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Monday, May 30, 2005

Rupert Murdoch, Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants

Jeff Jarvis blogs about Rupert Murdoch’s speech and warning - to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington today, telling them that papers are whistling in their own graveyard and recommending some solutions, including even blogs: He starts by acknowledging that he and the assembled sages aren't the ones to reinvigorate news. Excerpts with edits:
In the words of Murdoch : Like many of you, I’m a digital immigrant. I grew up in a highly centralized world where news and information were tightly controlled by a few proprietors, who deemed to tell us what we could and should know. My two young daughters, on the other hand, will be digital natives.... The peculiar challenge then, is for us digital immigrants – many of whom are in positions to determine how news is assembled and disseminated - to apply a digital mindset to a set of challenges that we unfortunately have limited to no first-hand experience dealing with.

We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from. They want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle. Murdoch explains the print medias inertness in the face of this advance.
- First, for centuries, newspapers as a medium enjoyed a virtual information monopoly – roughly from the birth of the printing press to the rise of radio. We never had a reason to second-guess what we were doing.
- Second, even after the advent of television, a slow but steady decline in readership was masked by population growth that kept circulations reasonably intact.
- Third, even after absolute circulations started to decline in the 1990s, profitability did not. But those days are gone. The trends are against us.

He scolds the editors for not taking full advantage of the internet: We have not, as an industry, embraced digital technology and the Internet in the way … or to the extent … that we should, and must.... Murdoch says he is optimistic about the news business because the public, including the young, want news.
The challenge, however, is to deliver that news in ways consumers want to receive it. Before we can apply our competitive advantages, we have to free our minds of our prejudices and predispositions, and start thinking like our newest consumers. In short, we have to answer this fundamental question: What do we – a bunch of digital immigrants - need to do to be relevant to the digital natives?
And then he goes to the blogs: The digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to engage our reporters and editors in more extended discussions about the way a particular story was reported or researched or presented.At the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the net. So long as our readers understand the distinction between bloggers and our journalists, and so long as proper safeguards are utilized, this might be an idea worth exploring. To carry this one step further, some digital natives do even more than blog with text – they are blogging with audio, specifically through the rise of podcasting – and to remain fully competitive, some may want to consider providing a place for that as well. And with the growing proliferation of broadband, the emphasis online is shifting from text only to text with video. The future is soon upon us in this regard. Here's the full text of the speech.

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