Embrace the Evolution of Digital Journalism
Newspapers are dying. Clicks are a must. Sensationalize headlines. Cause a media frenzy on Twitter.
From the start of the printing press to drones and virtual reality, it’s evident through history—printing press, telegraph, phones, TVs, computers, social media, etc.—that technology dictates the format of and access to news.
Earlier this month, Pew Research Center published an article on “5 Key Takeaways About the State of the News Media in 2016,” and the following stats reveal how quick and unpredictable technology is in the world of journalism (I mean, who saw podcasts coming back in full swing?):
- “2015 was perhaps the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath. Daily circulation fell by 7%, the most since 2010, while advertising revenue at publicly traded newspaper companies fell by 8%, the most since 2009. At the same time, newsroom staffing fell by 10% in 2014, the last year for which data were available.”
Besides being scored as having one of the worst career outlook, newspaper reporters are struggling not only to make end’s meat in new advertising strategies and dealing with the ongoing ad blocking fiasco, but they’re also trying to adapt to new formats, keep pace with a highly adaptable audience, and beat out other publishing companies in terms of acquiring clicks, engagement, and other areas. It’s a boxing match with one side having the upper hand … and, unfortunately, it’s not the newspaper world at this current moment. But, as podcasts came, went, and are returning, I wouldn’t be surprised if print and newspapers will one day do the same.
- “Digital ad spending went up 20% last year, and mobile advertising now tops desktop, but journalism organizations have not been the primary beneficiaries. There was explosive growth in mobile advertising, which increased by 65%…”
If you don’t have the clicks and impressions to prove that your site is attracting users, then how do you convince advertisers that it’s worth purchasing ad space? Along with the (above mentioned) issue of ad-blockers, this is a troubling area in the journalism world. Instead of directing frustrations at ad blockers and their users, there may be a solution that doesn’t punish users who use these legal apps in order to control their personal browsing experience.
- “Local television news revenue is relatively steady at $18.6 billion – at least for now.”
- “Driven in part by a highly competitive presidential primary season, cable news saw its viewership jump 8%, to an average of 3.1 million viewers in prime time.”
Local politics and community impact a person more than state or national issues—even though voter turnout at local elections is depressing—so the above stat on local TV news isn’t a huge surprise; however, the cable subscriptions continue to decrease with one in seven Americans becoming “cord-cutters” especially among those under 30.
- “Podcasting continues to experience audience growth–though this includes both those podcasts focused on news and those looking at other subjects. About one-in-five U.S. adults ages 12 or older (21%) listened to some kind of podcast in the past month, up from 12% six years ago, and 36% have ever listened to a podcast, up from 23% in 2010.”
This is the format that surprised me. Podcasting was the ‘thing’ years ago, and then the media type slowly faded, but now they are back at what seems like full force!
Image above from: buzzsprout.com/learn/what-is-a-podcast
I recently started listening to podcasts and see the immense benefit of listening to various interests—in my case true crime and comedy…weird combo, right? I’m very curious to see how podcasts fair in reporting breaking news stories.
Those in both digital and traditional media discuss how to break into this insane, fast-paced online journalism world all the time. It seems that in order to be successful, one must acquire every single digital skill out there, such as web design/development, interactivity, search engine optimization (SEO), and others. I’ll share my story as I went from a news reporter intern at my hometown’s local paper to a SEO and social media specialist at an eCommerce and niche interests company:
From early on in high school, I wanted to be a news reporter, specifically an investigative reporter. I was on my school’s newspaper for three years and was editor for two and had the opportunity to intern at the local newspaper, The State Port Pilot, before attending the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism.
When I was accepted into the school my sophomore year, they had completely revamped the sequences and curriculum. Originally, I was on the news writing track, but I changed to—what may have been one of the best decisions of my life—to the multimedia track. Before entering this field, I had rarely touched a video camera and was a novice at coding and social media. In the School, we were required to take news writing and editing classes as well as ethics and media law classes, which should be a requirement for all professional journalists to take.
Needless to say, taking the multimedia track introduced me, and my fellow now-alumni, to the world of videography, graphic design, interactive web design and development, Adobe Flash—which I’m quite glad is slowly disappearing into oblivion—and photography. Now imagine taking all of these different skills, and compiling them together into a real, interactive user experience—you wouldn’t necessarily want to compile all of these various components together as it would overload the user, but you know what I mean. My mind opened from merely writing and taking still photographs, to exploring the digital world and seeing what type of medium best fits a story (video, photos, only writing, etc.).
Regardless, I learned basic and intermediate skills needed to be a novice; however, nothing prepares one for real-world projects and demands. My first gig was at the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development where I was a contractor in communications. This position introduced me to the intriguing world of STEM journalism. From producing videos on air, climate and energy research to soaring in web development and management, I found my strengths and weaknesses: Coding and video had become more natural to me, yet writing—the very thing I set out to do in life—was my weakest point. It took me a while to accept this self-realization but, looking back now, it almost seems fit.
From there, I dived deeper into coding by becoming the Web Managing Editor for Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and its award-winning magazine, American Scientist—check them out: They have actual, long-form science that’s still science and not Buzzfeed ‘science!’ From there, I learned more content management skills, taught myself the basics of animation, improved my skills in videography, and became well-trained in social media. But I wanted more technology, more in-depth coding, more analyses…
That’s how I found my current gig at F+W Media as a SEO Development Specialist, which required a cross-country move from NC to Colorado with my husband, cat, betta fish, about 10 houseplants, and some tedious-to-move items. Now I know—and continue to learn—the ins-and-outs of SEO, structure of websites, Google tools, and analytical technology.
When I look back on my life, I’ll always remember how the historical change of technology affected where I wounded up. College assisted me immensely by introducing me to the world of digital journalism—as well as a slap in the face in terms of how unmerciful technology, online comments, and viewers can be; however, real-world experiences and finding the motivation to teach myself various areas that would help me along in my career were most rewarding.
In the end, you have to be flexible and accepting of current and upcoming technologies. Technology won’t adapt to you, and users won’t wait for you to catch up with their expectations of technology. Only YOU can read through coding books, websites, and stay up-to-date with current technological trends and how they will affect the way we report stories and events. And, honestly, I think that’s the biggest issue today in media: Journalists must be comfortable in adapting to and adding new technologies to their repertoire, and they should be optimistic in doing so. It gives us journalists the opportunity to hit our stories home in new, maybe even better, ways that really touch the emotions and discussions of users and readers everywhere.
*Photo used in header from: haylena.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/old-school-or-new-traditional-vs-online-journalism/