Nieman Foundation at Harvard
The enduring allure of conspiracies
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June 4, 2013, 11 a.m.

From Nieman Reports: From a few Goliaths to a sea of Davids

“The future of news is necessarily small, at least in terms of building compelling business models.”
Editor’s note: Our colleagues at our sister publication Nieman Reports are out with their new issue, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there for any journalist to check out. Over the next few days, we’ll share excerpts from a few of the stories that we think would be of most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Be sure to check out the entire issue.

Here, Harvard’s Nicco Mele, author of The End of Big, argues that digital technology will lead to new, smaller news organizations.

nieman-reports-spring-2013-coverI am not a journalist. I’m a digital guy. I am well versed in the trends of newspapers’ decline, but at the age of 35 I’ve never read a daily newspaper. My entire information life has been digital and, consequently, fragmented.

It was hard for me to get too worked up about the end of big newspapers. But then a funny thing happened. I was asked to judge a big journalism prize. As part of the judging, I read more than 200 investigative news stories from outlets big and small, although almost all of them newspapers. They were stories of terrible depravity and corruption, in some sense the worst humanity has to offer. But I finally understood in a tangible way the crucial role newspapers play in a democracy—and I began to get afraid, very afraid.

The Internet and mobile phones — a combination I call “radical connectivity” — profoundly empower individuals in ways that spell disaster for traditional “big” organizations. Big news organizations have seen both news production and advertising revenue disrupted by radical connectivity. The entertainment industry, from publishing to record companies, is in its own death throes. Big armies face distributed cells of terrorists instead of nation-states, while ad-hoc hackers the world over look for disruptive opportunities for “lulz.” Big political parties find themselves besieged by insurgents like Tea Party candidates, while citizens crowdsource solutions to public problems outside of big government. Tenured professors at big universities are growing large audiences on YouTube outside of tuition-paying students. Even big manufacturing faces a growing challenge from desktop 3D printers, spelling an end for big brands.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     June 4, 2013, 11 a.m.
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