I was asked to give a talk on ‘the future of digital journalism’ at the Ohlin Institute, a liberal think tank in Sweden recently.
I clearly don’t have all the answers but was able to facilitate a discussion. Here are some of my notes. I’ve omitted parts, notably the section of the innovative things the Wall Street Journal is doing, in order to keep these posts to manageable lengths.
Note that this is a personal view, not the view of the Wall Street Journal.
I’m separating the main points from my talk into four manageable chunks. The first I am posting today, the remaining three posts I intend to publish in the coming days.
- Where might news be viewed
- Why we should think data first
- How news (or data) might be syndicated
- What we can do to prepare for the future
Where might news be viewed
What might the future look like? There are many clues in popular culture and as we’ve learnt over the years, films are a successful incubator for tech ideas. Let’s consider some recent examples:
Does the future look like Her? Her is a recently-released film in which the Joaquin Phoenix character falls in love with his computer’s operating system. It’s supposed to be Los Angeles, 10 years in the future. (It’s high tech but a world where lockers still require keys and shirts are fastened with buttons.)
The main interface in the film is voice and the character, called Theodore, has an ear piece, an example of a ‘voice-only interface’.
Theo also has this hand-held device which operates with swipe gestures and has a camera (not a million miles away from an iPhone).
"The future we see in Her is one where technology has dissolved into everyday life," this Wired article says.
Or does the future looks like Minority Report? This is an example of a ‘natural user interface’, which is heavily controlled by gestures.
And the film and TV industry has been quite visionary in the past. Take Star Trek. Does Captain Kirk’s Personal Access Display Device, or PADD for short, remind you of anything?
There are an ever-expanding range of devices and surfaces to consider, as put forward in this video, published in 2011, which shows Microsoft’s vision of the future. It includes surfaces such as an interactive fridge door. (Note that Samsung’s new fridge unveiled last week lacks connectivity to other Samsung devices, which is a long-term goal.)
The future is here (kind of)
But of course this future is already here to certain extent, we have Siri and Google Glass (here’s the launch video from 2012).
Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Google Glass app which pushes headlines to Glass.
Wearable technology is gaining ground. Zite, originally a mobile news app (now owned by Flipboard), has launched a smartwatch app.
Once we start to look at what already exists and consider the future, we can see that in all likelihood news won’t just be consumed on paper, in web browsers, on tablets, and on mobile phones.
Some of these emerging devices probably won’t catch on, but other yet-to-be-invented devices will no doubt be bought by many of us in the not too distant future.
If we move beyond thinking about browser-based news, we need to consider how we can push our news to all of these emerging platforms.
That’s the subject of the next post.