Lewis DVorkin: The Future of Journalism Is About Communicating with the Audience
At the PandoMonthly panel in NYC, Forbes’s Lewis DVorkin spoke of a new generation of writers. These writers, he explained, are leading the future of journalism by taking advantage of technology not available forty years ago, when he was starting his career. They’re able to easily publish themselves on multiple free platforms, such as blogs, without the approval of veteran journalists.
“Never before has there been a better time to be a journalist. Never before have you been able to avoid groveling at the feet of elite journalists to have your work published. Never before have there been as many free tools to publish your work. Never before has this existed, so just do it,” he told the captivated audience gathered at Projective Space.
PandoDaily Editor Adam Penenberg, filling in for usual host, Sarah Lacy, while she’s on maternity leave, interviewed the Forbes Chief Product Officer. Penenberg touched on the backlash Forbes is receiving from the journalism community for their open contribution model that publishes amateurs and advertisers. Traditional journalists, as he referred to them, are irritated because amateurs are given a wide audience without first building strong credentials. They’re also annoyed because advertisers are able to abuse the news system by promoting their own brand.
But, as DVorkin said, “[Traditional journalists] just need to understand the world is changing. It was hard for Forbes, too. The business models of journalism are forever broken. For journalism to survive and prosper, you need new business models. Forbes is trying to build a sustainable model for journalism, so we can give journalists a voice and continue what they want to do.”
He expanded on how today’s journalistic landscape has evolved over the past forty years, especially in the last decade. The economic crisis in 2008 brought trouble to the media business, as it did for most industries. Budget cuts and layoffs ensued for media companies both small and large. While upsetting, the recession did allow for the exploration of new vertical and innovation.
It was during this time that DVorkin founded True/Slant – originally called Readio, he bashfully admits – a site for original content and news which operated on a self-publishing model, where both reputable and yet-to-be-credible writers were able to publish work. All they need to do is, “Hit the publish button.”
“I faced no resistance, but a lot of skepticism,” he said.
Soon after its inception in 2009, Forbes bought the company.
While Forbes still assumes responsibility over its writers and content, this model places more responsibility on the writer due to the lack of oversight from a formal editor. The social web now curates content and will catch inaccuracies and false information. Losing credibility is easier than ever. But fix it and move on, he advised.
The open pool for new writers, advertisers, and veteran journalists also allows for new styles of writing.
“There’s a new generation that has a familiar, authentic, less formal way. That generation really gets what the audience wants. Most traditional journalists still want to do the homogenized, inverted pyramid type of writing.” But, he told Penenberg, “We really need to find a new kind of digital journalist who can communicate with an audience, rather than just write about a story.”