The operation of news media is not only about organizing and publishing content but also organizing an audience for that audience, writes writer and media theorist Clay Shirky at Cato Unbound (a self-described virtual trading floor in the intellectual marketplace).
The hard truth about the future of journalism is that nobody knows for sure what will happen; the current system is so brittle, and the alternatives are so speculative, that there’s no hope for a simple and orderly transition from State A to State B. Chaos is our lot; the best we can do is identify the various forces at work shaping various possible futures. Two of the most important are the changing natures of the public, and of subsidy.
As Paul Starr, the great sociologist of media, has often noted, journalism isn’t just about uncovering facts and framing stories; it’s also about assembling a public to read and react to those stories.
We can expect changes in journalism to be linked to changes in subsidy. There are many shifts coming, but three big ones are an increase in direct participation; an increase in the leverage of the professionals working alongside the amateurs; and a second great age of patronage.
— Not an Upgrade — An Upheaval