Replacing Print Journalism

We’ve talked a great deal in this class about BSM replacing print journalism.  Indeed, Professor Ruth has shared many great articles with us on this topic.  Here is a smattering of those references:

Googling “are blogs and social media replacing print journalism” yields a seemingly endless listing of views on the topic, combined with surveys, infographics, and some interesting studies on how journalists feel they fit into the world of social media.  In short, however, I think the simplest answer to the question is, mostly.  I can’t imagine we will ever exist in a digital-only environment, but I think we are evolving in a way that we will likely be mostly digital, in the near future.

The main reason for this evolution, from my perspective, is that we need to know everything.  Right. Now.  And, we need to have the most up-to-date information.  All. The. Time.  Of course, social media has fueled those two needs, by creating a platform that facilities fulfilling them.  By contrast, print journalism is an insufficient means to both 1) disseminate prompt information and 2) adapt information with updated information.

This is a slightly dated source (2012), so I suspect these numbers would be even higher if this study were repeated today:

The Truth About News Sources

Over 50% of people have learned about breaking news via social media rather than official news sources.
46% of people get their news online at least 3x a week.
As of 2012, online news revenue has surpassed print newspaper revenue.

Where do People Get Their News Overall?

59.5% TV News
28.8% Newspapers
27.8% Social Media
18.8% Radio News
9.5% Other
6% Other Print Publications

With social media accounting for over a quarter of all sources, Facebook leads the way with almost 60% of all news sources, followed by Twitter, (20%)YouTube (12.7%) and Google+ (11.6%). Since 2009 traffic to news sites from social media has increased 57% and 9% of adults who get news on a digital device use Facebook or Twitter to get that news very often.

The same source notes that major news events have broken via social media in the last several years: the Egyptian uprising via Facebook, Hudson River plane crash via Twitter; announcement of the royal wedding via Twitter; protesters killed in Bahrain via YouTube; Whitney Houston’s death via Twitter; Osama bin Laden raid and death via Twitter.  Again, if this study were duplicated today, I’m sure there would be many additions to this list, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, among others.

The fifth annual Oxford University Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism survey results show that the most favored sources of news for people are the media least likely to provide in-depth information.  Most notably, the survey highlight the growth of news accessed via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

But the survey also pointed out that “traditional” news brands are still enormously important.

It’s hard to know how far – or how fast – the shift to distributed media will go, but this feels like the beginning of a new phase of media disruption. News organisations will need to keep adapting to the changes ahead – whilst recognising that journalistic track record, trust, and brand equity will remain necessary if not sufficient ingredients of success.

Demographic Differences?

Another survey by the Reynolds Journalism Institute found that about 67 percent of residents in small U.S. communities read local newspapers between one to seven days a week. Four out of ten residents (42%) selected “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” as their primary source of information; 47% preferred to use “newspaper” and “newspaper’s website” for the information.

Almost all readers (94%) agreed that the newspapers were informative; 80% said they and their families looked forward to reading the newspapers; 78% relied on the newspapers for local news and information; and 72% said the newspapers entertained them.

What Does it All Mean?

One major implication of this new form of journalism is that there are very few “neutral parties” anymore.  An inherent conflict of interest in journalism through BSM is that every post must be conceived of in a manner that will coerce a loyal following.  Blogger Libby Allen explains this phenomenon well:

For example, if a new restaurant is opening in Santorini, consumers need to think about the best way to generate publicity and engage with the desired target audience. Will the restaurant and destination secure maximum exposure if a journalist from a regional newspaper reviews the destination and the feature appears in print in a seaside town in Cornwall? Or will there be a far bigger outreach if a top blogger such as Zoella reviews the destination, accompanied by images or videos, opinions and tips? With a dedicated following of over 16 million across her social channels, Zoella is likely to generate better exposure and brand recognition, showcasing the strength and growing importance of social influencers and bloggers. Yes, using such a prolific blogger incurs a cost, but if you want maximum exposure, you need to make the investment. That being said, there are plenty of impressive social influencers out there that don’t ask for payment, yet still ensure you achieve maximum impact.

In sum, the data is clear: more people get their news from BSM sources than ever before, more people are turning to BSM sources as now their only source of news, but print is not dead and likely never will be, though you could argue that BSM is now a more effective means for disseminating information.  Libby Allen says “I wouldn’t argue that the day of the traditional journalist is over (nor will it ever be), but the day of the social media influencer is very much here,” and I couldn’t agree more.


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