Monday, April 18, 2005

Catering to Digital Natives: Murdoch Leads the Second Great Awakening of Media

Rupert Murdoch may be many things but he's not a shy man, nor one unwilling to admit that a new direction must be taken when the time has come. Apparently Mr. Murdoch's watch went a-beeping as of late, as he told a luncheon crowd at the American Society of Newspaper Editors [Editor & Publisher coverage] about the need for newspaper publishers to grab on to the new generation of "digital natives" in whose readership lies the future of their trade. After citing familiarly dreary stats on the fall of newspaper readership and the rise of a generation raised on Web content Murdoch notes "I fear technology, and our response to it, is by no means our only challenge. What I worry about much more is our ability to make the cultural changes. We are too out of touch with our readers. We worry too much about whether we have the story than whether anyone wants the story."

With a raft of other stories in the news in a similar vein, Murdoch's keynote on the movement towards self-evaluation in news organizations highlights that many leading news publishers are beginning to understand the depths to which they must examine their operations to make them relevant and profitable moving forward. This concept of listening to and engaging one's audience in a highly responsive manner is still very new to the culture of most traditional publishers, but a concept that's a necessity for them to become thriving organizations in today's electronic content environment. After a decade of publishers slowly grasping the Web, the Web itself now seems to be calling them to a second "great awakening," in which it's no longer sufficient to treat as secondary the most efficient and effective content distribution channels available today. It's questionable whether Murdoch's address will have any immediate effect on news publishers, but it's clear that it will mark a watershed of the industry's self-recognition in the face of irresistible change.
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