An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, 1980 to the present

A project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy

An oral history of the epic collision between journalism and digital technology, from 1980 to the present

How Did Tech Platforms Affect News?

Volume 1:
CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters

tim-armstrong
We have, essentially on the content side, decided to invest in what I’m going to call human brands. Technology changes all the time, but human needs don’t. There are 10 or 15 things in people’s lives they really care about. They care about family. They care about work. They care about where they live. The investments that we’ve made, overall, as a business, are directed at those really deep human need states.
Tim Armstrong
ted-leonsis
All of those were trying to recruit journalists, either to work for us or to partner with us. There was an unbelievable amount of confusion in the marketplace. You’d have to work on all three tools. The Microsoft tool set, publishing platform, was different than the AOL platform, was different than HTML and what was being put out there. It became a real tough decision for partners, media companies, journalists. Whose side should they take? A lot of it became who would pay you the most money. Rights fees were created. I once had a $400 million budget to now write a check upfront. There was no longer revenue sharing. It was, “We’re going to write you a check, and you’ll be with us, and then we’ll charge.” Then came the advent and the birth of the independent ISP. Originally the cable industry was built that same way. NBC, ABC and CBS would broadcast, and if you were in Manhattan, you’d get the signal. If you were in Albany, I remember moving the antenna to get a clearer signal.
Ted Leonsis
matt-mullenweg
So they provide distribution. Even Tumblr today. Twitter, Facebook. I do a blog post, it automatically goes out to each of those, and people who might follow me on each of these services get my stuff and they click through and come to my site. And so, in aggregate blog traffic is higher than ever, which makes more people want to publish and write.
Matt Mullenweg

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Covering Tech Today

Volume 2:
Tech Journalists

hedshot Elmer-Dewitt
People get that [Apple] story so wrong. A lot of what I’m doing turns out to be press criticism. There’s just such bad journalism going on.
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Hedshot Pogue
People identify, I think, too much with their gadgets. Maybe it’s because you invest a lot in it. You don’t want to be made a fool. Maybe it’s because they’re fashion statements now — the phone you carry, the tablet you carry.
David Pogue
Hedshot Mossberg
I watched what these people were able to do. I watched them succeed. I watched them fail. I watched them do amazing things. In all of American business, it has happened that in this period of time that I’ve been able to cover it, tech has been the most dynamic part of the economy. That did effect me.
Walt Mossberg

Explore more topics Vol. 2 

The Big Picture

For most of the 20th century, any list of America’s wealthiest families would include quite a few publishers generally considered to be in the “news business”: the Hearsts, the Pulitzers, the Sulzbergers, the Grahams, the Chandlers, the Coxes, the Knights, the Ridders, the Luces, the Bancrofts — a tribute to the fabulous business model that once delivered the country its news. While many of those families remain wealthy today, their historic core businesses are in steep decline (or worse), and their position at the top of the wealth builders has long since been eclipsed by people with other names: Gates, Page and Brin and Schmidt, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Case, and Jobs — builders of digital platforms that, while not specifically targeted at the “news business,” have nonetheless severely disrupted it.

Keep reading Vol 1. 

The Tech Journalists

A transformative wave washed over the world economy this past quarter-century and technology journalists were its chroniclers and front-row witnesses. Many, among the twenty interviewed, say a catastrophic disruption of the news business was to be expected. But they feel their warnings went largely unheard within their workplaces, a contributing factor to the industry’s late and ineffectual counter-efforts. In contrast to pessimism about the future financial underpinnings of their business, they’re optimistic about the outlook for journalism as new tools, audiences and approaches emerge and evolve.

Keep reading Vol 2. 

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Volume
Vol 1: CEOs, Coders, News Execs, Disrupters
Vol 2: Tech Journalists
arianna-huffington
scott-kurnit
tim-berners-lee
roger-fidler
Hedshot Schlender
michael-kinsley
scott-woelfel
Hedshot Pogue
michael-sippey
Hedshot Fallows
mike-moritz
8255KR01
betsy-morgan
henry-blodget
Hedshot Dvorak
Hedshot Mossberg
Mike-Perlis1
andrew-sullivan
om-malik
matt-mullenweg
bob-november
Hedshot Gillmor
harry-motro
arthur-sulzberger
POLITICO Executive Editor Jim VandeHei. John Shinkle/Politico
Hedshot Bray
julius-genachowski
Justin Smith
Update Branscum Hedshot
Hedshot Swisher
richard-gingras
Hedshot Richards
Larry Kramer
lewis-dvorkin
doc-searls
merrill-brown
donald-graham
john-harris
Hedshot Dyson
Hedshot Michelle Quinn
david-graves
Hedshot Quittner
jeff-jarvis
ken-richieri
dave-winer
dick-costolo
caroline-little
david-bradley
Update Bell Headshot
martin-nisenholtz
john-battelle
steve-newhouse
alan-spoon
walter-isaacson
Will India Meet Global Expectations?:
gerald-levin
ted-leonsis
marty-baron
will-hearst
Hedshot Caruso
nick-negroponte
hedshot Meeks
eric-schmidt
Hedshot Angwin
nick-denton
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chris-schroeder
krishna-bharat
Hedshot Levy
Hedshot Markoff
steve-case
clay-christensen
gordon-crovitz
tim-armstrong
chris-cox
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art-kern
jonah-peretti
chloe-sladden
rob-grimshaw
hedshot Elmer-Dewitt

Four veterans of digital journalism and media — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz, Paul Sagan, and later John Geddes — interviewed dozens of people who played important roles in the intersection of media and technology — from CEOs to coders, journalists to disruptors.

Riptide is the result: more than 50 hours of video interviews and two narrative essays that trace the evolution of digital news from early experiments to today. It’s what really happened to the news business.

Read Vol. 1  
See interviews