Viner explains digital news media

By Barry Tucker                    11 October, 2013

The Guardian Oz Editor-in-Chief, Katharine Viner, delivered the AN Smith Lecture in Melbourne on 9 October, 2013.

Her address covered some of the history of communication, from the pre newspaper town square or marketplace, through the development of print, newspapers and their decay, to the struggle of print to make itself relevant and profitable in the digital age.

In one of many comparisons between print and digital, and the attempts of print to get on board, she writes:

“So being open has many advantages for journalists. But to do it, you need to be part of the web’s ecosystem, not just plonked on top of it; to submit to the web’s architecture, psychology, mores, rather than imposing a newspapers’s structure over it.

“When you put the reader at the heart of what you’re doing, then you learn from them how the web works at that moment. In this transitional era we’re all creating this new ecosystem together — and the users are often one step ahead of us, working it out as they go along.”

Viner also comments on the Guardian’s variety of content delivery, the engagement with readers, the problematic matter of pay walls versus free access to content.

It’s a wide ranging, insightful address. And lengthy. Take a cut lunch with you, if you want to.

Update, 14 October, 2013

Some of what Viner had to say is challenged in an article in The Conversation (@ConversationEDU) by ANDREA CARSON, Honorary Research Fellow for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne.

Carson writes that Viner disentangled the crisis facing print newspapers from the state of journalism. “Too often the decline of print journalism is conflated with the future of journalism,” Carson wrote.

“Viner, in an inspiring speech showed how the two were separate. But she muddied the waters about the role a pay wall can play in funding newspaper journalism.”

There’s an interesting comment below the story from Gavin Moodie, Principal Policy Adviser at RMIT University. Moodie says: “I’m not sure that journalists are needed. Developments in politics, economics, health, business, etc, may be reported and analysed by people who specialise in those fields and write reports and analyses incidentally as part of their specialised work. The Conversation is a good example.”

Read all about it.

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