Journalism Next: Innovation, Brand and Sustainability

This is what we know. Print circulation is dropping. Online doesn’t generate enough income. Broadcast is fragmenting and becoming increasingly competitive. New advertising streams are challenging independence. Cash crunches are leading to cutbacks and layoffs. And the non-stop news cycle, produced across multiple platforms with a lean, sometimes under-skilled staff, often leaves us in a quality quandary at a time when differentiating content is more important that ever.

This is what we also know: technology is changing everything. For better or for worse.

In May last year the New York Times Innovation Report was leaked. The Nieman Lab at Harvard University called it one of the key documents for this media age. The report told us much of what we already knew: we are hurdling toward a brave new world and even the most respected publication in the Western world is feeling it’s way through it all – just like the rest of us. It told us that innovation, both in the ways we present our journalism as well as the ways we market it, were key to surviving and thriving in the new media age.  It did not shy away from the scariest notion of all: that the terms ‘church’ and ‘state’ should be abandoned and that we need more collaboration with the business side of things, not less.

Meanwhile, our own media environment has presented unique challenges. Wits University’s “New Wave Report” showed that while internet use is rising rapidly, the majority of the population remains locked out due to access, connection speeds as well as English literacy limitations.

What’s exciting about all of this is that can do what we have always done, but do it even better than ever. We can tell stories in more compelling and engaging ways, while reaching more people in more parts of the world – and more corners of our own country and our own continent – than ever before.

To ensure that quality, ethical, accessible journalism is sustainable, the entire editorial staff – from reporter to editor-in-chief – has to consider parts of the business that we never had to before: issues like marketing and branding – for journalists, for individual stories and our media groups – as well as revenue streams. We have to find a way to better market the good work we already do while utilising the latest technology to become savvier, smarter and more engaging story-tellers. We need create new revenue streams and build our brands while developing audience loyalty through better journalism that is delivered in best way possible for our environment.

In short, we have no choice but to get innovative.

Join us in a conversation about journalism’s future, 12 and 13 June 2015 at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, JHB.