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from print to digital

The communications team of which I am a part, whilst having digital ambitions that are slowly coming to fruition, still mostly operates on the print philosophy we have inherited over the last 10-20 years. Adapting ourselves for the future is something we’ve already done a fair bit of thinking and talking about, dreaming of future possibilities. In about a month’s time – after World Assembly – we are hoping to have some team planning sessions to consider this in more depth, and plan for the next year or two, within a longer-term vision for the team.

There are some great people already thinking about this from a variety of other perspectives, including Clay Shirky considering the effects of the internet on society, and Jeff Jarvis considering technology and the future of journalism.

The following blog post from Jeff Jarvis, on the article and the future of print, includes some great insights on what it means to be ‘digital first’, and some of the potential pitfalls in planning for change. Here are some excerpts:

But first let’s examine what it means to be digital first. It does not mean just putting one’s stories online before the presses roll. In that case, print still dictates the form and rhythm of news: everything in the process of a newsroom is still aimed at fitting round stories into squared holes on pages. That, as Jay Rosen says, is the key skill newsroom residents think they have (and the skill journalism schools prepare them for): the production cycle of print.

Digital first, aggressively implemented, means that digital drives all decisions: how news is covered, in what form, by whom, and when. It dictates that as soon as a journalist knows something, she is prepared to share it with her public. It means that she may share what she knows before she knows everything (there’s a vestige of the old culture, which held that we could know everything … and by deadline to boot) so she can get help from her public to fill in what she doesn’t know. That resets the journalistic relationship to the community, making the news organization a platform first, enabling a community to share its information and inviting the journalist to add value to that process. It means using the most appropriate media to impart information because we are no longer held captive to only one: text. We now use data, audio, video, graphics, search, applications, and wonders not yet imagined. Digital first is the realization that news happens with or without us — it mimics the architecture of the internet, end-to-end — and we must use all the tools available to add value where we can.

Digital first, from a business perspective, means driving the strategy to a digital future, no longer depending on the print crutch. That means creating a likely smaller and more efficient enterprise that can survive, then prosper post-monopoly, post-scarcity in an abundance-based media economy.

Print last. Note that none of us — no, not even I — is saying print dead. Print, at least for a time, still has a place in serving content and advertising. But let’s re-examine that place even as we re-examine the role of the article, the journalist, and the advertisement in digital.

I wonder how you might like to hear from, and engage with, an organisation like IFES in the new digital era. How you might like to share your own stories and interact with others. Please do share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

Andy Moore

I work as Head of Global Communications for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), having previously worked with Compudava (now Endava) in Moldova, building web applications, and for Wesley Management, working with small businesses and charities. I have a passion to see intelligent application of digital technology to serve the Church and mission. Married to the lovely Ruth.

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