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A future for news

Much of the last few years have been spent discussing how journalism will survive in the face of the immense changes taking place in the industry. The digital revolution, the shift in advertising based business models and the explosion of content sources has turned the consuming, dissemination and publishing of news on its head.

But the debate has shifted from will it survive to how will it survive? How will media organizations deliver value while adapting to consumers new demands and capabilities, which will only continue to change?

Blaming Google for disrupting the advertising market or waiting for the iPad to replicate offline content are not strategies. Overcapacity and commoditization are not the most popular industry topics to discuss. But look at any news aggregation site and the thousands of stories about any given current event that have little or no differentiation and it’s self-evident. When local markets were walled off and self-sustainable, there was room for this level of duplication. In the age of information ubiquity, there is not.

News organizations need a horizontal platform. They need a broad, fast and fact-based news capability. The only economic model that makes sense is a shared industry capability. However, no single news provider can provide all the requirements in a rapidly shifting and dynamic markets for current awareness.

Our editorial goal is to be indispensable to our customers

Thomson Reuters is investing heavily in news. We believe that our history, brand and broad capability give us an excellent starting position to build that industry platform. We will supplement our unique offering with investments such as the one announced today to support our US and global media business with deep US content. Additionally, because we know that we will never be able to satisfy all of the industry’s needs, we’ll also provide a platform so that sources can monetize their news and content through our distribution channels. That marriage will make the industry more efficient while freeing up journalists to focus on really adding value for their customers.

Where is that value? In vertical content and in true digital innovation. Vertical, valuable journalism is ultimately about expertise and about connecting the dots. It can be based on an editorial voice, a point of view or a set of common interests. While profit pools have been eroded in general news, they have gathered in vertical markets such as corporate industry news and deep expertise in topics of interest such as sports, politics, weather and many other niches. Editors in these verticals generally have a distinct editorial voice and deep connection to the producers and the consumers of newsflow. When journalism at this level really connects, it can reflect or even create a “virtual community”. For Thomson Reuters, vertical content means the world’s deepest, fastest and most relevant news for professionals. Our editorial goal is to be indispensable to our customers.

High value added journalism is critical, but technology and content are now inseparable, if they ever were. The ability to create utility, collaborate, moderate and build exciting shared user experiences has never been greater. It means recognizing that the expectations of individuals who have grown up in the age of search, multimedia, and mobility is just different. There is no single model of innovation and no magic formula. But it’s clear that experiences based only on linear text will be a challenge for media organizations looking to meaningfully connect with media consumers. Great journalism still matters and is as valued as it has ever been, but that alone is not the end of the discussion. Returns will accrue to those who rethink the user experience rather than replicating it. Thomson Reuters is investing heavily in its product line and has launched major new innovations this year to create intuitive, engaging and adaptable services which push the limits of interaction with news and information.

In a media world moving as fast as the present one, it’s easy to get caught up in the flavor of the day. But playing the long game in news is the best way to sustain valuable journalism and create a viable business model that resonates and adds value to consumers.

Devin Wenig is chief executive of Thomson Reuters markets division, which includes financial services and Reuters news agency. He joined Reuters in 1993. This column was first published as a memo.​ ■