No thing can save journalism

No thing can save journalism

It's been a while since I've felt the need to write a hot take (although given one of the tweets that inspired this is over a week old, it's not that hot)

Inspired by two people - first Alex Watson the outgoing head of product at BBC News shared what he has learnt during his time working on news product. The whole thread is worth reading, but this was the crucial tweet for me

As I've been arguing for a while now, the most important thing to get right is structure - our internal structures should reflect our readers (customers) and not just be the 'traditional', siloed way.  

Then Adam wrote about newsletters (I know right), but he did it with the nuance and balance so often missing in everyone else's hot takes

Framing newsletters
Two things can be simultaneously true:
1. Newsletters are a vital tool in the future of journalism
2. Newsletters are not the future of journalism
The fact that I need to make that point shows up how much more clarity is needed in our discussions around newsletters.

(Emphasis mine)

The fact that Adam feels the need to call out that newsletters are not the future of journalism is so worrying to me. It means he feels we've reached fever pitch raking over this 20 year old invention.

Why do we have a constant fixation with new and shiny things? Whether that's Video (thanks Facebook), Google AMP, Google Discover, Podcasts, Newsletters, Listicles, Live video (thanks again Facebook), Instagram (thanks...) Whatsapp - well you get the idea.

We need a fundamental and radical rethink of how we make sure publishers stay relevant and useful to readers/watchers/listeners in the future and we're tinkering around the edges looking for a silver bullet that will magically reset us to the glory days. It doesn't exist - as we argued in our 30 year outlook

What matters perhaps even more than making a product our readers/listeners/viewers/interactees (if we may coin a word) value and will pay for is creating organisations that are structured and designed to do this in perpetuity. It is not enough to find a single knockout product and rely on it providing income “for ever”. We must be inventors, risk takers and life-long learners.
We need to radically restructure ourselves, value diversity in people, in skills, in experiences, in outlook. We need to do this constantly.

I'm not suggesting it's easy and Alex managed to capture why that is so hard in a single, pointed tweet. But hard things don't get done by ignoring them.