The architecture of news

Some very perceptive thoughts from Upendra Shardanand — co-founder and CEO of media site — in this post on his personal blog about “the new architecture of news.” It’s been out there for a little while, but I only just got around to reading it now (hat tip to my colleague Greg MacGregor for the link). As he describes it, the media industry as we know it is evolving and being disrupted in ways that we’re only just beginning to contemplate or understand:

“The reality is that some of the news organizations we love are going to go away. Others will shrink. Still others will flourish, and new ones will be born. And some online services that you would never expect to be a news outlet will add to their offering news from other content creators.”

I think Upendra is right when he says that the actual consumption of news (broadly defined, of course) has been increasing, but the ways in which people consume that news have been splintered and atomized by the arrival of the Web. All the Web has really done, he says, is to expose some of the inefficiency and low-quality content that was easier to disguise (or get away with) when publishers and other content creators controlled the means of distribution.

“Controlling offline distribution meant controlling the physical delivery of the content. Online, it’s all about offering superior navigation to the content.”

That’s an important point: It’s all about navigation — helping your readers find the content that they want. And that content doesn’t always have to be original content generated by the staff of a publisher, Upendra says (and I agree). It could be from anywhere — and by linking to it, you help to create a bond of trust with your audience, as they come to believe that you will have the best content even if it’s not your own. That has value. At the same time, publishers have to also focus on what they do best, and turn that to their advantage.

“More than ever, publishers need something unique – in voice, brand, content – around which to build. If people sometimes feel that the traditional news organizations all feel a bit same-same, a bit whitewashed and stale, well… maybe they sometimes are. Increased competition means even more need for differentiation.”

Well said. I encourage you to read the whole thing.

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