Just a few days ago I was sat on my couch watching an old film with my Dad called Death Wish 3, starring Charles Bronson. In one scene in the 1985 flick, an old couple were sitting watching the fight on their television as it was happening outside in their neighbourhood. As I was watching this scene I realized how unrealistic this instantaneous news feed really was for the time. As I thought a little bit deeper on the topic I figured out exactly what I was going to talk to you about in my blog.
Social media seemed to really hit its stride back in 2002 with the launch of Friendster, meaning we have only been in the midst of the social media revolution for a decade. With social media usage on the rise, we have seen several significant impacts on our society.
The one in which I will provide a foundation of knowledge for you today is the impact social media has had on journalism.
The Annual Report on American Journalism has reported several interesting trends that illustrate the sheer impact of social media in the journalism industry. According to the study, excluding the Internet, every channel either saw an audience stall or decline in 2010, for the first time ever, people were getting their news from the web as opposed to television and newspapers, and nearly half of all Americans were getting news from their mobile phones at the time of the study. As this study was held two years ago, we can assume with the rise in smartphone sales that the number of people retrieving news off their cell phones has only increased.
To me those numbers seemed rather large, and I took it upon myself to further investigate just how significant of a change has occurred. My hope for you by reading this blog is that I can provide you with a basis of information to critically think about just how revolutionary social media has become in our society. I can say just from this that I see that social media has significantly impacted journalism. Although journalism is only one industry that has seen changes due to social media, by comparing the industry before and after the implementation of social media, we will be able to better judge just how significant of an impact there has been.
Before social media, journalism was:
Uni-directional Back in the early days of journalism, the public was required to pay a subscription fee to receive the newspaper meaning only a certain audience had accessto the news. This was solely due to the fact that printing presses were an expensive piece of equipment and the revenue from the advertisers was simply not cutting it.
Top down Once was a day when Joe Citizen did not have a voice that could reach the ends of the earth. The journalists were the people with the voice and the citizens were blessed with the ears to listen and eyes to watch.
High barriers to entry Not too long ago, barriers to entry referred to two perspectives; both as an emerging company and a journalist. Given, as I previously stated, that the printing press and video equipment were of some significant value, it was difficult for many companies to accumulate the means to start their own news broadcasting or publishing business. Secondly, not everyone felt they were journalists on their own time. Journalism used to be a job that consisted of hours upon hours of research, arranging interviews, taking notes, travelling and writing. This is not to say that journalists no longer do this, but social media has provided them with an outlet to ease their research process.
Limited channels Before the implementation of social media, there were channels in which we could count on our fingers. There was either broadcasting, be it radio or television and print news.
After the implementation of social media, journalism is:
Multi-directional / conversational The consumer needs are constantly changing, no matter what industry you are in, journalism has proved no different. With the use of social media, consumers have expected an ability to interact with the reporters and other interested readers or viewers. As I am sure you are aware of, this interaction is expected instantaneously, as we expect with every aspect of our lives. With the implementation of social media in journalism, journalists have a much easier time reaching an expanded market, as people are more likely now than ever to share news stories with friends and family.
Top-down and Bottom up Since the implementation of social media, the way in which information is gathered has significantly changed. Social media has allowed the public the ability to assist journalists with their stories. Journalists are no longer using just their personal research on a topic but working and exchanging information with a complex ecosystem of other journalists, sources, readers and viewers. Those who were meant to receive the news in the past are now playing their role in executing its delivery.
Low barriers to entry There once was a day when we had iconic news reporters that people associated with authority. Just as with every other aspect of social media, Joe Citizen now thinks they are an expert at whatever topic is being written about. This means that as a news consumer we must educate ourselves on the world around us. Say good-bye to the days where we had a single voice preaching to their listeners and say hello to a world where every person has the ability to tell their story.
Real time In today’s day and age, as we see with many aspects of our lives, patience is no longer a virtue. I mean really, there is no patience for anything. We have devices on our television that allow us to fast forward through commercials and rush through this time of solitude. The same goes for journalistic pieces. Gone are the days that people wait for a news story to be covered, we have information blasted through social media sites and the public has instantaneous access to the information.
Additional channels As I am sure this comes as no surprise but the journalism industry has expanded their reach through alternative channels. No longer are journalists limited to print and broadcasting, but have the ability to use a long list of social media networks to reach their expanding audience.
My intentions with this blog were never to tarnish your dreams as a journalist, if you plan on becoming one, as journalistic opportunities come from our need to verify the never ending stream of information. Instead, they were to provide you as my readers with a foundation of knowledge to critically think about social media’s impact on our daily lives. Journalism is only one small industry in which has become accustomed to the revolutionary changes of the social media revolution. By informing you of these changes, I was hoping to prompt questions that lead to further investigation on social media’s impact.
After learning several ways in which the social media revolution has impacted our lives, I found interest in analyzing a particular change before and after the presence of social media. As a person who has grown up accustomed to this hyper-connectedness of today’s social media, I found a vested interest in analyzing how journalism has changed over the past several years. I do believe that social media has sent journalism in the right direction and that we have so far been able reap significant benefits from the change. What do you think?