Newsrewired in the ‘innovate or die’ era

In a series on, we take a look at what the key figures in media were saying in the past, based on our archive, and how those issues can be related to the current challenges and opportunities that dominate the conversation about the digital media landscape. Our latest article is newsrewired themed!

Newsrewired is a digital journalism conference focusing on the latest trends and techniques with an emphasis on practical learning. is currently working on the next event taking place on 22 November, which will be our 20th event.

In this article we go back to some of the very first events in 2010 to see where we started, and what topics and concerns dominated the agenda then.

‘Professor of chaos history’

In January 2010, when newsrewired was hosted at City, University of London, George Brock, then head of the journalism department at City, introduced the conference by telling journalists that shaking up the industry was like “throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks”.

He also pointed out that “professor of chaos history” may be a more accurate job title for him, given the rapid changes and uncertainty in the media.

“News media is quite regularly turned upside-down by changes in society, politics and economics. The downside of news revolutions such as this one is the massive loss of jobs, but the upside is that people begin to ask big, basic questions about the nature of journalism,” he told delegates.

Tips for entrepreneurial journalism

James Fryer, co-founder and then deputy editor of online Gloucestershire arts and entertainments guide, shared 5 dos and don’ts for journalists who wish to start up on their ownat newsrewired in January 2010.

Entrepreneurial journalism was a hot topic at the time and has remained an important subject of conversation as journalists have been increasingly required to dip their toe in the commercial side of the business, whether that’s through marketing their freelance services and running their own company, or understanding how the organisation they work for generates revenue.

Among Fryer’s advice was to know your niche, have a clear sales strategy and be open to partnerships. He cautioned against spending too much time on Twitter, and against relying on user-generated content. Advertisers trusted for its professional team, he said.

Fryer is now group publisher at So Publishing, which includes SoGlos as well as SoGlosWeddings, launched in 2015.

Greg Hadfield, then head of digital media at The Telegraph, spoke at newsrewired in January 2010, announcing his resignation from the title and generating some furore with the news.

He also highlighted the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit in journalism, predicting that “if you don’t have the passion or the curiosity, you won’t survive”. owner and publisher John Thompson also shared some tips for would-be media entrepreneurs in this post on the site published in 2009.

“Never give up on your main idea, but be prepared for many of your supporting ideas to fail,” he wrote. “Get used to failure (all entrepreneurs experience it) and make sure you have plenty of ideas surrounding your main idea at the outset and keep having them as your business evolves. You cannot afford to stand still online.”

The slow pace of innovation

Speaking at newsrewired in June 2010, Kevin Anderson, who had recently left the Guardian to freelance at the time and is now media consultant, expanded on the ‘innovate or die’ mantra we have been hearing in the past.

The pace of change was much slower than it should be, he explained.

“The lack of innovation is not just in the newsroom it’s also in the commercial department. The FT is doing some of the most innovative commercial stuff around – like a day pass to go behind the paywall given away through Foursquare check-ins.

“The economic imperative is there but where is the innovation… too many times it’s about ‘who owns the future’. We still have a culture internally that says ‘if I don’t own this, we won’t do it.’ If we don’t get past this, news organisations will die.”

Join us for the next newsrewired digital journalism conference on 22 November at Reuters. Discounted early-bird tickets are available until 15 September.

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