The Digital Age has widespread implications for journalism, and how and why news is published.
Just how much digital technology affects the distribution and consumption of news is revealed in the “Oriella Digital Journalism Study.” It’s a survey of nearly 550 journalists in the U.S., Asia-Pacific and Europe.
The 2013 study was underwritten by the Oriella PR Network, an alliance of 16 communications agencies in 23 countries (www.oriellaprnetwork.com).
Evolution of journalists’ tools
The ever-evolving technology has truly been astounding.
For me as a journalism grad in 1970, the tools of the broadcast trade were a pencil and reporters’ notebook, manual typewriter, landline telephone, film camera, two-way radio and a tape recorder. Soon, we began using electric typewriters, and the film camera was supplanted by a video camera that cost $100,000. It greatly streamlined TV journalism.
In popular print mediums, there were weekly magazines, and morning and afternoon newspapers. Newspapers were still dominant, but depending where you lived, you had to wait for newspapers to hit the newsstands in the afternoon or the following morning. In terms of providing analysis, magazines had the edge.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there was no cable-TV news. Network and local TV news was usually presented in a 30-minute program. Also depending on the market in which you lived, you had to wait until noon, 6 or 10 p.m. to get information, and it took a long time for TV stations to learn how to monetize their expensive news programs.
Each day until 6 p.m. or so, newsradio was king. I worked in both broadcast mediums as a reporter and news director, and my chief concerns were to have strong news sources, get exclusive stories – but moreover – to report the stories accurately and to be the first to report them. In newsradio — to keep listeners tuned in for two to three hours — the policy was to write three to four versions of each story with different audio each time. It was one of the strategies for our top ratings.
During this period in 1985, the Internet was born. None of us, though, had any inkling of what was to come. None. (You can see what was happening in the world with a review of the Internet’s first 25 years here.)
The unfortunate in trend in all this: Newspapers have struggled to make money as they have attracted fewer and fewer readers, especially among young adults. Social media is their preference, and bloggers get a lot of attention from millions of people.
Newspapers have attracted readers to their Web sites, but monetization is an issue.
Meantime: “A ‘digital first’ policy, breaking news online as it happens, is in place at over a third of the media titles surveyed with use of mobile apps, in-house produced video and social media as a news source all on the rise,” according to the Oriella digital-journalism study press release.
The study shows 25 percent of the responding journalists often prepare multiple versions of the same story as it develops. Twenty percent said ‘citizen journalism’ “now carries as much credibility in their organization as mainstream reporting.”
Unlike TV stations that struggled for years to generate news income, digital media has a major role in news-media revenue models. Forty percent of media operations now have a mobile app.
2013 – A pivotal year
“Our study suggests 2013 is a watershed year for the world’s media. The growing interest in ‘digital first’ reporting, video, real-time news, mobile content and citizen journalism all exemplify what we’re calling the ‘New Normal for News’,” said Robin Grainger, director of the Oriella PR Network in London.
“If these trends accelerate, there are some potentially game-changing ramifications for media and communicators alike,” he asserted. “First, touch-screen interfaces will open up new possibilities for storytelling. One example could be interactive graphics (or ‘digi-graphics’) which blend high design and big data to enable readers to navigate their own path through stories.
“Second, we may see a polarisation of journalistic output. At one end short, ‘tweet-like’ news updates will provide near real-time coverage of events in print and on video, optimized for small screens. At the other end, we may see much longer-form feature and investigative pieces. ‘Shorter but quicker’ journalism could also afford media brands greater prominence – and consequently greater traffic – in search rankings, news readers and ‘social news aggregator’ apps such as Flipboard and Pulse News,” he said.
Maintaining journalism traditions
Journalists still use trusted sources, but are using social media for generating story ideas (see Oriella’s chart from Business Wire).
Thirty-four percent of journalists concede the quality of their work is better with digital media. But 32 percent say digital media is a difficult and complex world in which to operate.
“The brands that achieve cut-through in the ‘New Normal for News’ will be those keeping abreast of these changes. They will be the ones that integrate their storytelling – using conventional text, video, graphics and interactive content – as well as harnessing the social media profiles of their own people, and those of key influencers around them,” added Mr. Grainger.
Journalists still trust the same sources (see Oriella’s chart from Business Wire).
One lesson from the digital revolution is that all professionals — from journalists to businesspeople — must keep an open mind at all times.
Technology will continue to change. Marketplace conditions will change. So will careers.
From the Coach’s Corner, it’s ironic that social media has helped businesses to bypass journalists.
Firstly, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are known to kvetch that that their companies fall below the radar screen of the media. So VCs and entrepreneurs have found a solution – Twitter. See: How Twitter Levels the Playing Field for Small Cap Companies.
Secondly, multi-million dollar venture-capital financing decisions are affected by bloggers and social media. See: To Finance Your Startup, How Bloggers Can Impact Your Quest for Venture Capital.
“I don’t pretend to be a digital savant or even a digital apprentice.”