The new Reuters site is based around the concept of streams, and the Felix Salmon stream on the site, which will appear at some point in the coming months, is by its nature going to be a different animal, on a different platform, than the current Felix Salmon blog on Reuters.com. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work — there will be a lot of trial and error involved, for sure — but right now the way I’m thinking about it is as a place where the various things I do on various platforms can be brought together in a single place. If I write something on Medium, or if I write an article for Wired, or if I post something on Tumblr, or if I create a video on YouTube, that thing can live in its own natural habitat while still being aggregated on my own Reuters platform. And of course I’ll always be writing a lot of original content right here — content which in turn will end up being linked to from Twitter, or syndicated on Seeking Alpha, or otherwise shared around the social Web.
To put it another way: The death of the blog was really just the death of a single template into which all of a certain person’s output had to be able to fit. Now we have a multiplicity of options, and it’s silly not to take advantage of them. Media organizations have generally embraced their journalists publishing ultra-short pieces on Twitter; the future, I think, is going to be ever further in that direction. Certain journalists will be wonderfully active on Pinterest; others will develop huge followings on LinkedIn. As they do, their employers will be gifted with a brand-new way to extend their brand out to people they never reached before, in what feels like a very personal manner.
I remember having drinks with one editor in chief, a couple of years ago, after anNYT op-ed I had written received wide attention. He said that he would be furious if one of his writers had done such a thing; he had a clear expectation that his own publication would be the only place that his writers published pretty much anything longer than 140 characters. That expectation didn’t make much sense to me in 2011, and it just seems silly now. The same NYT op-ed, published as a Reuters blog post, would have been a very different animal: the medium helps create the message, as well as the audience that it reaches. Media companies should be in the business of curating and publishing what works best on their own platforms, rather than becoming jealous of what appears elsewhere. Indeed, many of them publish too much, and would be well advised to publish much less than they do.
Everybody is a curator, these days: Publishers design platforms for certain types of content, editors shape publications by deciding what to leave out; journalists try to make sure that the stuff they’re doing is expressed to its best possible effect on the best possible platform. The result is a more fluid media ecosystem than we’ve been used to, but also a more effective one. Let content live where it works best; that way, the publishers of that content will be able to present something with maximal coherence and a minimum of feeling that they’re trying to do something they’re not particularly good at. The publishers who win are going to be the ones with addictive, compelling, distinctive content. Rather than the ones who are constantly flailing around, trying to copy everything that’s good somewhere else.