Reinventing the News Business

The Newseum in Washington will announce today a new gallery exploring the digital media landscape. Michael Mendenhall, chief marketing officer of HP, which is underwriting the exhibit, on the upside technology is bringing to news and information.

First, what’s not news: information technology has upended the news industry. The old business model whereby global news bureaus were supported by local classified ads has been redefined. Access to free, real-time information via PCs and mobile devices, blogs and apps, means that the morning paper always arrives late. Newspapers are shutting down and newsrooms are shrinking across the country.

From another perspective, information technology has democratized the news, its readership, its dissemination, even its creation. In June 2009, Iranian citizens famously “tweeted” to ensure that their voices were heard during the presidential election—news that otherwise would not have reached the rest of the world. In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in January, people again turned to Twitter (as well as Facebook, Flickr, and other sites) to read about and report on the devastating scene. In the tumult of political protests, natural disasters, or other history-making events, digital and social media may be the best means to take the pulse of the moment.

Of course, there’s more to news than the digital word-on-the-street. But there’s also a great deal more to information technology. According to iSuppli, in 2009, sales of e-readers doubled year-over-year to 3.5 million units. Amazon’s Kindle was its most gifted item last Christmas. If 2009 was the year of the e-reader, 2010 has been the year of the tablet PC. Tablets, slates, and a host of apps have captured our imagination. But what we’ve seen so far is only the beginning.

The next wave of innovation in technology will combine the powerful resources of cloud computing with intuitive, connected mobile devices. Web-aware operating systems that span across devices will help get the right information to the right place at the right time. We’ll be able to access streams of information through a variety of devices, whether smartphone, laptop, slate, or web-connected printer. What does this mean for the news industry? Nothing less than a new medium and a blue sky for new business models.

In the tumult of history-making events, digital and social media may be the best means to take the pulse of the moment.

I began with some of the challenges the news industry has faced in the wake of disruptive technologies. But innovation can be the industry’s greatest asset. The democratization of information has also resulted in the information explosion. In a world where digital content doubles every 12-18 months, people not only want relief from a constant flood of data, they want the context and expertise to turn the noise into knowledge.

Who better to fill that role than the trusted news organizations who have guided us through the Great Recession and the Boom, Watergate and the March on Washington. News organizations can use technology to combine in-depth analysis with the instant pulse of digital and social media… to deliver the breaking updates we care about to whatever digital screen we happen to be looking at… and to make news more available—and more insightful—to more people around the world.

Michael Mendenhall is the Chief Marketing Officer of HP.