Who knows what’s next for knowledge sharing?

It’s the information age, yet traditional bastions of information are dying out. Newspaper readership is falling like a drunk on St Patrick’s Day (seriously, there is a website called newspaper death watch!). Even internet news is struggling. Bookstores are closing up shop and magazine circulation, even for a country like ours that loves magazines, is on the way down.
What is happening? If, like me, you work in information and knowledge sharing, it’s troubling.

So why are people reading newspapers at an alarmingly reduced rate? Is it the increase of sensationalism in journalism, the concentration of media ownership or the rise of the internet? A 2000 study looked at these factors across the world and found that:

In most societies the electronic media have supplemented existing sources of news, not undermined the market for newspapers. The United States has proved to be something of an outlier among post-industrialized societies, and far more television-centric than any of the other countries under comparison. In contrast many smaller North and Western European states continue to have flourishing newspaper markets and far less reliance on television.

Television-centric societies, which Australia skews towards, in contrast, have intensive use of television entertainment and low newspaper circulation. It tends to be lower socio-economic groups who rely more on television, and less on newspapers.

We seriously need more up to date research on this as the internet was not so much a factor then. The proliferation of blogs might have something to say about TV now (which is another medium in trouble).

The concern from the research of course is that newspapers will become something that only the upper socio-economic groups read and engage with. How wants a rich vs poor gap like that? Especially if that trend rings true for other information sources, and information institutions.

Information institutions, like museums, have seen a rise a visitor numbers but are still subject to fluctuations based on tourism numbers and the current economic climate. Libraries are transforming themselves into modern wi-fi and programming centres. So there is hope.

It seems people make time for experiences around information when they can. But, it seems even more important the those involved in information exchange, put the audience first, found out what they want and how they want it, schedule around busy lives and make sure it doesn’t turn into an elitist pursuit.

That’s just some of the thought’s I’ve been having around information while I’m developing an audience survey for a museum (which I’ll post more about later, there may even be stats) and working on my project for Melbourne Knowledge Week.

Melbourne for Idealists will combine history and tourism to tell the story of the thinkers and doers that made the city. And I’d love you to be involved to! You can contribute through the crowdfunding campaign. Of course, you’ll be able to purchase Melbourne for Idealists online and pick up from Melbourne Town Hall during Melbourne Knowledge Week in October, but here’s your chance to get your name in print and receive a guaranteed copy.
Contribute here.

And what are your thoughts on the future of information exchange? Seen any other research? Share in the comments below.

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