journalism to be as antiquated as vinyl records. To which I would say true, but vinyl is making a comeback – albeit after being completely decimated first.”

“Legacy media barons are in Ottawa, asking our federal government for handouts. But they’ve lost their social license to operate, and aren’t acting in the public interest when they ask for dollars. They need to be left to fail. Of course, that means digital media need to figure out exactly how to provide what the public wants, which most haven’t done yet.”

“De Correspondent in Holland is a model for effective new journalism. They’re crowdfunded, and have only one responsibility – to their readers.”

“Why would you want to sell people an entire newspaper if they just want a story or two? Blendle in Holland is serving up stories for purchase, as opposed to entire newspapers.”

“As the media of today swings to the right and left, there’s a huge hole in the middle.”

“Better public discourse depends on what we do from a cultural, not a technological point of view. Real conversations are the answer, not better technology.”

“If you surround yourself with like-minded people, this leads to culture being destroyed. It’s happening in suburbs, and it’s happening in echo chamber journalism.”

“Journalism is just another form of having people come out of themselves, contributing in small but important ways, and connecting with their fellow human beings.”

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This story was originally published May 17, 2017, but was updated and released January 1, 2020. 

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