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Another history of online news

Seventeen years ago, I highlighted a BBC News article in which Dave Gilbert reflected on thirteen years of online news.

So much of what has come to pass since is unwittingly signalled in that article.

The shrewdest comments came from the newspaper advertising executives who wondered where the revenue would come from. It’s a question some are still asking.

In 2024, this question is posed more frequently than in 2007. Waves of news organisations have collapsed, having transitioned to a business model that siphoned their income to Google and Facebook.

We clocked very early on that it was about a global audience, audience response and encouraging feedback – Web 2.0 in fact.

The idea of ‘audience response’ feels so quaint in 2024, when many news articles are built around embedded Twitter quotes. Often, it feels like the commentary has become the news, in a way that I certainly never foresaw.

People buy newspapers for a host of reasons but reporters never know how many read their own stories. From our real-time statistics, I know exactly what the audience is reading, and the feedback is almost instantaneous.

I don’t think any of us quite understood the extent to which those statistics would come to drive the news agenda, ‘public interest’ playing second fiddle to ‘things that interest the public,’ even at the BBC. ‘Beyoncé’s country album: the verdict’ would not have been one of BBC News’s top stories in 2007, though it was yesterday.

The pace of cultural change is difficult to believe.


The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Media, Technology, , .

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