Hawaii Business magazine editor urges media industry to ThinkTech for recovery

by Cynthia Thurlow

photo of Steve Petranik

Steve Petranik editor of Hawaii Business

Steve Petranik does not pull any punches. The Hawaii Business editor provides straightforward views on the challenges facing Hawaii media organizations. His recommendations for what Hawaii businesses and citizens can do to help Hawaii media recovery and transformation efforts are not for the faint of heart.

The 25-year Hawaii media veteran shared six predictions on Aug. 25 about the future of media outlets in Hawaii. ThinkTech and Hawaii Venture Capital Association hosted the discussion on economic recovery and transformation. About 300 people attended.

“If we don’t revitalize our news media, we’re not going to revitalize our economy and we’re not going to maintain our democracy,” Petranik said during his five-minute speech.

Petranik’s forecasts include the move from print to online paid newspapers; on-demand TV news; growth and migration of magazines to digital media; end to advertising as a revenue stream for newspapers and TV news; pay for online news content; and creation of online, non-profit news organizations.

His forecasts may sound ominous, but one has only to listen to the enthusiasm in his voice as he smiles and talks during a post-speech interview, to realize that Petranik sees the opportunities available for Hawaii media economic recovery. His optimism becomes infectious.

Petranik said, “Those changes open up possibilities for us (Hawaii Business magazine). There’s only one daily newspaper in town. The TV stations are focused on late, live and local and not able to focus on issues as much as they used to. So we’re able to step into this void.”

Many magazines are expanding to tablet computers such as iPad, Kindle or the Nook. The changing landscape of Hawaii media also has management at Hawaii Business exploring tablet computers. During the interview, Petranik said the magazine is working on an iPad app.

“You can provide perspective, and this is a good place to be in,” he said. “Because of the missing media, we’re able to step into a lot of the holes.”

If his six forecasts for the future of Hawaii media outlets materialize, the biggest holes to be filled would be online, non-profit news organizations.

No longer limited to the five minutes allotted during his speech, Petranik is able to expand on this concept. He describes this digital medial outlet using the NPR model where foundations, corporations and ordinary people contribute to maintain objective news. The news would focus on important issues affecting the community.

“I think the delivery system would probably be something like e-mail and apps and online,” he said. “But because it would be free, anybody could choose to join that community and participate in that community and learn from that news media.”

The challenges faced by media outlets due to economic downturn and outdated content delivery is a matter-of-fact. Hawaii media organizations have opportunities to grow through digital media and to transform the industry.