Minds of the Media Gather to Discuss Future of News

    December 1, 2009
    Chris Crum

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting a 2-day workshop on "Journalism and the Internet Age" today and tomorrow. Featured at the event are a number of high profile media executives and gurus. The cast ranges from News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch to Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington.

The event appears to be designed to present all possible angles regarding the state of the news industry and the web’s role, as well as the government’s role, if any. Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, who is appearing on a panel at the event himself, has a liveblog running, covering much of the discussion (and there is a lot of it), providing a good source for actual quotes.

The newspaper industry is obviously struggling right now, and a common theme discussed throughout the workshop has been that the effects of the recession may be skewing the long term view. In other words, maybe it’s not really as bad as it seems right now.

That said, publications clearly have to adapt to the online lifestyles of readers, whether that means the death of print newspapers or not. Let’s look at comments made by Murdoch and Huffington, because they basically represent opposing sides of the spectrum on a number of sub-topics to this discussion (Although to be fair, it’s probably not as black and white as that. There is certainly a lot of gray area in the discussion, which has been going on for years).

Rupert MurdochMurdoch says three things have to happen: media companies have to deliver the news consumers want in ways that meet their lifestyles and must innovate like never before, they have to convince consumers that good journalism isn’t free, and the government needs to "clear obstacles."

Murdoch goes on to discuss other related topics, including that of fair use. He rips aggregators, calling aggregation "wholesale theft."

Arianna HuffingtonHuffington, whose site is largely known for aggregating content, says Murdoch is confusing aggregation with theft, but says they link to the Wall Street Journal every day and never get a complaint. She says that if it was wrong, they’d have heard about it. She also says aggregation is part of the web’s "DNA" and that Murdoch plays both sides, noting that some of Murdoch’s own sites also aggregate or "steal" content.

Huffington also discusses things like social and collaborative news, and the concept of citizen journalism.

There are many other speakers and opinions being voiced at the FTC’s event, and Sullivan’s liveblog captures a great deal of them. It will be interesting to see if the event leads to any significant progress in the ongoing discussion.

On a related note, Google has posted about the ways it is focusing on helping news publishers gain traffic, engage audiences, and increase revenue.

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