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The future of media according to Steve Forbes

I am currently in lovely Las Vegas, Nevada chasing my life-long dream of becoming an Elvis impersonator.  I wish!  Although I am in Vegas, it’s for a much more mundane reason, attending an technology industry conference. Like a lot of these conferences, we had a big-name key note speaker – not as notable as Rebecca Costa, mind you! – but Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes Media, did a nice job anyway.  As this was a tech conference, he hit on a number of points related to the future of technology and in particular, he talked about how the media has had to reinvent itself over the last few years as technology has rendered obsolete much of the foundation on which modern reporting was built. In particular, the whole way content is created and how content creators get paid is changing dramatically.

In Forbes opinion, the days of the daily newspaper are numbered, an opinion shared by many others.  Why would someone get a printed copy today of old, day-old news when you can go online at any time and get an up-to-the-second report of what is going on in the world? A lot of newspapers are struggling to find a way to compete in this arena, but their initial efforts, which was basically turning the printed newspaper into a website, was a failure and many news outlets have disappeared.  In fact, traditional media outlets are being eclipsed by new ways of getting information, in particular social media and online bloggers.

What I find interesting is that the Internet has created a huge need for content, yet most of that content is being generated for free and being consumed for free, which means it’s pretty bad.  Remember, these aren’t professional writers or reporters.  We’re taking about every day people who post their thoughts and opinions online, usually forgetting to use spell check in the process.  Literary greats they are not but they get an audience anyway because the public craves information.

Forbes.com understand this dilemma and is experimenting with ways to generate the huge amount of content they need using professionals and yet not break the bank in paying them.  They’ve contracted with writers, reporters and bloggers around the world to create content for their websites and pay them based on the amount of traffic their columns or blog posts receive.  They encourage the writers to promote their own content through other sources, like social media or complementary online publications, so as to drive traffic to their content on the Forbes.com site.  It’s actually very creative and being used more and more by online sites as a way to generate content while paying only for the amount of interests that content generates.

Of course, some will argue that this “pay-for-play” system of compensating journalists will only encourage greater sensationalism and kill real investigative reporting, which more takes time and effort than these new media outlets are willing to pay.  It’s no wonder you see more and more screaming headlines about naked celebrities and fewer in-depth pieces about things that really matter.

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