The arrival at our newspaper of a new editor with fresh ideas has set me thinking about the nature of information gathering and dissemination.
The evolution of the information ecosystem seems to have travelled an inverse pathway to the evolution of human society.
First we were hunter-gatherers and then, ten thousand years ago or so, we became farmers.
Yet we started as “farmers” of information, cultivating and protecting our little patch and selling the produce in the form of books, newspapers and so on.
The advent of radio and TV required a little artificial help in the form of state-administered licences, to maintain that model.
In the 21st century we have gone back to being hunter-gatherers of information. The evidence is in the decline of newspaper sales*.
Where sales have increased it is mostly thanks to energetic promotions.
Journalists need to react to the new landscape – and they need to do it quickly. I don’t believe that “citizen journalism” is the answer because it carries too much false information. We need to establish ourselves as leaders of the packs of information hunter-gathers.
This is good news for good, experienced and intelligent journalists with a strong viewpoint – and bad news for those who in the past were merely scribes standing on the sidelines recording history.
*Press Gazette, December 9, 2011: The Independent, Financial Times and The Guardian saw the biggest year-on-year circulation drops last month [November 2011], according to the latest figures from ABC.
The Independent was down 28 per cent to 127,873 – largely as a result of its decision to transfer a significant volume of bulk copies from The Independent to its cut-price sister title i, while the FT was adown 15.8 per cent to 337,239.
The Guardian, which increased its cover price to £1.20 on 18 September, was down 16.3 per cent year on year to an average daily sale of 226,473.
The Daily Telegraph, which increased its cover price to £1.20 on 10 November, fell 8.9 per cent to 594,644.
The Times, which still costs £1, was down 11.4 per cent to 413,233.