Well, the 2013 Forbes' 30 Under 30 media list might be the last nail in the coffin of traditional journalism.
Back in 2011, the exclusive list was riddled with the titles: writer, editor, producer, reporter, correspondent. But by 2013, 19 out of the 30 spots were entrepreneurs -- founders or cofounders of their own companies.
This seems like a huge jump from the first published 30 Under 30, and from inspecting the lists, you can see the increase over time. 2012 included 12 entrepreneurs, and 2011 had a six, less than one third of what it's grown to be. Even in those six, only one was labeled founder as his position.
By nature, the 30 under 30 list should be filled with innovative people who are changing the way we do things. But it seems that innovation and influence from traditional journalists is shrinking, at least according to Forbes' judges. The handful of journalists from established news outlets on the 2013 list include Brian Stelter from CNN Reliable Sources, Kelly Evans from CNBC and Ezra Klein from the Washington Post, all of whom are actually repeats from previous lists. But the others on the list aren't just starting their own publications, as the entrepreneurs did in previous years. Instead, many of these companies look at media and content from a whole new angle.
Just take Matt Mullenweg's company Automattic. Its well-known WordPress platform provides a smooth publishing medium for anyone's personal work, and powers one in every six blogs. Another example, Circa, is trying to optimize the way people consume news on mobile. Cofounder Matt Galligan had already founded and sold two startups before he started Circa. Other startups included cater to social media, branded content, TV and books.
The list also features a couple former working journalists who left to pursue their own companies. Dan Fletcher, a three time repeat on Forbes' list, recently founded his own news startup, Beacon, after working at Bloomberg and Facebook. Founder of Contently Shane Snow has also written for Wired, Fast Company, Time and various other publications.
This change could just be a byproduct of our growing entrepreneurial obsession, creeping into traditional media. Not to mention that the 30 Under 30 list and entrepreneurship both idealize youth, although are not necessarily accurate in doing so. But if journalism is adapting to technology and the web, startups would come in sooner or later, especially with news consumption moving to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.
Several years ago, it wasn't enough anymore to be a writer, you had to know how to shoot and produce video, audio and photo stories (especially when news organizations started laying off entire photography staffs). After we learned to be multimedia journalists, the requirements shifted again. As media integrates with the web, the demand for coders has spilled into the journalism job market. With the rise of big data, everyone is looking for the stories that understand, explain and utilize this data. And so journalism took a turn for the scientific, the mathematical.
Now, it seems that entrepreneurial spirit is what aspiring journalists need -- not only the ability to cover news, but to restructure and adapt it for different purposes. As Forbes pointed out, even those listed who aren't cofounders are creating change within their departments.
"That's not to say the Harper's interns and NBC pages of today won't be among the media leaders of tomorrow," Jeff Bercovici explains in his writeup of the newest media selections. "But those résumé lines won't count nearly as much as the one that says 'founder.'"
In fact, this insight has already integrated itself into the internship hiring process. A friend who interned at the Wall Street Journal last summer told me that a large part of why he was hired is because he founded his own sports news publication on campus. He said they wanted someone entrepreneurial.
This doesn't mean that everyone in media has to go out and become an entrepreneur now. But what we can note is that the most influential young media moguls aren't the ones who can write, or produce or tweet the best. They are the ones who create new solutions and ideas to keep up with changing technology, or to fit nontraditional news demands.
You can go check out the progression for yourself here, here and here. It might be a little depressing for the hardcore traditional journalist or writer, but journalism never slowed down for anything before. Why should it for its own transformation?
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