The Future of News? Yes.

I’m heading to the New York Marriott Marquis today to moderate a conversation on the future of news at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference. That’s #TOC for the twittering class (and that includes #timoreilly himself).

My panel includes Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis, online news producer/researcher Matt Thompson, digital news designer Nick Bilton, and news-tech-sex-startup diva Susan Mernit. Susan’s also a longtime friend, collaborator and entrepreneur-in-residence at iFOCOS. I’ll see Susan again in a couple of weeks at We Media Miami.

TOC is a “future of” conference for book publishers – and I’ve been asked to try to draw out lessons from the news industry that might be relevant for the book industry. I’ll do my best to extract some wisdom from the book industry.

I have to admit – the topic doesn’t excite me nearly as much as it used to. Future of news? Yes. Future of news businesses? Smaller. Future of news business models? Many.

The platitudes replay and recycle like a broken record: news is a conversation, it’s networked, it’s all about the crowd, we’ve got to preserve the values, the traditions, the jobs, and above all we need to discover and exploit the fucking hell out of whatever “the” business model turns out to be.


All we need to do is reduce the atmosphere’s carbon load, stop killing each other, and find enough food and clean water for the three billion people who don’t have it. Or avert economic depression, or the post-oil chaos of the Long Emergency. Or figure out how to cure my mom’s pancreatic cancer.

The Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson just huffed a puff of stale morning breath into an old rant: “make em pay” – “em” being those damned fool non-journalist consumers who’ve been “trained” to believe news should be free, to which the only reasonable response is, make em produce a product worth paying for, in which “em” is Isaacson. Isaacson is one of many people who think a combination of technology (micropayments) and brute business force (monopoly, collusion and control) will roll back the clock to the glory days of news, when it was tightly controlled by big companies that employed people like … Isaacson.

That’s old news. So I’ll try to talk about something else today.

Here’s Isaacson huffing again, hopelessly, with John Stewart:

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