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How do we conquer the tech x media divide?
I’ve long thought that the solution to the current media crisis that we’re in is largely going to rely on collaboration between the tech and media worlds, but it’s proving hard to do, for a few key reasons.
Media has a fundamentally different goal than tech products
Journalism’s job is, to tell the truth, to inform, to facilitate discussion, and well, tech… not so much. Tech, and commonly startups, often get into that job because they’re working to build a new future. Which is great! There are lots of things that need to be fixing, but as those who have written a startup business model know, oftentimes, there’s research to know and research to show. The mere concept of research to know v. research to show is at a natural odds with Media products.
Furthermore, the concept of even measuring success differs between these two industries. In journalism, you’re looking to inform. How do you measure if you’ve informed someone or not? There’s no comprehension quiz at the end of a news article, nor are there perks for getting more reads and shares — it’s not necessarily a sign of success (points to the fact that the majority of people don’t actually read what they share.). Startups and tech, you typically have a goal - profitability, and metrics that show you’re successful at that can include paid signups, purchases, app downloads, active users. Something you can measure. Something that also doesn’t have the ethical quandaries of how you get that information.
Platforms and media outlets are at odds with how we should handle information.
Log onto twitter somedays and its a boxing ring. You see a tweet, and you can ‘like’ it, or add something along the lines of “me too” or “hey no you’re wrong,” Nuance isn’t built into 240 characters, heck we have enough trouble putting context into a single news article. We argue that journalists either don’t go into enough depth, or, are so in-depth that it’s hard for the layman to understand, and for the average news consumer outside what I assume us to all be news junkies, this is a hard problem how to overcome. Journalists need to be on these platforms, even if they can be dumpster fires at a time, but informing the public, and playing the role of teller of truth is naturally at odds with what the algorithm is looking for.
Tech journalism is already in a tough spot
When the recent story about Clubhouse broke, countless folks in tech tweeted out about how some actively shouldn’t talk to journalists. (WTF?!?!)
[Friendly reminder: my definition of the function of journalism is to tell the truth, inform, and facilitate discussion. These are all means of holding people accountable and building a better society. This is the reason why the freedom of speech is so important.]
Hold tech accountable, get slaughtered by tech on twitter, run their press release, lose journalistic integrity. There’s no “winning” in this debate. Furthermore, industry publications have a hard time critically reporting on tech, because they’re part of the ecosystem.
Secrecy has become baked into Silicon Valley to an extent, in this report from the Columbia Journalism Review - it talks of the dangers this has to actual accountability journalism:
There are a number of reasons that such secrecy has become integral to the Valley’s culture, not least the need to protect intellectual property from fast-moving rivals. But the press atmosphere around tech also made it possible. Thanks to a compliant and often cheerleading media, companies could easily control their narratives and shut critics and reporters out.
- Howard Lake for Columbia Journalism Review
These problems aren’t just problems for those in tech and those in journalism, they’re problems for the mass majority of people who are looking to gain insight and structure into what the actual impacts are on our lives vs. the “gossipy” culture problems. And it’s a problem half created by technology, in this Slate podcast - we chat with different tech reporters of how we actually got here as tech journalists.
Continuing to report critically on something that has seeped into all the different aspects of our lives is something that very much needs to be done. This makes the idea of combining forces with tech one a tense topic of discussion.
Building a toolkit
Let’s start working together to build a better future, welcome to Media Hackers.
To start this divide, I’m starting with my own community. How do we create or use tools at the intersection of media and technology to improve the future of these industries? It’s a hard route, but one I believe we can have growth in.
In this newsletter, you’ll get active tools, tips, and tricks towards building better media products and communities around them using no-code tools, basic monetization strategies, and community-building tactics. I’ve even already sourced interviews for those who are leaders in this regard, using or creating tools for a better media future.
I don’t believe I know the solution right now to solve this media or tech divide, but sitting on our hands and not testing is not going to do us any good. Join me, and let’s build together - a better future at this intersection.
I really enjoyed this teardown of hype and exclusivity in product launches, but wonder if this is a trend that will be something to continue to grow for the long run? Or will we all be over the hype?
Audio first has some promises, and there’s some things I like about it, but I’ve also got my concerns. 👇
This thread on White Claw has me thinking more about how we grow, and how much time it takes. (And that’s okay!!!)
That’s all for this week’s Erin for Tech. I’m looking forward too seeing you next week! As much as the internet can be a dumpster fire, this has been a pleasant place to be, and in the meantime — I look forward to seeing you on Media Hackers.