Mathew Ingram’s five lessons old media can learn from new

In a session titled “Teaching the fish how to walk” at the International Journalism Festival in Pergugia, GigaOm senior writer Mathew Ingram gave his top five ways that old media can learn from new.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | April 26, 2013

1. Be more open

Traditional media used to be like a fortress, Ingram said, with people behind the walls doing things that the rest of the world couldn’t see. Now, there are so many ways now for publishers to interact with their audiences, and as Clay Shirky said, publishing is no longer an industry, it’s a button on a site.

You can do better journalism by embracing rather than ignoring these facts, Ingram said. He recommended that publishers should be thinking, “How do we help them [the audience] tell us the things that they know about the stories we are writing?”

The Guardian is doing this particularly well, he specified.

2. Give credit

“I think the most fundamental aspect of publishing online is the hyperlink,” said Ingram. Linking allows you to both give credit and support an argument at the same time, he pointed out. For him, an online article that has no links in it is “a lower form of journalism.”

Linking to other sources that you use is essential, he said. “We can’t pretend that all the things we generate inside the fortress are the only things that have value.”

“I’m often critcised for putting too many links in my blog posts,” he commented, but he continues to use as many as possible, just in case people might want them.

3. Be more human

Apologise when you make mistakes, Ingram recommended. Admitting mistakes can make readers trust you more, while ignoring mistakes will mean they will lose trust.

You can’t get the benefits of social networks without being human, he said. Social makes journalists into individuals.

“I believe that there is a value in having the human part of a journalist be part of what they do,” he added. “I’m not sure that I would go as far as transparency is the new objectivity but I believe that transparency is very important.”

4. See journalism and the news as a process

News stories used to be assembled into a finished product and then sent out to readers. It was a very industrial process, Ingram said.

Now, however, an individual story has no defined beginning nor end: it’s a constant, ongoing ebb and flow. The industrial process didn’t show you that.

5. How to focus

It’s important to focus on specific things that you understand, or do very well, or have a connection with readers around, Ingram said. The traditional newspaper was a way of aggregating everything, it was never a specialized product. But people don’t have to go to a newspaper to find out about what interests them any more.

“Everywhere, people are searching for info that matters to them,” Ingram said. “If we help them find that then we can build a valuable relationship with them that can lead to monetization.”

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