Steve Baker at Businessweek offered his prediction on the future of newspapers:
Editors will go the way of the linotype machine. Increasingly, human editing will be viewed as an expense and a delay that few can afford. Algorithms, editing software and seach engines will handle much of the work. Communities will bounce around the stories and edit in their own way. In this sense, newspapers will become more like blogs…This represents a shift in power within journalism. Editors long ran things. Editing was management. It was upward mobility. More money. Reporters who didn’t switch to editing by their 40s were often considered quirky, and lacking in ambition. That’s no longer the case.
Building on the assertion that reporters who choose not to pursue editorship now hold legitimacy and some higher promise, I replied to Steve:
As today’s editor erodes — as you describe — I believe the brand equity of the individual reporter, or voice, will inversely rise.
At least in my personal world of editorial consumption and interaction, you and Businessweek are a perfect example of this. To me, the “Steve Baker” brand, is more targeted, relevant, familiar and trustworthy versus the Businessweek brand.
This is no criticism of Businessweek, which is a fine news brand, but all news brands will need to embrace and cultivate the singular people brands within, which are the true assets which resonate with other people.
It’s no secret: brands are tremendously powerful, but people trust big institutions along with their brands less and less everyday. People increasingly look to other people like themselves for information, recommendations, comfort, reassurance and guidance on how to live life. The downfall of trust in big institutions is inherent in corporations, government, religious bodies, and…the news business.
I believe if we are in a long-term period of eroding trust in what’s big and institutional, then we’re bound to enter a period of intense consciousness and value over what’s small. What’s small is accessible, tangible and compatible with “us people.”
I believe the investments and scale that big news brands achieve will remain important in 2020. However, they will need to reconcile with the eventual, dominant attribute called small.
Regardless, this period will bring tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurial, independent, innovative thinkers to shape what does become the news business. The big’s monopoly on the the ability to shape the future of news — or push the status quo — is declining significantly.