In praise of efficiency; Article published in Lloyd´s List (20 December 2013)

While I was in Argentina, I received a request from Richard Meade, the editor of world-leading shipping paper Lloyd´s List. As the world´s oldest newspaper(!), printed for 279 years, they have taken the brave and modern choice to quit publishing their papers in print, and rather go for the all-digital version (which can still easily be printed if some “old” reader wants to..).

ImageThis is the enquiry I got; “As you may be aware Lloyd’s List will be moving to a digital only format on December 20th after 280 years of print publishing. To commemorate this evolution I am approaching a number of prominent shipping industry figures to write us a series of articles that will feature in the final special edition. I was hoping that I would be able to convince you to write us something representing the youth demographic which will be pitched against one of the many ‘old men of the sea’.”

Quite needless to say that I was sold. Never missing out on an opportunity to challenge and stir up opinions… 😉

 

The final article, after being run through the desk at Lloyd´s List, can be found here. And below is my original and complete article. These are my views – what do you think is the future for traditional media houses…?

Lloyd´s List, 20 December – “In praise of efficiency”: 

“A few decades ago, the mobile phone was doomed by a generation of ship brokers. “It will never fit our needs”, they claimed. “Ours is a relation based business” or “telex is the only way to effect our work”, were frequent comments. I would kindly ask you, dear reader, to please raise your hand if you still do your main business through the telex.

Today, the smart phones and various pads have once again dramatically changed our communicational habits. We are online 24/7, both you and I expect an instant reply to any enquiry we might have, and all the massive floods of information is out there, on the world wide web.

For the newspapers and magazines, this represents a major challenge. Who will want to pay for freshly printed news, when the online sources are available even fresher? Today, everyone can be a newsmaker. All it takes is a website/blog, initiative and some dedicated time to write, or at least to share other people´s stories. People who (claims to) understand the development, state that while getting access to a enormously bigger pile of news and information, we will in the future seek information that suit our specific views and interests. And that the polarization of various society/interest groups will continue to grow.

This enormous pile of information often comes free of charge, accessible whenever wherever. So how will the traditional media houses comply in this new environment? They have huge costs, large number of staff, huge challenges when it comes to choosing the right platforms and technologies for the rapidly changing and unknown future.

“There is something unique reading the written newspaper physically”, you might argue. Further, you will probably say that you will never get used to reading your newspaper online, or via an iPad or smart phone. I understand where you come from. I am a true passionate for books. Never, ever would I read the so called e-books. It wouldn´t give me the same experience. Well, so I thought until 2 years ago. Which was when I got tired of dragging my heavy books along on quick, efficient business trips or long vacations. On my way to a Lloyd´s List judging meeting in London, I bought a Kindle board – completely by chance.

I still love books. I still have a big shelf filled with my favorites. I still buy books that are special to me and enjoy the feeling of touching the paper and covers. But… Whenever I travel for business or pleasure, I bring my light, small Kindle board with me. It saves weight, I can download new books from anywhere in the world, at any time. It´s efficient. It´s part of the future.

And this leads me to the point of my story. We need to stay efficient to stay in business. The media houses will survive just the same way that any shipping company will survive – by adapting to new times, new technology and changing environments. They will because they have to. They will lead us as readers, in the same way we lead our clients and customers. By delivering the new and optimized solutions before our competitors.

If I need to get updated on the latest news and developments, I will not wait on a printed paper. I will read it digitally, on the bus, at the airport, from a café in Buenos Aires or Dubai, or – in the peace and quiet of my own bed. Not two weeks after it´s published, when I return to my own office. If something important or urgent happens, I want to know the details NOW. I will seek it out via Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin, through a quick Google search or through a link sent to me by a business partner. I will download the newest analysis and reports to my iPad/Mac/Phone, and read it from offline modus while on the plane from Mumbai to Oslo. I want to save my favorite articles by marking them with a flag in the digital news archive, not storing the torn-out pages in my desk. I wish to have the information and latest updates available wherever I am. So that I can do business efficiently, and have the right basis for my decisions. I want to know what´s happening now, that might be relevant and affect me and my business.
Yet, at the same time as I want accessible information, I also want to ensure that I get reliable and proven information. This is where the digital papers come in.

Representing an industry with such need for adapting to change, I am very pleased to see that Lloyd´s List, as the oldest newspaper in the world, take their future seriously enough to think progressively. The paper-reading shipping generation will eventually sail towards new horizons, and the generation who is only a few years younger than me, will have grown up with anything from children´s books, games and music gathered in one single small media device. I doubt they will claim the same “unique” feeling when it comes to reading a printed paper.

On behalf of the next generation of shipping professionals, I wish to congratulate Editor Richard Meade and his staff on their brave decision, quite certain that it is the right way to navigate.”

Birgit M. Liodden

Global focus Leadership & values Shipping

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