12 Ideas About The Future Of Media (From New York Times, Digg, and The New School)

Poring over a transcript from my Internet Week panel, I came across these salient observations on the future of news media–and the changing nature of the teams that create it.

12 Ideas About The Future Of Media (From New York Times, Digg, and The New School)

Last month I had the privilege of moderating three panelists: Matt Boggie of the New York Times R&D lab, Dave Carroll of the New School’s MFA in Design + Technology program, and Gilad Lotan, chief scientist at Betaworks and advisor to Digg. The title of the talk was “Media and Technology in the Age of Disruption” and it lasted nearly 90 minutes–all of which we had transcribed by limitless, cheap intern labor in order to bring you the following insights. You can watch some video highlights here, courtesy of Control Group and the NYCMediaLab. Now, on to the insights.


The medium is (part of) the message

Some stories are better told through one medium or another. Some require seeing the subject and understanding it on a personal level. So we’ll use video or audio to help bring someone into [the story] in a more intimate way. Some stories are very broad and abstract and require an understanding of lots of different intermediate players, and so the texts might be our anchor, but we’ll also add in things like diagrams and interactives that will help guide someone through a transition. Matt Boggie

Content windowing–are you kidding?

I hate the way a lot of media companies don’t know how to tell stories. As a big brand or as a media company, you can’t expect your audience to be attentive at a certain point in time, whenever you’re ready. Gilad Lotan

Readers are filters

Well, we know that humans are really good at pattern recognition, and that is, in some ways, what allows us to get through every day. We don’t even realize it. So as we are consuming stories either in sort of a feed style, where you’re doing an infinite scroll, you are doing pattern recognition. You are finding the things to ignore and the things to pay attention to and the things to click on and the things to swipe away. Matt Boggie

Where’s the value lie?

[W]here scarcity used to be the model to create value out of content–that is, a printing press or expensive film–the scarcity of the media is what made it expensive, and all the investment was there. But once the distribution is free, infinite, and instantaneous, the issue is completely artificial, and is mostly governed by copyright and lawyers. Dave Carroll

The new news team

What is important for us is really to create a sort of A-team of [technologists] who come from lots of different places. Some of them have journalist backgrounds, some don’t, and they fill in as many other skills as possible. There’s this concept going around that a few of the journalists and tech analysts [are becoming A-team material]. It’s this idea of breeding a unicorn. Matt Boggie


Misunderstandings are inevitable for innovators

It is very easy for an R&D organization to get the label of the geeks in the white ivory tower. Matt Boggie

The challenge for media now is volume

[T]he big media companies always deliver something good. You don’t have to look for it. It’s always delivered. It’s just not constant. Dave Carroll

Build creative technology teams

[T]he key is to create teams that work together as equals and as peers, and just empower them to fail, to screw up, to experiment and allow them to be learners. Because learners will innovate–they have nothing to lose and they don’t know any better. Dave Carroll

Transparency is the ultimate recruiting tool

In the last few years, we’ve been seeing a significant rise in applicants and just general talent. I think if you’re doing something interesting, if you’re public about it and you’re creating content that people love or experiences that people love, they’ll come to you. Gilad Lotan

Community breaks stories

We have far fewer of sort of the mavericks who have run off and have one source… and break the big story wide open. Much more you’ll see stories that have eight or 10 or 14 different bylines because it was something that was so important and so critical that we put a lot of people on it very quickly. Matt Boggie


Look to the East for consumption habits

I like to always ask, What’s going on in Japan and South Korea? Because they’re generally doing the things that we will be doing as a culture in five years. I can remember in 2000, I would say, They have mobile broadband in the Far East. No way–we will never have that. And then, sure enough, we have it and we take it for granted. Dave Carroll

Renaissance of the maker

I actually would go as far as saying what we really should be striving towards is actually a return to classical ideals. Da Vinci was not a designer, not a scientist, not an engineer, not a UX guy. He was a guy who could do it all and that’s what made him amazing, and the Renaissance did not have this strict idea that disciplines have to be separate and identities have to be pure, but instead, let’s just be a maker. Da Vinci was a maker. Dave Carroll

[Image: Flickr user JD Hancock]

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs