Why future of [anything] confabs fail

Alan D Mutter on Why ‘future of journalism’ confabs fail:

After recently attending the latest in the never-ending series of “future of journalism” conferences, I finally realized why they all fail:  They don’t include the right people.

While these well-intended yakfests are rich in whining and dining ops, journo-futuramas generate few practical or actionable ideas because they lack the perspectives of four key constituencies

The four groups he thinks are absent are consumers, technologists, marketers and investors. He says that the conversation is dominated by white, middle-class newspaper veterans who bring “institutional knowledge and gravitas” but also outdated views.

I’m sure getting the right people in the room must be an important and tricky thing for event organisers to get right no matter what the sector.

I attend more than my fair share of digital-focussed arts and heritage yakfests (with ‘digital’ often synonymous with ‘future’) and, while I recognise a similar issue, I think it’s a different group of people who are missing from those conversation. There’s generally no lack of marketers and technologists and it’s the funders who organise these things more often than not (good luck finding investors). Consumers tend to be missing, although that’s fair enough.

The important people who I think are missing (certainly where organisations are concerned) are the decision makers and budget holders.

In my experience you tend to get quite a lot of relatively junior people nodding earnestly and agreeing that ‘yes, [x] is obviously the future and it’s very exciting and we should do it’ but usually very few of the people who have the necessary clout and/or budgeting responsibility to make these things happen are there. I’m thinking of the artistic directors, chief executives, commercial directors, heads of marketing or development and so on. Or maybe I’m just going to the wrong events.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.