Tablets: Evolution of the News

Ever since the printing press, news has constantly evolved in its delivery method. The use of tablets for news is the natural progression in this evolution. Coined the ‘platform to save the news industry’, tablets and mobile are viewed by some as a chance to start over. Media companies have the chance to attempt to re-configure their system to benefit from tablet users. When the free online version of the papers debuted, media companies have had a difficult time constructing a pay structure that not only retained consumers but was profitable as well. Mobile is giving them a second chance.

For there to be a future in journalism on mobile devices, media companies need to establish a pay structure from the beginning. While pay structures can present the same problems as on traditional media, a balance needs to be achieved. Niche and specialty papers such as the Wall Street Journal have never had a problem with hard pay walls, but general news gets trickier. One benefit of tablets is the perception by the consumer. They are more willing to pay for content and value the applications differently. Media companies need to utilize this to the fullest and charge for content from the start.

Tablets offer a new form of revenue from advertising and charging for application downloads as well. Applications as well as mobile sites are crucial to news outlets to attract users to not only create brand loyalty but make money from the mobile advertising as well.

Media companies need to adapt to the changes or perish. In this environment where technology is reinventing and moving forward, there is no other choice. The numbers have been rising since the inception of the tablet and this gives the media companies a chance to build back their business.

This may not ‘save’ the publishing industries but it is the next step in the news cycle. Traditional companies need to embrace the reality and configure a pay and overall structure that will not only retain consumers but be lucrative as well. This can only help the media companies if they understand the growing need for this shift.

It comes down to not whether media companies will adapt but if it will work in the long-term. The way information is disseminated is constantly shifting and to stay relevant companies need to assimilate to embrace the changes.

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The Role of a Digital First Mentality

News is becoming more digitally focused. This isn’t a new idea; newspapers have adopted an online version for years and have started to integrate social media into their reporting. What Steve Buttry suggests in his blog is that journalists write for the online version and social media before the actual paper. His company, Digital First, promotes different priorities and processes for journalists.

Buttry explains the first step in the Digital First approach is to work and think first for digital platforms. An example used is a court reporter, where Twitter and a live blog replace her trial notebook. Tweets are sent out highlighting developments of the trial and a summary of the coverage is posted online to the blog, as well as a Facebook post and an item to Google+. The work here is formatted for the digital platforms, meant to give weight to live coverage.

Experimenting and risk taking is the another step. This applies to all aspects of journalism but especially the editors. Turning the focus to live coverage and breaking news, editors will have to guide journalists on their growth in digital journalism. Another step is trying new tools and techniques, which an editor would be best poised to suggest or inform on. Suggesting map integration, new hash tags, different social media websites and crowdsourcing ideas can help the overall flow of the work.

Two more steps Buttry points out are to cover the news live and value community input. By immediately posting updates to Twitter or Facebook, one can get feedback instantaneously. The concern of tipping off competitors shouldn’t be a deciding factor, rather the idea is to stimulate and curate community conversation on issues. This works well for beat reporters, covering local issues. Another source for beat reporters is the aggressive use of databases for interactive answerbases or to visualize data.

Buttry’s vision of Digital First isn’t where society is heading but where society already is. This approach gives live coverage and social media integration where most people are looking for news or updates. By using this method, professional journalists can help define themselves from citizen journalists who have been using the same tools. In a society where technology morphs itself every day, looking into the future is the best option for news organizations to continue to stay relevant. Sharing information first online, contrasts with most newsrooms’ traditional approach. The outdated versions of news coverage need to be reassessed. This doesn’t mean eliminating all paper or broadcast coverage but it does mean understanding a digital first approach and being able to successfully integrate it into the system. The idea that immediacy would take precedence over accuracy shouldn’t be an issue if the journalists are trained correctly.

Summarizing the idea perfectly, Steve Yelvington said that Digital First is about making the future your first priority, with everything that implies.

Andrew Keen vs. the New Media

Andrew Keen has made his strong polemic on ‘the destructive impact of the digital revolution on our culture, economy and values’ well known. His arguments against the ‘Web 2.0’ are detailed in his book ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing and Assaulting our Economy’. Written in 2007, the book outlines many of the growing trends and fears associated with the new emergence of citizen journalists, social media and the decline of traditional media. The theme revolves around a world where media institutions are “being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated, free content”.

Keen is himself subscribed to Twitter, Facebook, has a podcast and a blog. Quite a bit of involvement for someone preaching the end of civilization is stemming from this new form of internet. In an interview with FUTURIST senior editor Patrick Tucker, Keen says while he is unsure of these social networks and methods, “as a speaker and a social critic, I have an economic incentive in finding an audience.”

The new Web 2.0 offers new methods for merging information in a user friendly manner. Wikipedia and YouTube are just two sites that Keen expresses concern and dismay in. Keen says these can be tools for corporate propaganda or contain inaccurate information. He doesn’t address that traditional media can be just as guilty. The ‘amateurs’ are also helping to keep media in check with providing reliable and accurate information. The 24/7 news cycle may provide an overload of information but also the opportunity to respond and comment on stories.

Time Magazine said that the Web 2.0 ‘will not only change the world but also change the way the world changes.” This is exactly what is happening. The fear that Keen expresses is justifiable, just as it was justifiable for the Luddites to fear the Industrial revolution. Change can be frightening, especially when the future of a change is unknown. However, change is a barreling force that can’t be stopped. In his review of Keen’s book, Atara Frenkel-Faran states that even ‘not knowing how this brave new world will economically reward creators should not stop us, just as (thankfully) it did not stop the print revolution.

Keen chooses to critique and point out what could happen and what is being taken away, he can’t stop it. He seems to have realized this, adapting to the new modes of communication such as blogs or social media. This can seem either highly hypocritical or that he just decided to join the expansion to help change it. To critique anything one needs to be competent on the subject. Keen has immersed himself in the new methods and growing trends becoming familiar with what he is protesting. This is no different than when opposing candidates inform themselves on each other’s points to craft rebuttals.

Differentiating an expert on an issue from an amateur may have been a concern in 2007, but Keen didn’t account for the common sense of most people. For example, just because someone isn’t an expert on the internet doesn’t mean they can’t use common deducing skills to filter through inaccurate information. Books with outlandish opinions have been published for generations. Keen refers to citizen journalists as only having the duty to, “spread gossip, sensationalize political scandal, display embarrassing photos of public figures, and link stories on imaginative topics such as UFO sightings and 9/11 conspiracy theories”. People have the capacity to read and make their own opinion regarding the issue and not just take what is printed as the blind truth. Keen needs to address a person’s ability to competently discern between an amateur and an expert.

Keen surmises the lines between a traditional author and audience are being blurred and ‘old media is facing extinction’. This revolution of new methods to communicate doesn’t mean extinction but evolution. The printing presses were introduced in 1439 and people opposed them but it continued on. Radio came about and revolutionized obtaining information. With television and now the internet it is only a logical step. Things change, not always for the better but it is the natural progression on the world. We constantly strive for something new, especially when it comes to technology.

Privacy has been a long standing issue with the constantly changing internet and is an issue to examine closer. Keen envisions the possibility that our culture is headed to a place where there will be no concept of privacy, no distinction between public and private. He claims the internet is dismantling the idea that there won’t even be a distinction. This is the issue that might sway the largest audience to his opinions. Society is currently split into those who remember life without the internet and those who can’t imagine doing anything without it. The gap is rapidly closing as the I-generation expands. What Keen doesn’t address is that it is up to the individual to decide how much they are willing to share. People can decide how much they want their personal lives broadcasted or not to participate at all. Just because these entities exist does not mean people will or have to use them.

Keen warns of the impending doom for professional journalists. What he doesn’t realize is that everyone is adapting to the new form. Whether we agree that privacy is being rapidly diminished or revel in the newfound sharing system, journalists realize that it is necessary for survival. He agrees himself that it is in his ‘economic incentive’ to become engaged.

Keen has found his niche as a self-proclaimed ‘social critic’. He makes valid arguments concerning the Web 2.0 and presents an almost extinct view himself. It is important for people to be wary of changes and not just accept them on face value, and Keen emphasizes this in his thorough analysis.