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Media

Video WeMedia's Andrew Nachison Discusses the Future of Online Journalism 17

WeMedia is partly a think tank and partly a consulting firm that advises news organizations on how to deal with the ever-changing world of online journalism. Andrew Nachison cofounded WeMedia with Dale Peskin (who went back to newspaper editing in 2014) and is now the main sparkplug behind WeMedia. Andrew has been around journalism as a reporter, editor, consultant, and academic observer. If you're interested in the future of journalism, this interview with Andrew is a "must watch" (or "must read the transcript") piece. And we'll have another video starring Andrew on Slashdot within the next week, since this one ran long but only covered half of what we wanted to.

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller for Slashdot: This is Andrew Nachison of WeMedia. In fact, a co-founder and a CEO and head honcho. Andrew is, in my opinion, one of the top three or four – I mean, one of the top three or four journalism thinkers who are wandering around loose. He’s written in newspapers, he’s edited, he’s done the actual groundwork. Plus he has big-time academic credentials and this basically think tank thing to work with. So from his perch, atop mount journo, Andrew, what are we going to see in news, especially online, in like the next five years? What’s happening?

Andrew Nachison: Well, first, thanks for that exaggerated introduction. So, from the top of the mountain, well, let's say since we’re web-high, there are clouds and it's a little foggy, which in a way is a metaphor for the news and information experience. It surrounds us. It's everywhere. It’s hard to differentiate and at times, it's disorienting and confusing. That's really not a forecast for the future. That's just kind of describing what we're living in.

Slashdot: That's the present.

Andrew Nachison: Yeah, that's right. And to be honest in really kind of grand visionary terms, I'm not as clear on the future as I was, say, ten years ago. I can see what's going on in terms of the business of news and even there, five years is a bit of a stretch. But we can see kind of where we are and extrapolate forward. Strangely, the news business has kind of tilted back toward what the news business used to look like. There's been a real consolidation of power, the kind of re-emergence of big brands that dominate both the kind of public discourse, and also the economics of news. So, from their standpoint, they all talk about how the business of news is so difficult. It isn’t what it used to be. And that's true.

Slashdot: Have you been in a newsroom yet where they had a dartboard with Craig Newmark's face on it?

Andrew Nachison: Years ago, yes. It’s been a while since his name has come up. They don't really groan about him so much anymore because other things have kind of overtaken that anxiety. So, you know, look, I mean Facebook and Google before Facebook, really became the kind of technical overlords of the media experience; to a lesser, much lesser extent, Twitter. But you’ve now got these really big intermediaries through which a lot of the news experience flows.

Slashdot: Sure.

Andrew Nachison: So, that’s a new anxiety for publishers who like to control their own destinies and really don't anymore. But then you've got the reality, set aside the business and making it profitable and paying for journalists. You've got the information experience of everyday citizens. And that, in some ways, resembles what the old experience was. We got these big dominating voices. There are more choices now. There's infinite choice. But infinity is really theoretical because nobody consumes or even samples infinite numbers of sources.

Slashdot: Or even 520 cable channels.

Andrew Nachison: That's right.

Slashdot: which I get.

Andrew Nachison: That's right. So, as it turns out, big brands in many respects are bigger than ever in terms of their influence. There have been some shifts. The really big influential broadcasters through their broadcast networks may not have the same reach and influence that they used to have, but it's still big. And some publishers who, a long time ago, might really have been secondary to broadcasters in terms of their reach, now in some cases, really, really compete and outcompete. They've got some giant audiences.

Slashdot: Yeah.

Andrew Nachison: And then aside from the numbers, which is really a business person's way of looking at news, besides their numbers, there's just the kind of influence in civic discourse. The New York Times was influential 20 years ago. It's influential today. You could argue it's more influential and it certainly reaches more people; not necessarily every day, not necessarily on every subject, not necessarily with any sort of loyalty or a financial commitment or long-term personal affinity. But it reaches a lot of people and it influences a lot of people.

Slashdot: In these big papers what I notice is that I find out about interesting articles through Facebook and Twitter primarily. So, again, this is the old, “Does anybody read the front page?”

Andrew Nachison: Less and less. The front page is a secondary means of discovery. It's really diminished in significance. Social is the most important pathway and those are direct links to stories.

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WeMedia's Andrew Nachison Discusses the Future of Online Journalism

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