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Marketing, not technology skills will soon be the most valued for journalists 8/29/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.

Differences of opinion are beginning to emerge regarding which skills journalists will need most to survive. MediaShift says digital technology skills, Scott Karp is banking on collaboration, and Jeff Jarvis insists blogging skills are a must. All seem reasonable. But there is a new theme emerging — a skill recently referred to as “audience understanding.” Dean John Lavine of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, who is dramatically revamping his curriculum, put it this way: “Our job is to create journalists who can win and hold the attention of media consumers faced with limited time and abundant media choices.”

Everywhere else but in journalism “audience understanding” is known as “marketing,” a discipline the news industry in the past century has largely ignored, if not derisively dismissed. They have had this luxury because they have faced little competition due to the one-paper-per-town economics of newspapers, government broadcast regulations that have limited the number of competitors, and the anti-competitive business practices of papers collaborating through the Associated Press network. But suddenly, there are competitors everywhere. Cable TV, Internet news sites, bloggers, and the most feared competitor of them all, Rupert Murdoch.

Journalists who have the talent to attract, maintain, and build audiences will be the most sought after. In the past, opinion-leading journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel preached “journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens…citizens are not customers.” In the future, journalists will recite a mantra that is new, but only to them — “the customer is always right.”


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