A few weeks ago, The Media Consortium held its annual member meeting in NYC. Despite the raging blizzard that hit the city the day of the meeting (what timing!) over 70 individuals from more than two dozen organizations traveled from across the country for the two day event. This meeting marked the fifth anniversary of The Media Consortium, which was a great time to reflect on where we’ve been as an organization and a sector and how we are going to move forward together. The meeting gave us a sneak peek of the big changes to expect for the progressive media sector during the next few years.
For many of those who were been present at the first meeting of the consortium in March 2005, and watched/helped the consortium evolve to where it is now, this meeting marked a significant change. A few years ago, the idea of editorial collaboration among members was a big no-no. Imagine exposing sunlight to vampires. That’s how quick some ran away from that conversation. A few years ago, the understanding around community building/engagement was frowned upon (not just by media consortium members, but by the journalism sector at large). But my, how perceptions have changed.
Now the ideas of collaboration and engagement are not just viewed as important, but are seen as essential to the future success, impact and sustainability of the progressive media sector. These topics were a major focus for the meeting agenda and in small-group and one-on-one conversations among meeting attendees. This drastic change has come about for two reasons.
- Technology has broken down the barriers of collaboration, fostered more relationships among media producers, and encouraged their actual engagement and communication with their users.
- The economic situation facing many organizations has given them no choice but to find new creative, collaborative ways to work together and with their users. This may be the only good thing that has come out of the economic troubles that journalism organizations are facing.
The Media Consortium performed an illuminating exercise with our members where we asked them to project what kind of media organizations they would like to evolve into over the next five years. As a baseline, I laid out four journalism “sectors” that I see developing now and in the future. I created short definitions for each of these sector and their corresponding roles/values each of these sectors provide in a short slideshow.
In 2010, most of the cluster of organizations placed themselves in the “Pure Play” journalism field, but by 2015, this sector is empty. Looking ahead five years, most groups formed a cluster around “Hybrid Media Making” and “Journalism + Action.” Drastic, no?
For many journalism producers and organizations, this is a big break from the traditional role of the press to only “observe and report.” This shift into working/engaging with a community and deliberately moving them towards action will probably be seen by some as the opposite of journalism and its last steps towards dissolution. Instead, I think this reflects the correct next step for progressive media makers. While retaining their journalistic integrity, progressive media makers must demonstrate to their allies AND to their users the social and political impact of their journalism. Users (networked consumers of information/news) are no longer passive receivers of content. They want to be active players in producing and distributing the content. More and more, they also want help in knowing what to do with the content.
Progressive media makers will have to decide for themselves how far they want to take the “action” part of their work. Will they create spaces for users to self-organize? Connect them more strategically with organizations like Care2 or Change.org that suggest and organize actions? Or are there other options to pursue? Time will tell as TMC members and others experiment in this area.
In fact, TMC will be working and experimenting with our members on this idea and others, including moving into mobile, editorial collaboration, revenue generation opportunities, community engagement and more through our 2010 Incubation Lab program. We’ll be reviewing and reporting on the results of these experiments as we implement them. So keep checking in to see how the progressive media transforms itself from the inside out for a new media landscape. We’re sowing the seeds now for progressive media sector of 2015.