For more than eight years, UK-based trade-press editor Adam Tinworth has chronicled on his blog the rise of new and social media and how they have shaped both his personal life and his career. Though change can be unsettling, Tinworth told John Bethune in a recent interview that the best strategy is not to resist it, but embrace it. Journalists, he said, must not only acknowledge, but learn to enjoy, “publishing into a more crowded, noisy, dynamic, and swashbuckling public sphere than ever before.”
As part of the interview, Tinworth offered some specific advice to business-to-business journalists, and suggested that they are well-positioned to take advantage of new media:
As you’ve noted, journalists today need to work with and produce not just text, but audio, video, and images. What can they do to develop and improve these kinds of skills?
Two things. The first: continue experimenting, including in their spare time. My video skills grew leaps and bounds by pulling together videos for my friends and family. I’m fond of the musician comparison (but I have a nasty feeling that I nicked it from Emily Bell): musicians don’t only play music when they’re on stage performing. And journalism, as a profession, shouldn’t only happen to deadline, for your main publication. Play, experiment. Enjoy the acts of reporting, creation and publication. If you don’t—or can’t—you’re in the wrong profession.
The other, of course, is to resist what Paul Bradshaw calls the Flying Zombie Laser Shark problem—editors or publishers pushing journalists to do everything. They should be aware of the potential of everything—but also be aware where their strengths lie. I’m mainly a words and images guy, with a little video, but no audio to speak of. That’s just my skill set. Every journalist needs to be aware of where their own balance is.
Compared with other types of journalists, do you think that trade journalists have any particular advantages in adapting to new media?
Yes—they do. The internet is a medium that is hard on generalists and kinder to niche specialists. B2B journalists aren’t trying to build communities—they’re serving communities that already exist. That gives us a head start over (say) national newspapers, whose audience is slowly being eroded by the million nibbling bites of more niche publications. We have a closer relationship, usually, with our audiences, because the people we’re reporting for are often the same ones that we’re reporting on. It’s therefore not so much of a stretch to take those offline networking skills and relationships, and bring them into the online space. It also gives us a faster and more personal feedback loop as to what is working and what isn’t.
However, we need to be prepared to get even more niche online than we were in print. Forget farmers, think livestock breeders. Forget the aviation industry, dive down to in-flight entertainment or defense.
You can read the rest of Tinworth’s interview on B2B Memes, where he describes how he developed his view of new media and both the opportunities and challenges it poses for journalism.