This article is by LSE Polis Summer School student Maria Katsikovordou

In a constantly changing media environment globally, to still be able to put your hands on an issue of The Economist, is reassuring. Traditional media have suffered tremendous changes over the past years, from having to perform severe cutbacks and massive layoffs, to even having to stop print editions of long standing newspaper titles. To find The Economist, a newspaper still in circulation after 175 years is not only comforting, it’s actually news!

Failure to adapt and make necessary, often difficult, changes, has caused impressive brand names to fade. The Economist is a commercial institution with a mission statement and devoted human capital. With advertising and subscriptions as the major sources of revenue, when the first one started to decline, mechanisms to keep the company alive triggered the “survival instinct” to seek other ways to exist.

‘The Economist”s Adam Smith talks to the Polis Summer School

Our guest speaker was the “Audience Engagement Editor” at The Economist, a job title that did not exist a few years back. Adam Smith highlighted the defining importance of this new more social, networked journalism. The Economist is not just a printed issue anymore, but it a Facebook profile, a Twitter, Instagram and YouTube account. It is podcasts and the website and digital platforms and public forums.Smith stressed the importance of interactivity, the distinctive value of audience engagement, of having people participate not only in the news consumption, but also in the news production and the distribution process.

And that involved internal cultural and even physical changes for the newsroom. They literally tore down the walls to facilitate collaboration between the social media and editorial teams. And Smith says that journalists have to tear the walls down with the audience, with the people, with the environment they operate. Media that will thrive in the digital news era are the ones who realise that they had to change to a new way of doing journalism, to a new company culture, to a new state of mind for employees. The Economist is now not a once per week publication, it is an every second, an every minute, a 24/7 publication. It is not just sold in newsagents or posted through letter-boxes but  constantly ‘sold’ via the many different social platforms.

Networked journalism is not an option, It’s the state of nature for journalism in today’s connected society. Traditional media and news outlets, have to find a way today not to just set a conversation but to be in the conversation. And this requires constant effort. It’s not always The Economist that has the last word anymore. It’s the readers. And the journalist should be there to listen to it and process it and reply and keep the conversation going, beyond time frames, beyond deadlines, beyond walls and buildings, beyond language, beyond borders.

This article is by LSE Polis Summer School student Maria Katsikovordou