Richard Gingras: the Evolving Ecosystem for Media and News

photo by Mattia Micheli and Pietro Viti via FocusOnIJF

Perugia,­ International Journalism Festival – May 3rd, 2014
Keynote Speech by Richard Gingras – Senior Director, News & Social Products, Google

I’m here to share a perspective on the evolution of the news ecosystem, on the evolution of the information economy for news that we all now operate in.

In Los Angeles in 1980 three television networks, CBS, NBC and PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service) launched the first interactive services in the United States using broadcast teletext. The PBS service was called Now! the Electronic Newsmagazine. It provided real­time access to news, sports, and our own version of highly condensed but in­depth stories. Now! proved to be the most popular of the three services. I was its producer and its editor­in­chief. I was also its interface designer ­­ though I don’t think the phrase interface design had come into vogue. The pixels, by the way, were the size of your fist! This was my first digital media product. It was an exciting time.

That experience changed my career. I abandoned the passive medium of television and began a long journey through digital media, computer technology and publishing platforms. That journey included stops at Apple, early internet companies like the @Home Broadband Network, the portal Excite, the first pure­play digital property, and of course, Google.

I don’t say this to suggest I know all the answers. Far from it.

– All it means is that I’ve been doing this stuff since the days of steam­powered modems, and I can proudly say that I’ve made more mistakes that anyone in this room.

– Along with that bleeding­edge scar tissue, I might have attained a few insights into the architecture of media ecosystems and their rapid evolution over the last thirty­five years.

– I also came to realize that if one doesn’t know the answers, one might be wise to focus on identifying the right questions.

Why are we here? At the highest level, we are all here because we care about the relationship between citizens and media, and specifically, the relationship between citizens and journalism.

I also believe we are here because we are excited by this time and place, because we are excited by the opportunities for innovation, because we realize we are experiencing a renaissance in journalistic creativity and are energized by the creative breakthroughs we are seeing. There has never been so much experimentation and innovation in journalism ­­ from Mario Calabresi’s fascinating Google Glass interview with the Italian prime minister, to the fledgeling success of MediaPart in Paris, to experimentation in the Netherlands by organizations like Blendle and Kickstarter funded De Correspondent, to the Pulitzer­winning efforts of ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, and I’m very proud to say, my former Salon colleague, Glenn Greenwald, for his work on the Snowden story at the Guardian which he now continues at The Intercept, the first title out of the Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media.

It’s also worth noting that just the thirty largest digital­only news organizations now account for about 3,000 jobs. I am passionately optimistic about the future of journalism and for very good reason.

But let’s go back in a time for moment.

As individuals, our relationship with media is dramatically different from what it was 300 years ago. Our forebears lived in a world almost entirely devoid of media. Media was a very small portion of their daily lives.

In last hundred years, the volume of media in an individual’s life grew substantially.

– With the introduction of electronic media, first radio then television, it began to absorb hours and hours of the average citizen’s time ­­ more than 8 hours each day on television alone in the typical US household. It was largely a passive “broadcast” experience but there was a lot of it and it permeated our culture.

– Of course, that was just the start.

With the advent of the Internet, the mathematics of our individual and collective media experiences has changed exponentially. From the vast number of voices in the ecosystem to our ability to access that ecosystem via an increasing number and array of devices, it has exploded beyond our most exaggerated predictions.

– Today, media dominates our daily lives. We twitch with stolen glances at the screens in our palms, or, as wearable devices evolve, attached to our faces, our wrists, our clothes. Media is no longer just a part of our lives. It is in many ways the very fabric of our lives.

– The Internet did not just increase the volume of media. It also changed our relationship with it. We are not just consumers, we are producers. Indeed, we all have the ability to be journalists and publishers ­­ and millions have seized that opportunity, whether they or we think of it as “journalism” or not.

– And news consumers are no longer the passive audience respectfully absorbing what the high priests of mainstream media wanted to tell them. They direct their own media experiences. They pick the voices they want to listen to, some mainstream, many not. They contribute, they share, they comment, they push back.

Our new media ecosystem is exponentially more open than at any time in the history of civilization.

– Our cultures now have the potential to support freedom of the press as never before. As an American, one can see the open Internet as our First Amendment brought to life, as a democratic ideal.

-Anyone and everyone can publicly express themselves to the entire world or the world that matters to them.

Just recently, EspresoTV, a Kiev­-based 24/7 news network that’s less than a year old, achieved the #1 highest all­time watch time for a single event on YouTube, dethroning the Red Bull Stratos event; their live feed drove 17.6 million hours of watch time in its first 54 days and; at the country level, Ukraine toppled the US for #1 all­time watch hours with 95.4M hours (the US stands at 94.1M)

– Such public expression can happen because there are no gatekeepers ­­ except where governments take restrictive action.

– Unfortunately such restrictions happen more often than any of us would like, the most recent of many examples being the restrictions applied by the Turkish government to YouTube, restrictions that have remained in place for the stated purpose of “protecting the Turkish people.”

– Sadly but assuredly, populations around the world will continue to suffer threats to an open Internet. And governments will often use fear as a motivating force to convince their populations that such restrictions are necessary and proper.

– Restrictions on expression and innovation can also come through the efforts of corporate interests to control their historical markets. The history of modern communications is littered with such efforts.

In the United States, the introduction of FM radio was twenty years behind the rest of the world. Not for lack of technology. Not for lack of capital. But due to the determined efforts of David Sarnoff and RCA to hold back FM in an effort to protect their vast interests in AM radio.

– The open Internet will challenge us. It will generate a cacophony of voices and a fragmentation of audiences. It will challenge our understanding of the economics of information. It will challenge our incumbent institutions who will want to go back in time to a “golden age” they remember which may or may not have been so golden. It will challenge our politics. It will likely challenge our understanding of who we are.

– Will we be able to resist the urge to control it?

Our new media ecosystem will also change the nature of our roles as individuals.

Late in the evening of Friday December 20th, a young PR woman named Justine Sacco boarded British Airways flight 43 to Johannesburg. Just before takeoff she tapped out one last post on Twitter. Ten hours later she landed in South Africa to learn her career and reputation were in ruins.

– Beyond the cold and thoughtless post (“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS, Just kidding. I’m white.”), this sad incident showed both the unintended consequences of “public” expression as well as the ugliness of virulent crowd reaction.

– Within hours, indeed minutes, the hate flowed, the death threats followed, the hacking of websites and social pages began. Sacco’s tweet certainly justified a sharp critical response but the quick appearance of torches and pitchforks was as disturbing as the original tweet.

– As one observer put it:

“We all have access to a platform. We all have great power to influence, educate, entertain, and help, but also to dupe, trick, anger, and… sometimes… pile on.”

– The Sacco incident also questions how well we understand, or don’t understand, the dynamics of sharing in a virtual world. Justine Sacco had only a few hundred followers when she fired off that injudicious Tweet. While I’m sure that Sacco, as a public relations professional, understood that her message, like all messages on Twitter, was a “public” expression, I suspect she didn’t consider how quickly her expression could be “publicized” beyond her 200 friends.

– We used to live in a world where public expression could often be constrained to its place of occurrence, or, as with public records, constrained by the complexities of physical access. Now being “public” brings the potential to be easily and broadly publicized, whether one likes it or not.

– The Sacco incident also cemented a thought that’s been rattling around my brain for awhile now.

Marshall McLuhan and later Andy Warhol suggested that in the future “everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes.” It’s worked out a bit differently. Now in our open media world everyone has the potential to become famous or infamous within 15 minutes either by intent or by accident.

The new media ecosystem is not only filled with produced content ­­articles, posts, videos. There’s been a vast increase in the amount of available data. Raw bits of stuff waiting to be turned into knowledge. Public data. Behavioral data. Leaked data. Castoff streams of bits that we might not even think of as data. Data that in the right hands can be used to help us understand how our society and our institutions work, or don’t work ­­ and in the wrong hands can be used to deny us our liberties. This data ecosystem represents both opportunity and responsibility for data journalists to unveil the knowledge within that data to benefit our societies and hold our institutions to account.

Yes, these are extraordinary times. There are no longer any barriers to publishing. We all have a printing press in our pockets ­­ a fact we cannot overemphasize. Yes, there is a massive amount of chaff in all that expression but there’s also wheat.

Beyond the explosion in expression, we also have powerful new capabilities that can change what journalists and publishers do and how they do it.

– Whether it be the evolution of new media forms,
– or the ability to engage with audiences,
– or the use of computational analysis for news reporting,
– or the emergence of countless new devices.

In my view, there is no question that the future of journalism will be better than it’s past. It’s only a question of:

– how long it takes for the full capabilities of the new ecosystem to take form;
– how long it takes for us to become reasonably comfortable with its inherently more chaotic nature;
– and how long it takes for journalists to use these new capabilities to pursue their journalistic missions in an increasingly complex world.

The media landscape is being reconstructed and reinvented in ways we know, and in ways we do not yet know.The process of change is far from over. Indeed, it won’t ever be over. The pace of technological change will not abate, it will only quicken.

The iPhone hit the market just seven years ago. Android was announced that same year and Android devices went into stores a year later. The world now has nearly one­-and-­a-­half billion smartphone users and that number is growing 40% year over year.

Only four years ago, the iPad was introduced and the tablet market exploded. 400M tablets have been sold in less than 4 years; nearly 40% of adults in the US own one. IDC reported that by the end of 2015, tablet shipments will exceed PC shipments.

– The ecosystem has gone mobile. At Google, most of our products now draw well more than half their audiences from mobile devices.

– The advance of new devices will continue ­­ from Fitbit to Google Glass, from Pebble to the brainwave­sensing headband Muse, from smart watches and wearables to screens and devices that are discardable. The market for wearables alone is forecast to grow from $8 to $20B by 2017.

The post­PC world is upon us and brings further change in media consumption habits. We learn via studies from Pew and other research organizations, that more news is being consumed than ever before. It is consumed throughout the course of the day and from a far broader array of sources. And, of crucial importance, it is consumed via new modes of discovery ­­ new modes of discovery.

One cannot develop a coherent sense of the evolution of media products, and their attendant business models, without understanding how the flows of audiences and their methods of discovery and engagement have changed.

In the first decade of the web, the biggest new influence on audience behavior was web search. It allowed users to not only satisfy their spontaneous informational whims but also to discover new sources and new voices in the process. As a result, there are few websites that don’t find 25-­30% of their inbound unique audiences coming from search engines.

Then came the blogosphere and its various publishing­platform cousins ­­ from Blogger to Tumblr and now Pinterest. It introduced many new voices and filled the link economy with a fabric of sites and audiences rich with referral links ­­ referral links that easily constituted another 15­-20% of the share of inbound unique traffic.

Then a new dimension of discovery and subsequent audience flow began with social networking. The impact of the social layer has been equally quick, hugely important, yet stunningly nascent.

– After only six years, social is having an impact on audience development that equals if not exceeds that of search. A recent Pew survey showed that 50% of social network users share news stories and nearly as many, 46%, discuss news issues or events on social networks.

– As a result it is now the norm to see socially­aware news sites getting 25­-35% of their inbound unique traffic from social networks ­­ in some cases, far far more. Sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed quickly built audiences and businesses almost entirely through social media.

When considering the role of the social layer, it’s important to note that the history of social networking is, at best, somewhere in chapter two. There is much, much more innovation waiting to happen.

– We certainly recognize that at Google with our efforts with Google+

We have made tremendous progress;
We are fascinated by what we are learning
We are eager to continue to try new things, to explore new arenas.

– One realization is that social networking is not just about Friends and Family. It’s also about people you don’t know but should know.

Just as Google News uses algorithms to find, cluster, and surface links to news coverage in near real­time, we are now using algorithms to identify and harvest interesting and popular posts, then mapping those posts to the interests of individual users – thus enabling them to discover new people, new communities, new experiences, new brands.

I started my career decades ago in the comparatively simplistic era of television programming. In 1974 we strategized about programming and counter­programming against a TV media matrix that only had four networks.

Now, in a practice I call “programming programming”, we (and I don’t mean just Google) can combine the use of computer programs along with basic concepts of media programming to drive discovery of voices and brands over an unlimited matrix of content and audiences, connecting dots along the social graph, the interest graph, the time and event graph, the functional graph, the civic graph, the geo­-graph.

When we study the flows of audiences, we see a dramatically different ecosystem than that of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s, 90’s.

– It is no longer an ecosystem that is driven by the distribution of branded packages of content dropped on our doorsteps.

-It is an ecosystem where the atomic unit has shifted away from the packaged collection of content ­­ the magazine, the newspaper, the website.

– The new atomic unit of content is the story. It is the story that gets passed around via referrals, found via search, discovered by a friendly social recommendation.

– Audience flows have changed so significantly that many media sites who saw 50­60% of inbound uniques coming to their home pages are now seeing a number that is closer to 25%.

Let me be clear. That reduction is a very good thing. I’m not saying the number of visitors to the home page of a successful site has decreased. Not at all. A publisher wants to grow the number of loyal home page visitors. The best way to do that is to increase the volume of new unique visitors coming to the site for the first time. It’s critical. It represents today’s marketing and discovery funnels. You want the percentage of referral uniques to be closer to 75% than not.

This new audience development funnel is the replacement for the newsstand presence that publishers paid for, for the news­boxes that publishers paid for, for the promotional circulations that dropped free copies on waiting­room tables and airline seats.

This approach to audience development not only generates new loyal users, it delivers significant and immediate monetary value. Not long ago, the Newspaper Association of America valued the average visit to a news site at 27 cents. Since the average value of a visit from a first­time user might be shorter, let’s say it’s worth less. Maybe 10 cents. Pick your number. Bottom line: those clicks bring revenue. Bottom line: the more the 10 billion visits per month driven by Google alone bring real monetary value.

Our primary measure of success at Google News is the number of clicks we send to publishers and the opportunities those visits provide to build their audiences and monetize their valuable content.

Before I talk further about the future of the media ecosystem, I’d like to touch on one more bit of historical context.

– In the United States, there were many who believed that the challenges facing journalism were all about the business model, and more importantly, that somehow the foundation of the prior journalistic era, the newspaper business model, was so long standing that it was etched on tablets brought down by Moses. Not the case.

– Before I go further, I should note that my analysis is US­based. I don’t have the same intimacy with the European newspaper industry. One notable difference is that US newspapers generally have a higher percentage of revenue coming from advertising than via paid circulation. It is typically the reverse with newspapers in Europe.

However, I believe the underlying marketplace dynamic I will speak about crosses international boundaries.

In the United States, newspapers historically were not particularly profitable. Most large cities had four, five, six or more from varying viewpoints, areas of focus, and quality. New York had dozens. It was a tough business. In each market, the largest circulation paper did well, a few others did okay, and the remainder struggled.

But something significant happened in the late 1940’s. Television was introduced. Television ad revenues grew rapidly and by the end of its first decade commanded more than 20% of the entire advertising market. Most of that revenue came at the expense of newspapers. Indeed, within three years of television’s introduction, newspapers went from owning 37% of the advertising market to 25% and further downward from there.

As a result, we saw a steady decline in the number of newspapers, from 5 down to 1, in some cases 2 with combined sales and operations approved by the Antitrust Division of US Justice Department. We went from having a rich set of voices to having only a few. From democratic perspective, this was not a good thing.

However, for the newspapers left standing it marked the introduction of a 40­-year period of extraordinary profitability. The survivors went from fighting for every ad dollar to having near monopolistic control over local ad pricing. They had tremendous distribution leverage and, appropriately, used it to fullest advantage.

Now the story gets more interesting, and gets to the true lesson of this bit of media history. The lesson is this: the design of a media product, and its attendant business model, is as tightly tied to the structure of the underlying distribution environment as an oak tree is rooted to the earth.

That golden era of near­monopoly newspapers in the United States stimulated a dramatic expansion of the newspaper product itself. It went from a thin product to a fat one. It went from a focus on hard news to one of all­things­to­all­interests ­­ or at least those interests that made economic sense with their large circulation audiences.

Lifestyle sections, Gardening sections, Automotive sections, Food sections, Fashion sections, etc, etc etc. Beyond the fattening of the cash cow of Classified ads, it was these “soft” news sections that drove a rich experience for users and an increasingly rich experience for publishers. Profits soared.

Then, in the 1990’s, the internet happened. With the onset of the open Internet, the landscape began to change dramatically. With that open distribution came many new voices ­­ from Craigslist to, from Salon to HuffPo, from a million blogs to a billion social posts.From a standpoint of democratic free press principles, would anyone really want to flip back the clock on the advent of the Internet?

The openness of Internet distribution and the subsequent expansion of the media landscape challenges the validity of print product models borne of the prior era. The print products do not directly translate to the new media ecosystem. All­-things-­to-­all-­people portals have become far less relevant as the Web has matured and spawned thousands of media products focused on nearly as many niche audiences.

– I learned this lesson at Salon. I launched additional “soft” sections and quickly found that I was competing for ad dollars with dozens of sites that were focussed solely on those areas.

– To me this suggests the following: does one “transform” an existing brand into this new ecosystem or does one analyze the information economy, find new opportunities and create the appropriate product and brand for that opportunity? ­­ whether it be highly­commercial opportunities in employment listings, large audience opportunities in sports, or targeted offerings in areas ranging from politics to public policy to parenting? Might it be wiser to consider breaking the umbrella brand into component parts, each with it’s own carefully­-tuned approach to the product experience and to the business model?

– Many traditional media companies, including the New York Times, are beginning to recognize this by launching targeted sites and apps that are focussed on niche markets of opportunity. A few words ago, the Times announced plans to launch separate Food and Opinion apps along with a quick news app NYT Now.

The change in distribution architecture and its impact on products and business models is only one aspect of the extraordinary revolution that is currently playing out.

– The entire model is different. Every part of it, from way news is consumed, to the ways it is distributed, to the tools that can be used for reporting, to the media forms that can be used to express a story.

The old and new ecosystems are so different that it is necessary to rethink every facet of the model. I’m not suggesting that everything MUST change, but that a comprehensive rethinking is a necessary and valuable intellectual process.

– We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the ongoing success of our enterprises, we owe it to the importance of our journalistic missions to consider and reconsider all options, all opportunities for positive change.

– Frankly, that re­thinking, that re­creation will happen whether we want it to or not. It will happen because digital entrepreneurs will approach these opportunities with no baggage, no old models to protect. Their canvas will be fresh and clean. Existing players are challenged, if not crippled, by the need to eat their own young. Entrepreneurs bear no such burden.

Rethink everything. That’s what must happen. That’s what will happen. Let’s look at several key dimensions:

– What is the nature and purpose of a website when most of the inbound traffic comes from search and social?

As I’ve noted, the audience flows have shifted dramatically. If the home page traffic is typically 25% of inbound audience, then where is the 75% of inbound traffic is going? To story pages!

These are the pages that serve the vital role of embracing new visitors, selling them on the brand’s attributes, and converting them to regular visitors. Yet, when redesigning a site most of the attention is focused on the home page because we think of it as the front door of the brand, when in truth a site’s new guests are visiting not through the front door but through all the side doors.

– What is the right approach to subscription models in this varied media ecosystem?

Yes there are great opportunities for paid content, but these opportunities will only be harvested through a deep understanding of the new information economy, not by direct translations of models from the old information economy.

– How do we approach content architecture in an edition­-less medium with a near limitless capacity for storage and accessibility?

The architecture of news content has barely changed, particularly as practiced by traditional media outlets. It continues to mirror the edition­oriented nature of the prior era ­­ streams of articles that appear one day and drop into the archive the next.

Should we not adopt new architectures that maintain the full expression of a reporter’s efforts on a given story or beat in one place behind a persistent URL? I say a persistent URL because as Wikipedia and others have proven, the persistent URL builds value over time in the link economy.

Can we not make far better use of a reporter’s work, our most precious resource, than dropping it into the archive, or what newspapers in the US call the morgue, which is clearly where content goes to die?

– How can we fully exploit the power of data journalism?

The ability to use computer science to assist reporting efforts, to parse massive data sets, to monitor public sources of data will have, indeed must have, a major role in the future of journalism, particularly if we change our thinking about journalistic form and function.

Can news organizations leverage data journalism to not only help with stories but to build persistent, automated investigative reports that live on and on? To build what I think of as “knowledge utilities.” The potential is huge.

Here’s one interesting and esoteric example. Last year ProPublica launched a deep investigation of the practices and performance of dialysis treatment centers in the US. As part of this effort, they built, and continue to maintain, the Dialysis Tracker, a potentially life­saving tool that allows patients to find dialysis treatment centers and, most importantly, assess their comparative medical performance ­­ from costs to morbidity rates. Such approaches to creating “knowledge utilities” can provide immense value to the populations you serve, and often, for comparatively modest ongoing cost. I would even suggest that knowledge utilities, in many cases, can have their own successful business models.

In a world of big data, the creation of knowledge utilities by journalists is crucial to holding our institutions to account in an increasingly complex world.

– What is the evolution of the form and style of an article in a medium dominated by updates, bullet points, and posts?

As Marshall Mcluhan said, “Every new medium begins as a container for the old.” While early radio news began with the reading of newspaper articles, that model was quickly superseded by a shorter crisper style that was appropriate to the radio medium.

I’m not suggesting that the long­form is dead, in fact we are seeing a resurgence, but I am asking what is the right form to convey knowledge in a rich media ecosystem increasingly oriented toward short bites of content consumed throughout the day on mobile devices. I am suggesting that it might be wise to “make the content to fit the container.”

Can we learn from apps like Circa or from the approaches of sites who create a series of social posts, each disclosing an additional nugget of journalistic wisdom, each dropping a different piece of bait for further engagement.

– What tools does a journalist need to have?

What new tools are now necessary given we have effectively no limit on publishing capacity, no technical barriers to realtime publishing, and the full opportunity to accommodate multiple forms of media? How might we support reportorial efforts such that it is easier to gather large amounts of information and use it to good effect.

Since our medium can accommodate the full expression of the reporter’s work, and since those reporters are our most precious capitalized resource, is there not huge value in developing new tools to support a reporter’s efforts? Who out there will drive the creation of Reporter’s Notebook 2.0?

Google will continue to provide it’s own contribution to that toolbox with technologies like Fusion Tables, Google Correlate and its suite of Google Media Tools. With initiatives like the Google Journalism Fellowships and the Computational Journalism Awards, we are hoping to see more journalists who are also computer scientists and more computer scientists who are also journalists.

What is the right approach to organizational workflow?

What is appropriate given current and future advances in how news is gathered, organized and presented in a virtual do­-anything-­from­-anywhere, 24/7 medium?

What is the job definition of a reporter, of an editor, of a data journalist as the underlying models change?

– What is the role of a reporter in a medium that not only enables audience engagement but requires it and rewards it?

– How can media organizations take full advantage of the assistance of the trusted crowd? Is this not a crucial skillset in a media environment where audience engagement is key and audience contributions can bring real asset value?

– Last but not least, how do we create work cultures of constant innovation?

Again, the pace of technological change will not abate. To think of today as a period of transition from one point of media stasis to another is deeply unwise.

How do we staff media organizations with the appropriate resources and the appropriate mindsets such that constant innovation is imbued into the organization’s DNA and into the role of each and every participant?

The approach I am wary of is the creation of a Chief Innovation Officer unless the sole focus of that role is the creation of a pervasive culture of innovation. Otherwise it suggests that innovation only occurs in certain roles rather than being part of each and every role.Companies that do this well, for instance Apple and Google, are constantly pushing innovation in every corner of their enterprises. Apple thinks out of the box about the box! Google engineers are able to build cool new Search features or Auto­-Awesome photo editing tools and offer them at global scale because there are other teams focusing with the same intensity on creating infrastructures to present those services with increased speed, increased security, increase reliability. The approach I am wary of is the creation of a Chief Innovation Officer unless the sole focus of that role is the creation of a pervasive culture of innovation. Otherwise it suggests that innovation only occurs in certain roles rather than being part of each and every role.

How do we grow our employees and help develop their careers? When I have the opportunity to speak to students I refer to the idea of entrepreneurship of the self, of the need for constant reconsideration of what you are about, of what you know and how you know it, of what new tools and techniques might bring new value, of constant personal exploration and experimentation. How does a company imbue that into its operations and culture?

Innovation is hard. But innovation is not just about a sexy new user interface. It’s not just about what we produce, it’s also about how we produce it. Innovation is about taking risks and trying things. Mistakes will be made. That’s a good thing. That’s where true learning happens.

– Yes, we need to rethink everything, including the approach to transformation in and of itself.

I now think of transformation as a dangerous word.

Transformation inherently involves compromise. It involves bridging the past to the future, and it often results in innovations that are crucial for the future being diluted by an understandable, but dangerous, bias towards past experience.

The result is incrementalism when the future demands a 10x change in thinking.

There are many, many questions. None of them are easy. But I don’t see how one can approach the new ecosystem without giving each question its due consideration. There are not singular answers. The answers will vary based on where within this massive new media matrix one chooses to focus ones efforts.

I honestly cannot see this era as anything but a renaissance of creativity in media and journalism. All the numbers, all the data, all the experience of the last twenty years points in that direction. It will not come without challenges. It will not occur without further disruptions. It will not evolve without ongoing innovation. But it will happen.

I also have no doubt that longstanding media companies such as The New York Times, RCS, Espresso, La Stampa will continue to find great opportunity and success in the new digital realm. They have great core assets to work with and we are seeing great progress.

But I would also suggest that for all of us, the new ecosystem brings new higher­-level challenges and, indeed, responsibilities.

– Technology may have value, but it has no intrinsic values. It can always be used for good or for ill.

– Among the many powers of the Internet is its ability to provide support for any opinion, any belief, any fear and give it greater volume.

– Sadly, political players, interest groups, and yes, media outlets, know all too well that affirmation sells far better than information.

– In the US, cable television was once thought to have great theoretical potential for news and journalism. But it has been an extraordinary disappointment, descending into a constant stream of programming that is cynically confrontational and entirely devoted to its perceived entertainment value.

Our society’s need for credible journalistic knowledge and wisdom has never been greater. While the evolution of the web has been hugely beneficial, it also raises the bar on any journalistic effort to parse truth from falsehood, wisdom from spin.

– How can we address that ­­ not only with innovation in our own journalistic approaches to building trust and credibility, but in opportunities to organically leverage the ecosystem itself? Is there a possibility of finding truth in the numbers?

Yes, we live in interesting times ­­- likely far more interesting than any of us had ever expected. It is a renaissance of journalistic innovation and journalists have a future to mold. The future of journalism will be richer than its past. Of that I have no doubt. May we, as leaders, find excitement, and passion, and creativity in addressing these new challenges and harvesting these new opportunities.

And in doing so, may we inspire the same in others.