But what about local news? Local newspapers, radio stations, and TV affiliates are the ones that could be most easily disrupted by changes in technology and advertising. What replaces them as they go away?
One theory — discussed here before by colleague Nicholas Carlson — is that Facebook’s news feed could take over their responsibilities.
In a recent AdAge poll, people said the two biggest reasons they subscribed to local papers were for local news and coupons. Well, Facebook already aggregates and distributes both of those.
- Instead of requiring a local newsroom to present local news and events, your friends — and Facebook’s algorithms — could do it for you, complete with photos, videos, etc.
- Instead of buying classified ads and placing coupons in local papers, businesses could buy Facebook ads, targeting them based on your geography, and even much more specifically than that. And when Facebook rolls out Groupon-style “deals,” businesses could buy those, too.
The question, then, becomes: If Facebook is organising and presenting this information to you, who’s writing it in the first place? Who’s covering local city council meetings? Who is covering crime and car crashes and obituaries and new business openings?
The answers will vary.
In the smallest of towns, perhaps some of that sort of journalism will become more of a hobby than a profession.
There are already thousands of excellent neighbourhood blogs out there today, written just for fun. And it doesn’t even have to be a blog post. If a local business closed, you can find out about it from a friend’s status update just as easily as from a newspaper. And it was a lot cheaper to produce.
More information may be disseminated directly from government agencies and businesses to people, via tools like Facebook, instead of being rewritten by someone in between. (And governments and businesses will seek more feedback directly, too.) This won’t be the only way it happens, but it will probably happen more.
People will have to learn to trust different news sources differently, and to hold people accountable for their statements — the way they already do. Officials and companies will have to learn how to communicate better. And people will have to learn to seek out different news sources for different topics. But the world isn’t going to fall apart, and people will figure out how to make it work.
OK, this sounds drastic. The reality is that change will take a long time, and will be more subtle. Heck, by the time your local newspaper folds, Facebook’s reign as the social networking king may be over, and there may be even newer, better tools for news distribution.
But the big idea is still valid: Local news distribution is bound to change, as last century’s economics stop working. And Facebook’s news feed — already seen by hundreds of millions of people — could play a big role in the future of news.
That’s just one idea. Here’s what a handful of today’s media mavens have to say about the future of news →