In the news media industry technology is often seen both as the driver of innovation and also the solution: social and mobile technologies have disrupted the media business meaning publishers need to innovate by creating new, technology-driven products that meet audience needs. Good design research and design thinking is one way of identifying opportunities and creating products that people want.
One issue with this approach is the asymmetry between media companies and technology companies. The loss of revenue and audiences to social platforms has put media companies in a position where they are no longer drivers of innovation and are instead constantly adapting storytelling practices to accommodate new digital tools developed by Facebook, Google, Apple, among others.
A few of things are happening:
- Editorial practices are being constantly adapted to fit the requirements of platforms;
- Journalists are fatigued by having to adapt to the next new technology;
- There’s a feeling that a focus on technology comes at the expense of journalism’s core mission.
Another way of thinking about innovation is to focus on practices and expertise, rather than technology.
Redomaining and radical innovation
One of the thinkers I like on innovation is the economic theorist W Brian Arthur. In his book The Nature of Technology, he argues that real innovation comes from a merging of domains. Domains are a way of configuring things, they have their own language and practices.
We might think about journalism as a domain with particular ways of discovering news, making judgements about information and how to tell stories with that information. Journalism has its own way of doing things, its own principles.
Arthur’s argument is that radical new ideas, or technologies, come about when we use principles from one domain for a new or different purpose.
This is a process of redomaining. And this is powerful because it provides a wholly new way to do something. But this is different from adaption. He explains it this way:
“Think of a new body of technology as its methods, devices…