21st Century Journalism XXXV: Clay Shirky on What the Future HoldsI was quite taken with a blog post Clay Shirky published in March, in which he talks about the difficulty newspapers are having building a future for themselves. His thesis:
With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public has stopped being a problem.The burning question is how news providers will actually arrive at the digital future.
Looking at the experience of transitioning from handwritten to printed books, Shirky argues that journalism's transition process will be is chaotic because people have to try various possibilities with no certainty about what ultimately will pan out. Shirky believes that
For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.I found Shirky's post stimulating and informative well worth a reflective reading.