A custom-made newspaper for each reader
Alberto Orioli, Il Sole 24 Ore’s deputy editor, looks at the information of the future
“When I began working as a journalist, there was no internet. Nor where there mobile phones. And that says a lot,” said Alberto Orioli, the deputy editor of Il Sole 24 Ore. He started at the newspaper in the Eighties, working for various sections and newsrooms. In three decades he has witnessed the changes to the physical product, the publishing market, and to the future prospects of a profession that has gone from the painstakingly slow speed of print to the frenzy of online information. In the era of Big Data and social media, a newspaper like Il Sole 24 Ore continues to remain faithful to its strengths: skills. Skills that range from the analysis of financial technicalities to the ability to explain the regulatory tangles that loom over citizens, investors and companies.
But what does the future have in store for the newspaper? The questions is not so much about content but rather about new channels and the ability to approach new readers. Orioli is aware that "there are at least two generations that don’t take paper into consideration” and that these generations have to be conquered through the use of language and ways of utilizing information that differ from Il Sole’s tradition. “In the future we will have to create new models to make use of the information,” Orioli said. “If, as I believe, one of these possible new channels is represented by apps, then we will need to create personalized newspapers that are capable of supporting the reader who buys Il Sole for its “custom-made” layouts. After all, the scope of the newspaper remains the same: “to tell stories” with an emphasis on the economic and political changes that have the most profound impact. What has changed is where the reader consults the newspaper as it has now definitely migrate onto virtual platforms, such as apps for professionals, chats, videos, and live streaming on social media. We should, however, never forget that print will never disappear. “On the contrary, it must rediscover and it will rediscover its value as a marvelous object on which printed words can find their place in graphic harmony, with a visual grammar of emotions destined only to evolve and not to disappear. News on paper has a sacrality that it does not achieve on the internet. And this feature should be fully exploited,” Orioli said. According the deputy editor, present-day journalists have to integrate intellectual curiosity with quasi-engineering skills to present the story better.
As large, US media organizations like the Washington Post or Bloomberg teach us. In these companies there is more emphasis in finding a web designed and a data analyst rather than on finding journalists. “Ideally, the perfect employee would have the curiosity of a journalist and the quasi-engineering ability to handle algorithms and data,” Orioli said. “A better job can be done, if one manages to merge these two aspects.” Thus, multitasking and versatility have become increasingly important. But opening up to new methods and technology does not necessarily translate into improvising professionalism.
“The concept of multitasking is fine, but one must not forget that every medium has its own specific language that needs to be understood and metabolized. This is the new frontier for journalists like me,” Orioli said. Even in the age of digital disruption, digital destruction, journalism must not limit itself to studying the sector’s technological metamorphosis. The financial difficulties of companies that were focalized on “clicks”, like the US portal Buzzfeed, have demonstrated that the ability to be well-positioned online cannot completely replace information.
This is where the value of content - a criteria that rewards specialized journalism, in particular - comes into play. News can be found anywhere; the same is not true for analysis, surveys and quality comments. “If there’s a sector that can afford to charge for news, it is financial journalism and financial journalism that serves as a service to citizens,” Orioli said. “But in order to charge for news, you need to have specialized journalists that have mastered the subject they are dealing with and know how to best best exercise the benefit of doubt and criticism. This is the only way that they can become trustworthy for the readers. In this way, when a news item is produced it is as if we are giving the reader expert advice. And when you do that, you hook the reader.”