Journalists and entrepreneurs from every corner of the Valley gathered on Wednesday at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for the Future of Media Conference, an opportunity for representatives from major tech and media players to discuss the role of information platforms in the 21st century.
The day began with a keynote from Chas Edwards, the co-founder and president of The California Sunday Magazine, who introduced event-goers to FOSOA (fear of missing something awesome), the nanoKardashian (a measure of picayune attention units) and a number of reasons why now may be the most exciting time to get involved in news media.
While Edwards conceded that the average reader spends only 70 seconds on the day’s news, he said the size of that reader pool has grown dramatically in the past few years and that a good story is as valuable as ever. He challenged those present to tell a story people are interested in, to tap into the primal human urge to stay in step with our peers and to make sure content is delivered to people when they’re most likely to consume it meaningfully: in their leisure time.
Panel sessions followed, including “What’s New in the News Business” featuring Matter’s Corey Ford; Outbrain’s John Mullenholz; Prismatic’s Bradford Cross; and Jessica Lessin of The Information. The group discussed the experimentation in profit and content models necessitated by the rise of the Internet; the specific strategies firms have adopted in the face of such change; the current rise of younger outlets; and the fall of many previous behemoths.
The group discussed how media must balance delivering consumers interesting content and not forcing consumers into a situation of tunnel vision; gauging how much of their income stream should be generated from consumers and how much should be from advertisers; and how to stay true to their journalistic voice while the demand for sponsorship dollars continues to rise.
The panelists agreed that no one profit model fits all. Lessin pointed out that The Information’s narrow focus has allowed it to thrive with a paywall, while Mullenholz reminded the panel that Vice has flourished while being free to readers. There was also a solid consensus that there is no such thing as a Website that can’t find some way to get its word out and make a profit.
After lunch came another round of panels, such as “Investing in New Media” with BloombergBETA’s Roy Bahat; KPCB’s Chi-Hua Chien; Greycroft’s Mark Terbeek; and Lightspeed Venture’s Jeremy Liew.
Discussion centered on the act of identifying tomorrow’s leaders in digital media as the landscape continues to evolve and change, with each guest bringing in extensive experience in the field of venture capital. Video games and their potential for huge capital gains were discussed extensively, but the group also agreed that investment is much more of a case-to-case situation than the lay public may think, and that many entrepreneurs happily operate without such funding.
Models that allow media producers to subsidize their content through other income streams were mentioned as being hugely favorable, and the group returned more than once to the balance that a growing Website must strike between its development and its use of existing social media platforms.
The day was underscored by a feeling that the world of journalism still hasn’t reached a new equilibrium in the digital age, but that the years of turmoil not far behind us have made way for a time of experimentation, creativity and hope.
High quality news and analysis are very much alive even if still finding their way, and the future for both is being made all the brighter by the faces of Stanford’s Future of Media Conference.
This post was originally published on thedishdaily.com before it was acquired by The Stanford Daily in summer 2014.