Saturday, 8 January 2011

'Convergence' is dead. Long live convergence.

This post is a copy of an answer I gave to a question posted on Quora - the latest social media time sink - by Marie Kinsey, the chair of the Broadcast Journalism Training Council Glyn Mottershead, a tutor in digital journalism at Cardiff University. (I clearly haven't quite got the hang of Quora yet...)

asked: "Have we gone beyond the shelf life of convergence in journalism?" This is a slightly edited version of my reply...

A few years ago, I seem to remember we spent some time discussing what convergence would mean for journalism in the context of the convergence of print, audio, and video on the Web. I'm not sure we need to do that any more because it has actually happened. 

I think there was also an inevitable (and perhaps unavoidable) weakness in starting from the perspective of: This is a newspaper article: how do we put it on the Web? This is a piece of radio: how do we put in on the Web? This is a piece of TV: how do we put it on the Web?

Four years ago, the tools I was using as a trainee broadcast journalist were all geared around putting traditional radio, TV and newspaper pieces online. But even then (and much more so now), there were tools available that had been designed to take advantage of the Web as a medium - the hyperlink, blogs, Twitter, Dipity, Audioboo, Youtube, audio slideshows etc. (Though you can argue using these tools still draws on traditional skills.) 

Today we can say: This is a story: how do we use the Web to tell that story? If you're into programming why not even design your own tool to present the news in a more interesting and engaging way on the Web?

I think the current interest lies in other 'convergences'. 

First, the convergence of online genres. Blogs and websites have merged. Twitter is fed into blogs and vice versa. Youtube has a forum underneath it. Facebook can be used as a blog or a Twitter feed or a forum and so on. 

Second, there are much larger questions around the convergence of private and public, brand and individual, as well as online and offline.
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