Flux is the new stability

I was standing in front of a room of print reporters at a big city newsroom, teaching audio storytelling. My brain kept flashing back to a similar workshop. At that one, a print reporter was standing in front of a room of audio reporters teaching me and my radio newsroom colleagues how to write digital stories.

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone in public radio was terrified. We had to up our digital game — and by digital, we really kind of meant print. The way things were headed at that time, audio was going the way of the dinosaur. We thought we’d need to offer up our journalism as written text stories to be read on a screen rather than as the beautiful audio stories we’d been telling for years. That was about 15 years ago.

But a few years later, audio storytelling became the next big thing. There was an audio renaissance. Sure, we started doing web stories too, but audio became bigger than ever when podcasts stepped into the limelight.

While audio has been having its decade to shine, the signs are on the horizon that my glob of lava in the media ecosystem lava lamp may be about to break up and sink back down again.

The journalism industry is ever-changing. What is on the bottom rises up to the top. Sometimes it’ll stay there for a while — or perhaps linger at the bottom for what feels like forever. But eventually, technology and generational sensibilities heat up in a way that creates a major shift.

Expect major shifts on many planes in the next year. The voice revolution (think smart speakers) is starting to give way to the metaverse. The changes at Twitter are upending how we scan for stories and build audiences for them (and our own brands as journalists). News consumption habits are changing fast as the havoc wreaked by the pandemic continues to be felt. Financial models are shifting as we see downturns in advertising spending and even support from individual donors. Perhaps even more significantly, we’re seeing a power and sensibility shift from baby boomers to millennials. (Somehow my generation got skipped over, but whatever, Gen X is used to it.)

But journalism — like the world we cover — has long been in flux. Sometimes we can pretend we’re in a moment of stability, despite the ever-changing landscape around us; at other times, it’s all too apparent that we’re living in a time of profound shifts.

Whatever you expect in the coming year, expect the unexpected. Continued change will be the thing we can count on not changing in 2023.

Tamar Charney is an audio storytelling trainer and editorial strategist.

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