Well, after thirty years of publishing, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday have ended their print editions in late March and, although they’ll continue online, it is a sad indictment of the changing face of the media.
At its peak in the late 80s, the Independent was selling more than 400,000 copies a day but its final paid circulation had fallen drastically to around 56,000. Internet publishing wasn’t even possible then, let alone a priority. The big strategic question then was whether the newspaper should be reformatted, from broadsheet to tabloid, to bolster sales against the already-tabloid Times, which seems almost laughable by today’s standards.
It was also a time of my foray into journalism when I found myself a Copy Telephonist for the Regional Director of (the then) East Midlands Allied Press (EMAP) during his reporting of Peterborough United’s home matches. It was also a time when the team happened to actually play very good football and were in the (then) Second Division, but that’s another story.
In the days pre-internet, my job entailed ringing all the national newspapers including The Sun, The Star, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Mail, and even the now defunct News of the World, to dictate the editorial copy to a typist at the newsdesk. Oh, how things have changed.
Fast-forward 30 years (gulp) and not only is consumers’ appetite for online content driving change within the media but a more disturbing development is taking place in the way content is created – the automated generation of stories using algorithms.
New York-based news agency, Associated Press (AP), has ramped up its partnership with Automated Insights, a company that uses artificial intelligence to analyse and transform big data into stories, and has used more than 3,000 computer-generated pieces of editorial already.
So, with traditional print media in decline, the online consumption of media increasing, and now automated content generation becoming popular, I really do wonder how long traditional journalism…and the professional journalist…can survive.