Perhaps a path forward for the press: data journalism.
Journalists and media companies in general have had to answer a fundamental question ever since their traditional business model collapsed: What are we?
In the old days, it was easy. Media barons could see themselves as selling attention to advertisers, while journalists could see themselves as holding the powers that be to account, free of all business-related interference. And in those days, everybody was right.
Today, the two branches of the business have split, possibly forever. Advertising and journalism do not complement each other the way they used to. In that case, companies and people will have to specialize in one business or the other.
Those who prefer to run Google adwords next to user-generated product reviews have made their choice: they’ve left the journalism business. For others, the existential crisis continues. But there might be a way out – if media companies realize what data could mean for media business models.
The first step on that path is to understand that successful media companies of the future have to build an infrastructure that turns them into reliable data hubs, able to analyze even very large and complex datasets internally and to build stories on their insights.
There is a reason why media companies are still referred to as “the press.” For a long, long time the printing machine was the core technology that provided a comfortable competitive edge. The ability to produce a million copies overnight and distribute them before breakfast offered a solid foundation for making money.
Enter the “trust market”. Trust, not information, is the scarce resource in today’s world. Trust is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose. And it is a core element of journalism, few other professions are so dependent on trust.
But it is not just a requirement, it is also an enormous underserved market. Media companies will learn that it is trust, not SEO, branding, or content farming that’s the road to success. And that road points right to data journalism.