"We're in a transitional period," says Tina Brown. Brown was speaking to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal about the shift from traditional to digital media while in Chicago for BlogHer '09, a women's blog conference. Brown is a former editor for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, both published by Conde Nast. She is now in charge of the The Daily Beast, the online news mag she started in late 2008. Trading in paper for pixels has facilitated her transition from old media to digital media. The numbers don't betray her; The Daily Beast has attracted millions of uniques - 2.1 million - according to June stats, even if those figures do not translate into revenue, yet (more on that later).
True, Brown's expertise comes largely from magazines, but the magazine milieu is experiencing the same slips in ad revenue and print readership is declining in favor of free, interactive online content. Instead of resisting this transition, as she states that many in her pre-digital generation (she is 55) tend to do, one must not be discouraged when witnessing the printed paper become defunct. Print may be stepping down from being the top source for news, but it is not a cause worth focusing on.
For Brown, it's not print itself that must be rescued. As shown by her belief that "What matters is the journalism, not the delivery," it is the journalism aspect of the print industry that must maintain its standards. Maintaining a newspaper or magazine's high standards online comes at a price when initially delivered free of charge; readers expect online content to be freely accessible. Critics of The Daily Beast are quick to point to the fact that Brown has not harvested much cash money for the Barry Diller-funded site, but she sees it as planting the seed: "If you're up to seeing the opportunity and recognize it as a transition, or you have enough put away to ride this wave, it's going to be fantastic."
What is not fantastic, admittedly, is that right now there is not much money to be made for professionals in the media and journalism industry. Brown recommends juggling many jobs in order to learn as much as possible in this "gig economy." What she means by 'gig economy' is that for some time at least, or perhaps even permanently, the era of career journalism has come to an end. "I think we're going to get to the stage where a lot of journalists have other jobs as well."
Roughing out the storm (Brown says it will last only for a few more years) is just a case of the tail wagging the dog. If what Tina Brown is saying turns out to be true, then embracing and accommodating digital media - in order to disperse content to a larger audience and hone in on a variety of niches - will separate the winners from the losers after the media has settled into its new digital environment.
Source: Chicago Tribune