Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

And the future of broadcast news is …

Ah, who knows? But NBC’s Mark Lukasiewicz told a Canadian Journalism Foundation event that there will always be a demand for good visual story-telling — it just might not pay as well as it did before.

You can find my tweet stream below. Here is:

 I added links that I couldn’t during the live tweeting and will offer some analysis at the end.

CBC living legend Mark Starowicz introduced Lukasiewicz:

Starowicz sets up #cjftvnews with a history of mass media, the fragmentation of TV.

NBC’s Mark Lukadiewicz (sic) says he has no idea about future of broadcast news, but believes will be demand for viz stories

ML said don’t get bogged down by technology; worry about connecting stories & audiences

ML said when you start talking about content & platforms inst of stories, you’re heading off the rails.

ML talks about power of TV to draw you into the human experience (was quoting Rueven (sic) Frank*)

* Frank’s first name is actually Reuven, and he is a former NBC News president. The full quote, from Wikipedia, is: “The highest power of television journalism is not in the transmission of information but in the transmission of experience.”

ML: “I think social media is really something we have to pay attention to.” News as convo.

The big 3 platforms: Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. None are really succ yet as businesses: ML.

TV news orgs can’t aim to be the dominant news source any more: ML.

ML says no one is a pure consumer any more, but quotes Jakob Nielsen as saying most lurk.*

* Nielsen phrased it as a problem of “participation inequality”: “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.”

Less than .1% of Wikipedia’s 190MM users contribute

ML warns against overly relying on SM to determine what to cover.

ML compares how NBC anchor Brian Williams’ job is different from that of former anchor Tom Brokaw.

Pro-produced content dominates on YouTube: ML

Flat-screen TVs have revived family viewing: ML

Major, shared, global events (eg. Olympics) remain dominated by TV: ML

More video is being consumed than ever before: ML.

ML says he can’t guarantee NBC News will exist in a generation. Says the gen’l biz model is crumbling

Web audience for MSNBC outstrips broadcast for much of day: ML.

ML scorns Pasedena (sic) Now’s dec’n to outsource city council coverage to India.*

* From my archives (May 15, 2007): Should journalism be outsourced?

Need to make consumers aware that journalism has value: ML.*

* Note what he says further down about charging for content

ML shows egs. of NBC content being ripped off by aggregators.

ML says Zapruder wasn’t a citizen J on Nov. 22/63. But also says citizen content v impt.*

* Read this Clay Shirky essay reprinted Nov. 8 by Poynter Online: The shock of inclusion and new roles for news in the fabric of society

Video search weak on the Web: ML.

Most digital platforms don’t support the econ of traditional content production: ML.

ML says he hasn’t kept track of NBC’s newsgathering headcount.

ML says at end of the day, private broadcasters are businesses.

More channels mean better opps for civic convo. Q is whether audience gravitates to such programs: ML

Audience can grab embedded video from MSNBC. “The advertising you see belongs to us.” ML

ML talked about interactive tools MSNBC has dev’d for Katrina, minn bridge collapse anniv.

Traditional workflow clashes with needs of digital age: ML.

ML says apps can be charged for, but not general news.

ML says he disn’t see Olbermann’s commentary last nite*. Did say objectivity hasn’t always been std; says trans’cy gaining steam.

*MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, who had been suspended for making campaign contributions to some Democratic party candidates, was reacting to a Nov. 14 commentary in the Washington Post by former ABC News broadcaster Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

ML says he’s more of a natnews guy, but doesn’t think hyperlocal news has really taken off.

“We have to continually teach people how to tell stories”: ML.

MSNBC has really worked at being where people want to be (ie multi-platform): ML

Twitter really has become a news medium: ML.

These last few came after the formal session had ended:

Here’s ML’s advice to a future Columbia j-school student: Learn how to shoot video, learn how to use Final Cut Pro. …

… ML said you don’t want to be playing catch-up on technical skills at j-school. …

… Finally, ML told her that she should read “On Writing Well,” by William Zinsser.

Surprisingly, ML didn’t see the difference between social friends & real-world ones. More on this in a blog post.

That last bit was in response to a question by me, both during the formal session and in a scrum afterwards.

My formal question, boiled down, was he talked about how people are getting more of their news from friends. My worry is that in many cases, what people getting from their friends is bias confirmation. If you trust someone because they’re your friend, even though they’re spouting nonsense, but don’t trust someone who may actually be telling them the truth, there’s a problem.

I asked how journalists could become trusted “friends” to their audience through social media, given that someone such as NBC’s Ann Curry, who has more than one million Twitter followers, can’t have a one-to-one relationship with all those individuals.

Lukasiewicz talked about how Curry often tweets about Somalia (he probably meant to say ‘Sudan’, based on her recent tweets) and doesn’t just use it as an NBC platform. However, review her Twitter stream and tell me if you think she’s burning it up. I find her tweets quite innocuous. And she doesn’t seem to interact very much.

Curry pops up in my stream, but I don’t snap to attention when she does. Guess we’re not destined to be friends. :)

But it should be noted the more point-of-viewish MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has more than 155,000 Twitter followers at this writing, despite tweeting three times as much as Curry. Maybe the difference isn’t in Twitter styles, but on being on cable versus the network. Or maybe having a point of view can cap one’s audience size.*

* Additional thought: It may also be that Olbermann has fewer but more engaged followers. I’d rather have 155K followers who care about what I write than 1MM followers who could care less. See this Oct. 23, 2009 post: At ‘Slate,’ they want a small but intense audience

If someone had time, it would be worth studying the Twitter audience of the two on-air personalities to see why and how intensely people follow them.

Lukasiewicz said his main point was that people are increasingly getting news from their friends (Internal question: And where are those friends getting their information from? – Bill D.).

In any event, in the after-the-panel scrum, I mentioned to Lukasiewicz that the only new organization to gain credibility from 2000 to 2004 in one Pew survey was Fox News (even if it was only among Republicans; see the details in this 2005 post; I should see if an update was ever done).

See what I mean about bias confirmation?

Lukasiewicz’s initial reaction was to disbelieve my claim.

He thought that while friends tend to agree with each other, that’s not always the case. He said the point of his original remark early in the talk was that the recommendation of friends was becoming more important in news distribution.

But he seemed caught off-guard when I differentiated between social friends and real-world ones.

There are some people I only know through Twitter, but who post interesting* stuff. I’ll probably never meet them, given that they live in places such as Bangkok and Karachi.

* Question: To what extent are shared interests the same as shared biases?

Those interested in further delving into this topic should read this Nov. 9 Nieman Journalism Lab post: Loose ties vs. strong – Pinyadda’s platform finds that shared interests trump friendships in ‘social news’.

I didn’t bring this up with Lukasiewicz, but I suspect much sharing is driven by opinion leaders on social networks — and they aren’t disposed to retweeting items that run counter to their worldview. See this April 6 post: Ideas, observations, debate, democracy and Twitter.

In any event, we content producers may be over-relying on the miracle of sharing. Note this article posted Monday: Here’s what’s wrong with social media: Sharing without consumption.

Social media is important to the future of news consumption, but it’s not a magic bullet that will make all of the news industry’s problems go away.

Hopefully there will be a webcast posted. Failing that, it would be good of Lukasiewicz to post his slides. They contained a lot of insightful information.

On balance, I think Lukasiewicz was as honest as someone can be in a senior job about the challenges facing conventional news broadcasters (I work online for CTV News).

Yes, there’s big demand for video, but the world is awash in such content. Yes, families will gather around the giant flatscreen TV to watch major special-events programming.

But they don’t want to pay to consume news online, and the revenue isn’t there for pure digital operations to maintain the same cost structures (i.e. real people with jobs that pay decent wages). In the U.S., according to Lukasiewicz, the legal framework isn’t there to protect the legitimate interests of content producers.

So did Lukasiewicz see a future? Yes, but not necessarily in a job with a massive operation such as NBC, or at the same salaries as days gone by.

Kids, you’ve been warned.

Additional reading

John Stackhouse, editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail, gave an Oct. 21 talk on News 3.0.

One reason I asked about the notion of friendship and bias confirmation in news consumption decision-making was because of how U.S. society seems to be fracturing. See this Nov. 9 post: America’s great cleaving. Note the quote from Stackhouse within.

Finally, if you’re a future-of-news geek, revisit this from Oct. 3, 2009: What’s next for the future of news? It features the aforementioned Clay Shirky and Internet gadfly Andrew Keen. Much of what was said stands up.

That will be all.

Tue, November 16 2010 » Main Page, Media