Blog Post

Data and The Future of News

There was recently an article from the American Journalism Review Journal, where the author, Paul Sparrow, discussed how the future of news lies in data. Thus, we felt that it was important to bring you up to speed on where we think the Internet is going and where the future of news lies. In this Daily Brown Bag, Chad and Adam discuss Sparrow’s article and the network of devices, which are all connected that Sparrow referred to as the four horsemen of the techpocalypse. You’ll also learn whether or not news organizations are actually competing with each other, where tech companies (i.e. Google and Facebook) fit into the picture when it comes to news, how media companies are moving towards data collection, and more fascinating insights on the future of news!

Also available on YouTube.


Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. Today we're talking about the future of news. I'm Chad Hill, and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good afternoon, Chad. Welcome to the Brown Bag. We talk about news all the time, Chad. We've covered newsjacking. We've talked about using news as a vehicle for digital marketing and specifically for SEO. Today, we're covering a very interesting article from the American Journalism Review written by Paul Sparrow, who is the senior V.P. at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and also an award winning journalist. He's talking about how the future of news lies in data. Coming at this from the journalist side, I think this is a very interesting concept for us to talk about and explore today, Chad, as we think about where the Internet is going and news. He talks about some really interesting concepts describing the semantic web. This is the Internet of the future that analyzes all sorts of things about us, things we've linked to, content we've looked at, connections we have with other people. We've certainly talked about this a great deal, Chad, in the context of Facebook and the social graph. We know Google has been trying to get at some of this data. Recently, we covered how Amazon is a big competitor in some of these spaces.

What Sparrow describes here, he's got these points laid out which he calls the four horsemen of the techpocalypse, a very hard word to say, which is basically where is this all evolving and what data points can be used to drive the news. Basically, the idea is that what we're going to see in the news is going to be very highly adapted based on the data that is known about us. These four different areas he talks about is the Internet of things which I've heard of and you've probably heard of, Chad, probably more in technology discussions. This is the network of devices that are all connected. It's talking about things in our houses, thermostats and fitness trackers, our cars eventually, location tracking, which has obviously become so much bigger with the explosion in mobile, wearable computers which I think mobile smartphones probably count. Of course Google Glass and smart watches are starting to come onto the market and the semantic web. He says if you were to study all these things and think about where things are going, you'll come to this very startling conclusion which is the news organizations are actually not competing with each other. News organizations are competing with tech companies like Google and Facebook who really have a lot of this data and are very good at manipulating it and using it right now to sell ads but will be increasingly using it to sell and move news. I think that's an interesting premise, Chad, and I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Yeah, it is a very interesting evolution of things. We kind of talk about these unlikely competitors. We were talking about Google and Amazon. Here's another case more of an industry analysis but he talks about how this is a dangerous path about media companies moving towards data collection. They haven't historically done this. They've been all about creating one story that meets the general needs of the wider audience and then distributing that in a pretty good way. But, in this case, really as you said, people at Google and Facebook have really become the matchmakers of collecting this information. As you said, it started off with advertising but we've read and heard more and more about how Fit with Facebook is doing with its news feed, certainly what Google is doing with personalization, more on the Android side of things, but really putting all this data together to give people the most relevant information. I think what it means for journalists or what he talks about in terms of news/media companies and journalists is that they need to be better at really developing, delivering the right message for a specific user. Rather than this general content, they need to move more towards creating content that's relevant for the particular story that they are covering, which is definitely hard and expensive when you have a whole mechanism and whole company built around printed journalism. It's very hard to weave in the multimedia types of things.

I guess the other thing that we wanted to mention is that we talked about some of this earlier this year, about this idea of content shock. That there's this rapidly or either we're already there or getting close to this point where there's so much content that we can't possibly sort it out ourselves, and so we now have to start relying on technology to help us sort out and curate this content. The big question here is, historically, that's been in the case of New York Times or FOX News. The New York Times famously says all the news fit to print. It's all about them curating it for you. Now, what we're saying is will technology take its place and do that curation. It's very interesting and we'll see where it goes.

Yeah. It's actually futuristic. If you let your brain kind of ponder to this a little bit, Chad, it's like artificial intelligence deciding what information you start to see. That's very futuristic. I think the last note is not to forget that Jeff Bezos from Amazon recently purchased the The Washington Post, so more data points that support that a lot of this stuff is going to be merging in the news industry. That's our coverage today of this very interesting article. Thank you for watching our Brown Bag. We'd love to hear from you, and we'd also ask that you subscribe.