What Is the Future of Journalism?! Interview with Georgia Frances King, Ideas Editor at Quartz
(This interview transcript has been edited for clarity and hilarity. LISTEN to the entire conversation.We chat about Georgia being a slashie, gamifying reading, filter bubbles, the ability to nerd out on topics, clicking out random ads to support good journalism, whether people read long articles online, salt water crocodiles, and so much more. Note: co-host David Ryan Polgar is a contributing writer to Quartz and other fine outlets.)
Joe Leonardo: Welcome to the Funny as Tech podcast. I am your co-host and comedian Joe Leonardo. And to my left is David Ryan Polar, tech ethicist. And who do we have for our guest today?
David Ryan Polgar: Georgia Frances King is an Ideas Editor at Quartz, where she works with industry leaders to pen forward-thinking op-eds on futuristic technology. VR, AR, AI, IoT, ML, NLP: If it's an acronym, she probably deals with it. A recovered lifestyle journalist, she was once the assistant editor of Australia's frankie magazine and spent three years as the editor of Kinfolk magazine, during which time she also edited their New York Times-best seller, The Kinfolk Home. She now works at the intersection of emerging technology and quality-of-life, happily living with her head in the cloud.
Georgia Frances King: Thank you so much, guys. Wow. That introduction makes me sound very confused in my career thus far. (laughter)
DRP: We're all confused.
JL: I feel like nowadays you have to be all over the place. You can't just do one thing.
DRP: We call them slashers, right?
GFK: Slashies...If you're slashie, you're between two different things. I feel like I came from editing a lot of very pretty design magazines for a long time, but my actual passion was also talking about Elon Musk and rocket boosters and those kinds of things.
DRP: So Georgia, today we want to talk about the future of journalism. It's a hot issue right now. Nobody knows, at least from my perspective where, where media is going. Everybody seems to be throwing topics and content and strategy against the wall. So what's your overall large scope take on the future of journalism?
GFK: I think with a lot of areas of technology right now, there are two different viewpoints that you can take. You can either consider the utopia yet or you can consider the dystopia and the reality is always going to be somewhere in between.
I think with a lot of areas of technology right now, there are two different viewpoints that you can take. You can either consider the utopia yet or you can consider the dystopia and the reality is always going to be somewhere in between...
I feel that I would prefer to think about a future that is positive that we can work toward rather than a future we have that we run away from. But that said, everyone in media is terrified right now as to what technology is doing to our industry and especially the reach that we can have because of the control of many major tech companies now, privatized tech companies, influencing not the content that we create necessarily, but how the content that we create gets out there.
If you want to go back to the era of newspapers, they would deliver it to your doorstep every day. And you would pick something up. You would read the headlines on the front page and then you would go through bit by bit...what you might do is see just little snippets of everything that's happening around the world.
Now the main way that we come to our news is when we see it in our twitter feed or someone sends us a text message with a link to an article or it's in Facebook or we clicked through from an e-newsletter link or something like this.
What that means is that instead of coming across things by happenstance...we're only actively seeking out new sources and information that we do care about.
DRP: Has this idea of maybe more of an algorithm-forward type of recommendation system altered how people are even reading or taking in content?
GFK: It's definitely altering consumption. Again, we can very quickly veer into dytopia and say that this is just all going to be filter bubbles and we're only going to ever know things that we are interested in and that is going to narrow knowledge.
But you can also take the positive view of that in some ways. If you really, really want to go deep on a subject, it is a lot easier to find more information on that subject. So if we also want to take our knowledge into our own hands, we now have a better opportunity than ever to go out and seek that knowledge. Now, the thing is is that most people don't want to do that. They don't have the time to do that. I often talk about the difference between people who want to reinforce paradigms and the difference between people who want to shift them.
[Discussion on ad revenue needed to support journalism.]
GFK: For all of those articles that you share that you don't actually click upon, that is less money that these organizations can have to go out and create better journalism. I'm actually someone-- this sounds crazy--if I read a really good article online, I click on the ads around it... I guess this is probably a guilt factor thing that like I'll just click on the ads I don't even like.
[Discussion on paywalls and moving away from clickbait type articles.]
DRP: Do you think we're kind of going through this new movement where we're saying, all right, let's get a little more in depth?
GFK: I can definitely tell you that some of the most popular articles on Quartz, and I know it's true for the New Yorker, I know it's true for Vanity Fair, are the longest ones.
I know I had a piece that I published last year that was, I think it was seven and a half thousand words long and it had an average range re time of four and a half minutes and over a million people read it in the first month.
[Joe asks about depleted attention spans and needing to be a really good writer to holds someone attention span for long articles.]
GFK: But I do want to say that I think that we also have to meet readers where they're at and if readers only have 15 seconds on a train to get a soundbite of an important news piece. It doesn't have to be an 8,000 word article.
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