Business of News

Follow today’s Tow Center discussion on the new relationship between journalism and Silicon Valley

November 12, 2015

Every week it seems there is news to remind us how codependent journalism is becoming on the new social platforms and channels for distribution. This week, the news that traffic referrals from Facebook have dropped precipitously for some major publishers this year—more than 30 percent since January—provoked predictable alarm. Last week, it was Twitter’s turn to shock journalists by changing the starred favorite to the more expressive heart.

Today, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University is hosting a day of discussion about the new relationship between journalism and Silicon Valley.

Over the past year, we have seen a sudden but definitive shift towards social platforms becoming publishers, from the launches of Snapchat Discover and Facebook Instant Articles to the counterpunches of Apple News in IOS9 and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages ProjectAt the Tow Center, we are embarking on a major track of new research that will look at this new paradigm in publishing and ask questions about how the relationship is changing both the business structure and the civic role of journalism. When the “fourth estate” is essentially subsumed into the power structures of new vastly wealthy entities such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, what does this mean for the independence of the press? How are our standards for free speech being influenced by the commercial terms of use of these platforms? What are the ethical implications of publishing systems that allow for instantaneous unmoderated publication and response? 

At today’s program, we will be hearing from Mark Thompson, the chief operating officer of The New York Times Company, which has committed itself to doubling its digital revenues over the next four years in a bid to transform from a robust legacy business into a fully digital organization. We will also be hearing from Michael Reckhow, the product manager for Facebook Instant Articles, potentially the most powerful new vector for social traffic for newsroom.

We have discussions of finance models with Neil Barsky of The Marshall Project and Shane Snow of Contently, and a discussion about how we cover and critique technology featuring Jay Rosen, Sara Watson, and John Herrman, whose article “Tech is Eating Media. Now What?” has pushed the debate further this week. We will also be taking a look at the key ethical issues raised by the use of new platforms and technologies to report and disseminate the news.

The discussion begins at 10 am. If you are interested but won’t be in attendance, you can follow along @TowCenter on Twitter, or via the livestream at and embedded below.

Sign up for CJR's daily email



Emily Bell is a frequent CJR contributor and the director of Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Previously, she oversaw digital publishing at The Guardian.