So what is the future of journalism?

Rakhal EbeliAhead of a session at tomorrow’s Publish conference on whether native advertising will be the saviour of publishing Newsmodo founder Rakhal Ebeli sets out where how he sees the relationship between brands and editorial playing out..

There are so many question marks hanging over the future of the industry. Will print be extinct? Will journalists be endangered? Will publishers have evolved into a new, unrecognisable species? Here’s how I see it developing.

Brands and journalists will be enemies no longer

Adaptation is crucial to the survival of a species. If we are to survive in our increasingly hostile environs, characterised by mass staff layoffs, cultural apathy and reduced press freedom, brands and journalists will need to make peace.

This is already happening. Newsmodo for one has embraced the change with our global network of journalists delivering high-quality brand journalism for a range of blue-chip clients.

But there is room for growth. While we have progressed to a new publishing paradigm, many journalists still have a lingering distaste for branded content.

This attitudinal roadblock will be of no use in the future. Brand journalism proves that there are many mutual benefits to working together. As more journalists discard ye olde worldly suspicion of commercial interest, I predict there will be a publishing renaissance. The end of the archaic battle for editorial control will liberate writers, brands and publishers to explore new ways to provide interesting, newsworthy and relevant content for their readers.

This could take the form of brand-sponsored documentaries, interactive custom publishing or flexi-collaborative content production. In short, it could be the start of a new neon-bright future for publishing.

The fourth wall will dissolve

The invisible fourth wall that divides ‘us’ the producer from ‘you’ the consumer will collapse. This will transform how we communicate, pushing the industry to move from a hierarchical to a lateral structure.

The effect of this will be profound. It will lead to an even greater rise in user-generated content. This trend has already prompted brands and marketers rush to crafting new strategies that better reach their target market. I expect this will only grow and prompt further interest in tailor-made, targeted content.

Since founding Newsmodo in 2013, I have seen a dramatic rise in the demand for personalised content. As we move into the future, and need to speak – quickly, conversationally and directly – with an audience becomes even greater, I forecast that demand for customised content will reach unprecedented levels.

This could inspire radically new ways of connecting with audiences. Engaged in dialogue and not in diatribe, brands and marketers will have the opportunity to build real relationships and create more meaningful content experiences.

Move to modularity

In Future Shock, Alvin Toffler predicted the rise of the modular society. His discussion of a modular family unit and a more general social shift is also applicable to the publishing industry.

In the future, publishing is likely to become (more) modular. Outsourcing and specialising will compartmentalise the industry into more efficient, less cumbersome parts. Online will be the new in-house. This will encourage a more global and diverse response to publishing.

Audiences will also develop more modular readership habits. Today, apps and online tools like Storify, Medium, Stumble Upon allow readers to manage their news feeds and break down their content into small, compact parcels. As categories, tags, hashtags and filters become part of the new online lexicon, it will be increasingly important to develop content that cuts-through. And what will cut-through? Quality. History has taught me that quality is timeless.

Looking forward, I predict that quality content will continue to be the publishing industry’s most valuable commodity.

Rakhal Ebeli is the founder of Newsmodo


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