My Interview in TheMarker Magazine

During my recent visit to Tel Aviv, I was interviewed by the well-respected Israeli business and technology journalist Inbal Orpaz for TheMarker Magazine. Our conversation was an engaging and insightful exploration of the future of media and journalism in the digital age. Although the article was published in Hebrew, in this blog post, I discuss some of the key points we discussed and share my reflections on this thought-provoking experience. At the end of this blog post you can find the original article in Hebrew as well the English translation.

Serving Communities Through Media

One of the central themes of our conversation was the role of media companies in serving their communities. We discussed how media organizations must strive to inform the public and make society better. This mission goes beyond traditional narratives and embraces various formats like video, Twitter, interactive graphics, and more. The goal is to educate and improve people’s lives, utilizing the most effective means to reach and engage audiences.

Separate from this interview, a photo from the same trip: Rajiv discussing how digital technology, science, and innovation can play a role in advancing peace in the world with President Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Photo by Yonatan Adiri

The Evolution of Digital Media

In the digital age, the role of editors is evolving. We talked about how editors need to think more like product managers, optimizing content for each user based on their context, such as location and time. Technology plays a crucial role in this transformation, enabling editors to become “super editors” by assisting with fact-checking and research. It’s about complementing human judgment, not replacing it, and leveraging technological advancements to enhance the quality and impact of journalism.

Innovation and Integrity

We also touched on the need for traditional media companies to take risks and innovate with new formats and business models. It’s a delicate balance between embracing change and preserving the integrity and values that define quality journalism. The future belongs to those who can skillfully combine quality journalism with technology to serve people’s changing needs. But at the core, journalism and trusted information will remain essential.

Reflections After the Interview

Reflecting on the experience of this interview has sparked thoughts on the importance of collaboration and agility in driving innovation in the media industry. By empowering teams and fostering a culture of continuous learning, organizations can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.In addition, artificial intelligence holds great potential to revolutionize the way we consume and create media content in the future. The integration of AI into media practices offers exciting possibilities for enhancing efficiency and creativity.

Separate from this interview, a photo from the same trip: Rajiv in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel with Yonatan Adiri, the first Chief Technology Officer for an Israeli President under President Shimon Peres

Closing Thoughts

The interview with Inbal was more than just a discussion; it was a reflection on the dynamic changes happening in media. I’m grateful to Inbal for the opportunity to share my perspective, and to TheMarker for publishing our conversation. Even though it was in Hebrew, I hope these ideas resonate globally as our field evolves and adapts to new technologies while staying true to the core mission of informing society.

You can read the original article in Hebrew here. The English translation is below it.

Here is a full English translation of the Hebrew article:

TheMarker Magazine 03.2016

It’s Time to Put a Disc in the Future Media Arena | Interview by Inbal Orpaz

The future of media is the stage for Rajiv Pant, who comes from a family of journalists in India and is very sensitive to the role of the journalist and the importance of the press as a factor whose role is to educate readers. “Media companies need to see themselves as those whose role is to serve the community, inform the public and make society better,” he tells TheMarker Magazine, in a conversation held during his visit to Israel for the opening of the “Leading the Future” senior leadership training at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya under the direction of Yehonatan Adiri, a graduate of the first class of “Singularity” University.

In his view, content is a product in every way and therefore can be packaged in different forms. “What is content?” he wonders. “In the past there was a narrative text that you read. Then came the video, and then Twitter. If the purpose of journalism is to educate and improve lives, you can do it in all kinds of ways. A journalist working with technology can show information interactively – for example, present an animation or graph to accompany the text. On the other hand, there are things that can be adapted to print.” And if content can be recycled and turned into all kinds of products consumed by people in different situations, times and places, why shouldn’t we be able to present that person with the content they want to consume in different ways, tailored to where they are, the time, and the context in which they are at that moment?

When he talks about journalism, Pant sounds more like a startup entrepreneur than a journalist. He talks about product management and technology development, and a lot about big data. “In a traditional media company, the content was everything,” he says. “It was the product itself that readers used. The editor-in-chief was the chief product officer, because he made the decisions and understood the customers. The editors and writers decided what was important. In traditional media, the editor did not know how someone reads a newspaper, whether they read a particular article, whether they shared it or whether they cut out the article and saved it. They only found that out in surveys. Now, on the other hand, there is a combination of journalism and interactive media. A digital product can also be a movie or a video game, and the goal should be to serve the reader and give them a good experience.”

A significant part of this new content perception is developing the ability to collect and analyze data about media consumers and their reading habits. “When you read content on a smartphone, you get so much information about the media consumer – not just what time the story was read, but how it was read. There is a difference between someone walking while reading versus someone sitting and reading. You can collect that information and it can serve the journalist,” says Pant. Therefore, according to him, traditional media bodies that want to survive need to offer their customers new products that meet needs that did not exist in the traditional media world. The profound perceptual change, he says, will turn editors into product managers who will adapt content tailored to each user’s location, consumption time and how they consume content. Therefore, the classic question that has echoed in the halls of media organizations for decades, “Is print dying?” hardly frightens him. The medium is not important, but the content, and it is not really dying. It just changed shape.

Will print disappear?

“There are two aspects that are important to distinguish: one is the technology itself – printing and machinery; and the second is the high quality of content and journalistic writing, which will not disappear. The physical paper and printing will eventually be replaced, perhaps by electronic ink. There are people who prefer to read books on Kindle. The medium is transient, but journalism will not disappear.” He mentions Harvard marketing guru Theodore Levitt, who in the 1960s wrote an article on the “marketing myopia” of dying industries, arguing that the railroad industry died with the advent of airplanes and private cars because those behind it thought they were in the railroad business and did not understand that they were in the transportation business.

The real value of journalism

The perceptual change also alters the human mix in the new newsrooms. While until now they employed journalists, editors, graphic designers and producers, an important new group is now being added – engineers and technology people. At the “New York Times” there are currently about 220 engineers, many of whom have journalism degrees in addition to their technological training, and their presence creates a deeper connection between content and technology.

Pant calls them “techno-journalists” and explains that the technological roles include collaborating with business systems, managing content, and developing tools for journalists. However, he says, journalists and editors should not fear change. “Some people see technology as an alternative to an editor, like a robotic arm, but if used properly it can turn editors into super-editors,” he says.

To illustrate, he describes a case of an unfolding news event, where the user returns again and again to the same article wanting to get new information each time about developments since they last read the story. Sophisticated use of technology that breaks down the traditional textual structure of the article, says Pant, will allow that reader to only see the part they want to read, or highlight it. “Technology can also help editors in their work,” he adds. “It can check facts for them, and help them do better research. A computer can conduct research, and add findings to the editors’ work. The result will be less biased content, because there are things an editor may not be aware of.”

Traditional media companies that have moved online now need to compete with new, fast and lightweight bodies born online, like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, which are not always committed to journalistic ethics – and therefore can generate content more efficiently by relying on commercial collaborations, for example. “These companies do not have the same professional level as the newspapers, but they can take risks and in the end succeed by being innovative,” says Pant. “Traditional media companies need to protect the brand, and therefore even though they have some ability to take risks, they are less willing to gamble.” However, he believes that traditional media bodies also need to take some degree of risk, and in his new role at Tribune he intends to turn the company into a more technologically advanced organization through startup approaches, mainly by making it faster and more data-driven.”

Startups lack the quality that journalists have,” he says. “The best product is a combination of human judgment with technology. If only technology is behind the content there will be headlines, articles or products that cause people to click on them, but they will not add value to the public. The great value of journalism is to educate people, to help people live better. This is something that can be strengthened in traditional media companies that are not like other companies whose only purpose is to make money.”

Additional competitors for traditional media companies are organizations that were not established as content bodies but have become so. “LinkedIn started out as a digital resume company, but in the last two years it has become an excellent business content platform,” says Pant. “Soon people will start going there instead of business newspapers.” He mentions that such bodies do not support their writers. “Facebook and Twitter also have many elements of media companies, and many people consume news on Facebook. These companies understand how to work on mobile, and have many users and engineers. This is a threat to traditional media companies. If traditional bodies do not understand product and technology and only write content, other companies will own the relationships with readers. The need for journalists, media and information will continue to exist. The question is who will be the players that fill it.”

Technological development costs money and the challenge is to turn technological innovations into revenue generators as well. The “New York Times” was a pioneer and leader in adopting a paywall as a means of generating revenue from digital content, which grew significantly during Pant’s tenure. “The lack of information can have negative implications for business people. So if you understand that you are solving a problem for them, you ask what they are willing to pay for. Even if there is a lot of free content people are willing to pay for things that make their lives simpler, save them money or time, or provide premium content,” he says.


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