Mathew Ingram, senior writer of technology blog network GigaOM, talks about the changing media landscape and offers some simple advice. Ingram will be speaking about journalism at Digital Journal’s Future of Media event on April 6.
Mathew Ingram is an award-winning journalist who has spent the past 15 years writing about business, technology and new media as a reporter, columnist and blogger. He is currently a senior writer with the technology blog network GigaOM.
Prior to joining GigaOM, Ingram was a blogger and technology writer for the Globe and Mail newspaper, and was also the paper’s first online Communities Editor, where he helped the paper learn about and appreciate the benefits of social media tools.
In a Q&A with Digital Journal, Ingram offers some straight-up advice for media outlets and talks about the differences between working for a big media company and a small start-up.
This Q&A is part of a 5-day series with media leaders who will be speaking at Digital Journal’s Future of Media event which takes place April 6 at the Drake Hotel Underground in Toronto. Check back each day for a Q&A with other media leaders from the BBC, National Post and CTV. Part 1: An interview with OpenFile Editor Kathy Vey
Digital Journal: To make it as a journalist today, what core skills do you need? What core skills will you need in the years ahead?
Mathew Ingram: I think the skills you need are mostly the same as journalists have always needed — curiosity, intelligence, the ability to analyze things quickly, interviewing skills, a good BS detector, and so on.
But on top of that, I think the Web and social media require journalists to learn new skills as well, ones they aren’t always that good at, including how to listen to readers — even when you don’t want to — how to respond, how to share, how to link, aggregate and “curate” to use an overused word.
Digital Journal:You’ve worked for big media (The Globe & Mail), and for independent media/start-up (GigaOM). How have the experiences been different and what does one teach you that the other can’t?
Mathew Ingram: The two couldn’t really be more different, in pretty much every way — the Globe is a huge organization, and the main part of that is a newspaper, although I worked for the web side mostly. People routinely write one thing a day, or sometimes one or two things a week.
GigaOM and other Web-native publications are tiny startups with very few people, no print at all, and most of the writers are doing three or four or five posts a day.
So at the Globe I learned most of the traditional things that journalists learn — how to report and file in newspaper style, how to work with different editors, and so on.
At GigaOM and through my own blogging and social-media use, I’ve learned how to be fast and how to link and how to be part of a community.
Digital Journal: When it comes to changing media, what medium do you think is likely to change the most in the next year or two? Why?
Mathew Ingram: I think they are all changing, but print is in the hot seat more than anything, simply because the business models for many print publications are continuing to disintegrate, and there aren’t a whole lot of obvious solutions to that problem.
Digital Journal: What revenue channels beyond advertising do you think we’ll see become more prevalent in the digital media space?
Mathew Ingram: We’re probably going to see more newspapers and other publications and media outlets try pay walls and subscription models, and possibly new kinds of advertising relationships. What is out there right now just isn’t working. But I think pay walls, as they are currently configured, are a waste of time.
Digital Journal: What do you think makes a good “digital-first” strategy for a media company, and should modern media businesses approach with a digital-first mindset?
Mathew Ingram: I think “digital first” means exactly what it says — the Web and mobile and other real-time options become the primary publishing vehicle, and print or whatever becomes secondary. The problem with doing that at most traditional newspapers is that they still rely on print for the bulk of their advertising revenue, and that still drives the bus — not just administratively but psychologically.
I definitely think more should approach it the way that John Paton at the Journal Register Co. has — digital first, and let the digital folks run things.
Digital Journal: How should media organizations collaborate or compete with start-ups in the media space?
Mathew Ingram: I think co-operation and partnerships are essential when you’re in a time of great upheaval the way we are right now in media because you don’t know what the best opportunities might be, or where they might lie, and you can’t afford to try everything.
Digital Journal: Beyond Facebook and Twitter, what start-up(s) do you think could become stand-outs in the world of media?
Mathew Ingram: I think the community model that Quora and some other sites are taking could become very interesting. They aren’t really media right now, but they are playing an interesting role. And so are WikiLeaks and all of the similar sites that have popped up — that could be and has been very disruptive already.
Digital Journal: How will rapid and significant changes in digital media over the last few years affect the average person at home in the years to come?
Mathew Ingram: I don’t think it’s going to be that dramatic for most people — they are probably just going to notice, as many have already, that they are reading fewer newspapers and listening to the radio less and probably watching less TV as well. They are getting more and more of their news and other content from the Web and from social networks and other sites that pull content from everywhere and give it to them in the way they want it.