Delivery changes. Journalism doesn’t.

By A.J. Feather

I gave a new method of podcast listening a try this weekend. I think I have used Stitcher Radio in the past, but I don’t remember when that was or why I did not stick with it. The experience was remarkable.

When I turned it on, it gave me access to a larger library of podcasts and allowed me to play through stories from the Wall Street Journal, NPR and the CBC in a curated order that flowed well. But that wasn’t what got my attention.

The voice of my professor, Amy Simons, started coming through the speaker my phone was tethered to. I was cooking eggs at the time and the pan nearly melted my spatula as I dropped it and ran across the room to grab my phone. It turns out Stitcher had automatically located me and found local radio content.

Two stories later, I was listening to myself read Thursday’s afternoon newscasts on KBIA. This was completely unexpected and very impressive.

As technology has evolved over the last century, legacy mediums have been interrupted but not removed. Many people still get a paper delivered, listen to drive-time radio and pay more for television than they do for their cell phone.

Via Overcast
Some consumers have found replacements. The Wall Street Journal comes to my iPad around 1 a.m. every day, beating the newspaper deliveryman by at least a few hours. The Apple TV in my living room has freed me from the satellite TV my roommates refused to let go of because of something called SportsCenter, which they now get over the air. Overcast, Audible and - as of this weekend - Stitcher have replaced radio for me.

Content producers and journalists are adapting effectively, and I think we forget that sometimes.  We wrap ourselves up in this idea of an evolving industry. Fear overrides measured decision making and media companies do things like launch a publication that’s only available on a platform that’s less than a year old.

Via Flickr / brownpau
The best way to make sure a publication’s new model works like the old model is to - you guessed it - make it work like the old model. In an August 2013 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Freedom Communications President Eric Spitz explained how the Orange County Register saved itself by putting up a strict online paywall.  

There will be modifications to the industry, but the news model is sound. People want stories that matter to their community, their friends and themselves. It doesn’t matter whether the stories are delivered by text message, carrier pigeon, Stitcher or Twitter.

For all the issues that face our industry - declining newspaper sales, the impending end of cable television, and users deserting the home page, journalists have adapted and will make whatever changes are necessary. Learning Python and acclimating yourself with Illustrator in your free time isn’t a bad idea, but it’s much less important than the ability to tell important stories well.

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