Various meetings and classes this week have pushed the impact mono-medium mindsets and publishing practices are having on the industry to the front of my thinking. It became particularly clear in the debate about media brands surviving in the brave new world of digital and I’ve been thinking about how it all fits together.
This is what I came up with – hey, I’m a visual (if not totally clear) thinker.
In my lectures I often talk about the decision impact funnel; the value of making decisions/assumptions early in development. Whether it’s as part of the design process, or getting students to understand how their lack of effort and thought early in an assignment leads to disaster later on, it seems an easy way to communicate the value of clear thinking, early in a process.
It occurred to me that many of the problems in the journalism industry, at the moment at least, follow a similar pattern of behaviour to the worst of the funnel behaviour.
The problems, in my view, come from the friction between the policy demands of the corporate side of an organisation and the journalistic demands, which become more specific when the point of delivery (a decision or publication) is mono-media.
At the extreme ends of these areas, decisions are made with little apparent impact. On the corporate side, the decision to move in to video, for example, may be made, with a view to competition and shareholder views – the others are doing it. Why aren’t we? The video decision from a journalistic view may be made more with the audience interest in mind – what do they want to watch?
At the extreme ends these are low impact decision but the closer you get to the point of delivery in terms of a medium – let’s say the newspaper – the more specific to the delivery platform the roles, responsibilities and decision making processes become. The simple decisions become clouded by the immediate requirements of the delivery platform.
It seems to me that having a multi-platform approach, even if it is in attitude not in content delivery, pulls the point of delivery in to lower impact areas.
Take the idea of training journalists to write stories and headlines in style that will improve Google rankings. No-one would dispute the value of that at a broad level. But if you are geared towards a mono-media approach and you simply re-purpose print content for online, the impact is huge at the point of delivery. The marketers are demanding you write headlines in a style that just won’t fly in the paper.
Take a multi-platform approach, and split the content off at an earlier point, even if its just to get the first line subs or the journo themselves to submit two headlines, and you move the point of delivery and lower impact.
Now, you may read that and say ‘no sh**, Andy’, but it doesn’t seem to be happening and I think the reason is this:
In a mono-media organisation, to move any decision away from the high-impact point of delivery will require one of the approaches to move in to the others area. The corporate end would need to meet the journalist early in their process or vice-versa. In effect they would be stepping over the line in to each others areas and that blurs the ‘church and state’ line in journalism.
Given some traditional journalists view that the move to digital and multi-platform is driven purely by money it would seem that breakdown on lines is something that may be harder and harder to do.