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How are news sites to survive the technological upheaval of the early 21st century?


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(1) Most need to get out of the traditional hard copy act altogether and be exclusively online to slash costs and overhead-- although making hard copies available through something like print-on-demand vending machines on the street, and in bookstores and libraries for a fee, may still be practical. And charging people a small fee (or otherwise getting compensation of some form from them, such as personal information) to get an easy to print version from the web might be helpful too.

(2) Some level of government subsidy may be necessary to insure that real and important news is covered, and not merely celebrity scandals and sensationalist crimes. Such subsidies may be contingent upon annual review of how well a news site is adhering to the related requirements/guidelines for covering the news.

These requirements/guidelines will probably require an independent agency to create and maintain them, as well as do site evaluations; and this agency must be one not easily affected by political, business, or religious factions of any kind.

(3) News sites may have to ally themselves with (or enter into cooperative agreements with) the new generation of classified ad sites like craigslist, in order to get any significant cut at all of future classified ads. However, they'll also have to sell display advertising slots much the same as today as well-- although the government subsidy requirements might restrict some aspects of those sales.

(4) I believe a new, and independent entity capable of realtime credibility rating of news reports and sources could help quality news sites tremendously, by helping differentiate them quality-wise from sensationalist rags like Fox News, etc. (and also degrade the sales and competitiveness of lower quality outlets, as well). Again, such a judge of news credibility will have to be seen as impeccable, and immune to undue political, business, or religious influences.

(5) A history-making shift in government support to encourage whistleblowers at all levels of business and government could help quality news sites tremendously with a whole new array of awards of recognition, and financial bounties-- especially if those bounties were proportional to a reasonable accounting of how much money any particular report saved the public afterwards, due to related changes in laws and regulations, recovered monies, and responsible criminals being successfully caught and convicted. At least a few such awards might amount to huge figures, and on occasion turn individual news reporters into whole new private news players virtually overnight.

(6) One thing I think we'll see lots more of is news sites making opportunities available to amateur private citizen reporters to collect the news-- offering bounties in some way proportional to how much profit the sites themselves make from a particular story-- as well as how accurate the story turns out to be, and how closely it follows credibility guidelines, among other things. This will allow a news site to pretty much act like an agent from the film the Matrix: transforming any average person at the spot where news is taking place into their own cub reporter, instantly. And since individual rewards could in some cases turn out to be substantial, there'll be no shortage of citizens striving to get at important stories.

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Previous related works by this author: An illustrated speculative timeline of future technology and social change: how advances in technology may reshape humanity.

Copyright © 2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.