Nichepapers, new models, monkeys, and bananas
A friend told me a story once about a man who comes across a bunch of monkeys. Before the man can even say anything, one of the monkeys hands him a banana. He hangs out with the monkeys for a while and then has to press on down the road. After some time, he runs into another bunch of monkeys and gets upset when they don’t offer him bananas. The moral of the story is that, of course, you have to stop expecting bananas from monkeys. Some monkeys don’t have bananas to give you.
It’s a simple story with an even more simple and obvious point, but I like it. It’s become a bit of a mantra for when I become disappointed: stop expecting bananas. (This is an especially effective mantra for listening to music by artists you’ve loved for a long time who then release an album that feels like a stylistic departure. The problem isn’t that they’re making a different kind of music, perhaps it’s that you were expecting bananas, so to speak.)
I have a point here, of course.
The same friend forwarded me this piece from HarvardBusiness.org about nichepapers and the future of the media. It pretty much echoes everything I’ve been thinking, reading, and talking about with people lately. Mainly that, going forward, journalists need to change the way we think and stop looking at the web as the death of print, but rather as something completely new which we have an opportunity to define. Of course, here at ND we’re talking specifically about going from print to the web, but it’s less cause-and-effect and more that-was-then-this-is-now. These monkeys don’t have bananas. They have some other kind of fruit we’ve never seen before. We can’t expect it to taste like a banana.
It got me thinking what we “new media” people are doing is kind of like…well, imagine your boss saying we’re going to give you a new job – what do you want it to be?
I’ve opined up and down all over this topic on this site, so figured I’d point to what someone else is saying. I like what the author – Umair Haque – has to say about the fact that newspapers literally give you yesterday’s news. It was a matter of time before we humans developed a more immediate way to share information and share what’s happening right now. Namely, as he and plenty of others believe, the new way to do news is to start conversations and let those conversations develop as the actual news develops. I dig it. What do you think?