The rise of the knowledgeables

Over at the Typist, a missive on the future of journalism:

First, as the quoted tweet suggests, this isn’t about whether The Information itself will be successful — financially or journalistically — in the long haul. This is about the model by which it operates, and the major role I think that model will play in the future of journalism.

Secondly, let’s differentiate between journalism and reporting. The latter is only one part — integral as it may be — of the former. I think big organizations will dominate news breaking and reporting for a long time to come. They will still be responsible for the “what,” but less and less for “what does it mean?”. They’ll serve mainly as middlemen of information — an important and nontrivial task in itself — but not much more beyond that.

In the future, we’ll have ‘knowledgeables’.

Knowledgeables won’t “kill” today’s journalists. They will simply supplant them where anything substantially more complicated than a “what” is needed. Nobody is going to go out of business when this happens. In fact, as the separation between reporters and knowledgeables (both journalists) becomes more dichotomous, everyone wins. Everyone wins by doing what they do best. In this case: Journalists deliver, knowledgeables analyze. This is called specialization.

Forming small, self-owned, and single-focus groups, knowledgeables will play a different game than the one news companies are struggling to survive in. To be sustainable, these specialized cells won’t have to break any news, serve a meager diet of ads as content, or deal with every item out there just to feed the hungry ratings machine. They won’t cater to everyone, only to their everyone.

I agree with the general sentiment, and the increased returns to specialization in the internet era (maybe Nate Silver should have picked a hedgehog as a logo instead of a fox). Examples of knowledgeables include John Gruber, Bruce Schneier, and Patrick Smith.