Innovation, technology and the danger of ‘Shiny Things Syndrome’

Julie Posetti has conducted some fascinating research into the effects of ‘Shiny Things Syndrome’ on the news industry. ‘Shiny Things Syndrome’ can be understood as the news media’s obsessive pursuit of new forms of technology, without long term or strategic planning in place to support it.

Posetti warns that this kind of attitude could be detrimental to implementing genuinely sustainable change for the news industry. That doesn’t mean that the news industry should stop innovating, though: it desperately needs to evolve if it wants to survive. But, she argues, technological change needs to be accompanied by clear and research-informed strategies to ensure its efficacy, and its efficiency.

Posetti’s report warns against journalism being driven by technology, advocating instead for a returned focus on journalism’s purpose: good storytelling, and a consistent focus on their users. And Posetti is right: the news industry’s development shouldn’t be driven by technology. But there are ways in which technology can support it.

Technological innovation doesn’t have to be at odds with a sustainable business model for the news industry. There’s no need to implement massively complicated technology, or to involve obscure crypto currencies and blockchain. The news industry has had a sustainable business model in the past; it just needs to adapt that model to the digital age.

News publishers have always been supported by a combination of revenue streams, including direct payment from its readers. Re-enabling that revenue stream for a wide variety of news (and other) publishers is the challenge the industry faces. Subscription and membership work for some, but neither reflect the casual relationship which most people have with most media.

Agate was set up to solve this. It’s a technology, of course – a digital wallet system. But it’s not the technology that changes things; it’s the incentives and opportunities it unlocks. Agate updates the media business model to suit the needs and habits of digital consumers: rather than paying with cash for a newspaper in a shop, you simply pay using your Agate wallet. Giving you something you want is still the central challenge for publishers, as it ever was.

Agate isn’t another technology fad, capitalising on new tech trends. Our aim is to go further than simply ‘stopping the rot’; we want to create a genuinely sustainable, growing and profitable future for journalism. The more publishers that use Agate, the bigger the network becomes and the bigger the market can grow. Unlike subscription models, there’s no cap on the value of a user, and no limits on the potential for the market.

It’s might be easier and quicker for the news industry to become profitable again than they think. Two decades and more of trying to adapt to the internet has left everyone exhausted and unsure. But sometimes you can’t see the solution until it’s right in front of you. Agate provides the tools for publishers, old and new, to re-establish their revenue streams. Technology itself can’t drive change, but it can provide the foundations and incentives to support it. So why wait?

You can read Julie Posetti’s report for RISJ here. You can get in touch with Agate here.