The rise of digital consumption has had an astounding effect on the media industry. According to a recent report, a staggering 88% of millennials get their news from Facebook, and what’s more, current trends suggest that this figure is only set to rise. From credibility to monetisation, it’s presented an array of challenges to nationals and trades alike. One of the ways in which magazines and websites are combatting their struggle to turn content into cash, is through resourcing. Across the sector, many publications are downsizing their in-house teams in favour of freelance support.
This shift in the way that stories are covered was discussed at the PRCA’s recent panel on the Future of Technology Journalism. The evening saw freelance technology writer and commentator, David McClelland, chair a discussion with four of the industry’s most well-known self-employed journalists to talk about their experiences as free agents alongside where they see technology journalism heading as a whole.
Focussing very much on what they choose to cover and why, the panel, consisted of seasoned generalist, Marc Ambasna-Jones; B2B tech aficionado, Lee Bell; consumer technology and product reviews expert, Verity Burns; and science and space specialist, Tereza Pultarova.
Despite the majority of the speakers opting for the freelance life by necessity rather than choice, the tone of the evening stood out as being decidedly optimistic as to the future of the profession. Whilst freelancing may not have been many of the panel’s first choice, the role’s lack of rigidity along suits self-motivated writers keen to carve out a niche for themselves.
The lack of structured deadlines and self-dictated work hours allow many to pursue book writing and freelance copywriting work. What’s more, working for yourself enables journalists to form their own news agenda, rather than taking cues from a direct editor. Tereza Pultarova wholeheartedly agreed with this sentiment, adding “if it resonates with me, then I’ll write about it.”
In terms of the key take-away of the evening, it seems that pitching ideas over news and concepts over clients took the crown. “When I receive a press release, I often look beyond the news hook to try to discover the trend behind the story and pitch a feature”, commented Verity Burns. As in-house teams shrink in size, and become increasingly stretched, it becomes harder for them to dedicate the time and care that some trend-focussed stories ultimately deserve.
Whilst staff writers will often seek to meet their quantity-based quotas, long-form high-quality writing will always attract readers, be it in print or digital. It seems that treating technology freelancers differently to their on-staff counterparts will soon become a thing of the past. Freelancers are quickly becoming a mainstay of the technology journalism world. Simply put, when it comes to the questions of ‘whether or not freelancers will hold a higher stake in the world of technology journalism’, it’s no longer a case of ‘if’ – but rather ‘when’.