Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Are you making the most of the knowledge economy?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 12, 2010

Journalists, by tradition, made money by finding and sharing information. It is with some irony (and some tragedy) we notice, in what’s been called the Information Age, journalists seem to be doing the worst out of everyone.

How come?

It’s because the Information Age has changed the way information is valued, sourced and consumed;  journalists have acted like a very large ship with a very small rudder, unable to change in time.

But the thing is this: Next Generation journalists don’t have to change much to turn the Information Age into opportunity. It’s known as the Knowledge Economy, and it’s there to be exploited.

Two ways to exploit the Knowledge Economy now!

01. consume knowledge for free

The days of needing a qualification, or a 3-day course, or even a book to learn something new are on the way out. Want to learn a new skill? Welcome to the age of teach-yourself.

Now I know you’re instantly going to interject with exceptions, and yes there are somethings we have to learn the old way: media law, medicine, driving a car, flying a plane: thankfully all things which require some professional training to comprehend.

But what about HTML? Or making an audio slideshow? Or creating data visualisations?

The internet is full of tutorials, videos, blogs and ebooks which are usually available for free, and sometimes for money (see below). All you really need to invest though is some time, in evenings or weekends and a desire to practice. And then the world is yours.  Journalist Michelle Minkoff has a great post on self teaching code, for example. Through the internet, I have learned:

  • how to do advanced video editing effects, including mattes and keys
  • how to use Photoshop & GIMP to a high standard (from scratch)
  • how to build a website from scratch
  • HTML, CSS and some Javascript
  • how to sew a button onto a jacket

All of these skills (OK, except the last one) radically up my value as a journalist, producer and whatever I chose to be. And none of them have cost me a penny. Blogger and entreprenuer Yaro Starak puts it simply:

“Whenever you have the opportunity to learn from verifiable experts, gurus, teachers, trainers or mentors – which is pretty much all the time thanks to the knowledge economy we presently live in – do it.”

02. share knowledge for profit

In the current age, information is abundant, but knowledge & attention are sparse – and that means there’s value in it.

The fact is, although learning how to make the most of social networking, for example, is utterly free to do, and requires an investment in short amounts of time only,  most people cannot be bothered. Or they don’t even have the time.

That means, simply by consuming some knowledge as above and practicing, you know can more than 80% of people in your field who want to know the same information. Package that in a way that makes it quicker to chew for Mr Lazy and Mrs Busy and you’ve got a business.

I don’t know how many people I have met who see building a small website as the Mount Everest of hurdles, yet haven’t even looked for the basic w3 tutorials on the net. A year ago, I didn’t have a clue either. Now I’ve been paid to build websites for other people, without taking a single course or buying a single book.

You have the chance to learn more skills and information faster and cheaper than in any time in human history. Nothing is beyond your means. Are you making the most of the knowledge economy?

3 Responses

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  1. chris g said, on April 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I see you are reading Yaro Starak, GOOD BOY!….

  2. Mary Hamilton said, on April 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Interesting thoughts. I’d add that as well as teaching you, the knowledge economy can also make it so that you don’t have to learn so much.

    For instance, when I was coding design processes in an unfamiliar language on a Mac a couple of years ago, the availability of open-source modules and associated documentation online meant that I didn’t need to learn too much complex and idiosyncratic syntax. Once I knew enough about the language to know what I needed to do, it was easy to find chunks of code written by others that I could plug in.

    Standing on the shoulders of giants…

  3. […] How to exploit the ‘knowledge economy’ and make money […]


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