It is now common knowledge that, with the popularisation of digital media and social networks, there has been a significant drop in traditional media audiences. The Internet, as a tool for transmiting information, is no longer a new phenomenon. On the contrary, it has been present in the everyday livesof urban populations for a decade now and traditional media not only have shown that they are unprepared for it, but seem not even to have noticed it for a while.
Photo: David Metraux
In today’s chaos and load of information that the so-called “democratic” character, one in which anyone can say anything they wish to at any given time, provides, traditional media have begun to lose their place and standing. Over the last few years, even media giants such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, although they were among the first to be present on the Web, aren’t quite able to grasp new concepts to the point where they are in danger of shutting down entirely. Experts in the fields of journalism, business and finance have searched every nook and cranny and have come up with a few solutions - but have yet to find the one that solves the problem. While we have heard it said that the issue of traditional media vs new media is one far more complicated that we laymen could suppose, one would say that it is in reality far simpler than they would have us suppose. Let’s take a look at the problem in simpler terms, then solve the task at hand.
The drastic drop in traditional media audiences which has caused drop in profits (i.e. in ad space sales, as subscriptions and purchasing of newspapers and media services won’t suffice to even cover costs), which has subsequently brought the very survival of said media into question.
Traditional media such as daily newspapers, monthlies and television are accustomed to being the main and first source of information to their audiences. But what was it that those media companies that we consider of high quality, those who truly are the largest media companies nationally and globally, built their businesses on? On their reputation and the trust they enjoy among their audiences. This was not achieved overnight or easily, while the change we have experieced in how information is consumed and shared was rather quick. Until a few years ago, the strongest media companies rushed to be the first with the news, to get to the information before other media, verify that information and get it out on the wire. Those were the rules of the game of journalism - to be the first and verified.
The rules of the game have changed. In a day in age when mainstream users are able to use Google News for a quick search of everything that has been released into that ether immediately, when we no longer have to wait to meet our friends after work to hear what they’ve been up to or what they’ve heard, but are able to do that through our mobile telephones and computers here and now, when every layman can go directly to the site of the largest media outlet in the world, Reuter’s, and join their mailing list to receive news on several subjects almost as soon as media newsrooms get them... in this day in age, we cannot compete with the speed of the Internet and its users.
In a clumsy integration of sorts, some media companies have attempted to charge audiences for their online editions, which only contributed to driving audiences away and we can only suppose it didn’t do much to help ad space sales as advertisers are well aware that their ads will be seen by far less people. Quite the opposite of what should be done.
Some would say that traditional media have met its end. It’s been said often lately, in fact - “traditional media are dying”. No. Not at all. The birth of a new age in journalism and traditional media is upon us and every birth is difficult, those you live through the delivery will tell the tale. Darwin’s theory on evolution is still just a theory, yet Darwin did say at least one thing that stands true: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
In regards to traditional media and journalism, survival means that media companies cannot and must not compete in the speed and amount of information they deliver to their audiences. That is not what readers will rely on, nor what they are willing to devote time to. Quick news are easy to come by today. As users, we expect traditional media to explain and elaborate on the quick news. A revolution in Egypt? Yes, we know, we skimmed through that ages ago online. But why, who and how? Who is this Mubarak fellow and what was he up to there for some 30-odd years? And what does all that have to do with Serbia? What us this “Arab Spring” thing that keeps popping up on our screens? Will that affect our economy? I mean, will it affect my job and my family? Journalists, media companies - tell us what you think, not what you’ve heard because we’ve already heard it all yesterday.
Thus, less “news”, because that which has been online for an hour is no longer news. More editorials, columns, elaborate opinions, arguments that we simple readers are unable to craft ourselves, comparative analysis that we can understand and, by all means - more courage. This is nothing new. These are the backbone and ideals of journalism. And this is what we will gladly pay for. This is what your audiences will give their undivided attention for, what they will appreciate and, at that point, ad space will sell itself. And do remember to integrate blogs and social media into all your content so as to reach us more efficiently.
October 7, 2011
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