Friday, December 26, 2008

Why startups will find the future and newspapers won't

"He concluded it would be easier to start from scratch rather than try and change a longstanding culture."

This from a story about a Philadelphian banker who left a name-brand financial institution to start the first green bank on the East Coast. Green banks work on "triple bottom lines." In addition to evaluating the financial bottom line of a loan, the also consider the borrower's impact on the environment and on people.

Such an idea runs counter to the aforementioned "longstanding culture" of most banks. Banks are traditionally about making money. To ask them to potentially compromise their ability to reap the largest amount of money possible is anathema to their very programming. Which is why the Philadelphian decided to start his own venture, rather than try to make it work within the walls of the name-brand institution.

The same could be said about the world of journalism. Much of what needs to be done to find the future of news runs directly counter to core principles in the newspaper world. The idea that news first and foremost belongs on newsprint, for example. That stories should be written in inverted pyramid-style. That the reporter is the voice of authority. That the news organization is in control.

Sometimes longstanding cultures are simply too entrenched to enable the requisite revolutionary ideas to grow and flourish. Which is why the future of news will likely be discovered by the succession of startups that are already emerging, rather than by newspapers themselves.

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