Under threat, the news industry is being forced to react

Aug 21, 2014
Under threat, the news industry adapts: Insights from News: Rewired event highlight the importance of traditional media, content format, communication tools, and Facebook in the evolving landscape.
This week in London, the News: Rewired event brought together professionals in the field to discuss the future of newspapers, news, social media, and various other topics. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend, but a brilliant summary of the event was provided by a work colleague, Simon Garner, the Head of News at Yahoo in the UK. Yes, corporations are struggling, most newspapers are digging their own graves, and the fight against the digital process is the typical reaction of the old, doomed to succumb to the new. But despite all this, everything indicates that exciting prospects are emerging for the industry, and society can only celebrate.
Again a disclaimer: the insights of this text are not my merit, but my colleague's, who summarized an ocean of information into a cup of wisdom. Here I only make a synthesis in topics of what was addressed at the event but described in Garner's text, making my own observations [in brackets]:
  • Newspapers won't die [will they?]: Despite the fantastic myopia of most newspaper managers, the battle over who commands and determines the news will still be won by traditional companies. David Ho, editor of mobile devices and technology at the Wall Street Journal, argues that the periodic edition of news is still fundamental and that a finite dose of content - like a digital edition of newspapers - is gaining relevance. Mobile devices, apps, deep linking, technology that "deciphers" your behavior, and interfaces beyond the screen (e.g., Internet of Things) are on the list of must-haves. Content will only have value if it is consistent across all platforms. Otherwise, it's useless. [Everything on top, less that newspapers will win. The companies most suited to self-cannibalization will remain. Newspapers whose existence is too entwined with tradition will disappear or be assimilated by new, more malleable entities. The final battle will be won by newspapers that follow the Guardian's model: solid journalistic principles combined with perennial malleability].
  • Content is only king in the right format: Bella Hurrell, from the BBC, gave an example: an article posted on networks about the discovery of a planet had 300% more audience than a normal BBC content. A little extra effort yields a gigantic return. Doubling or tripling the same content to make it suitable for more media is worth it. [Most companies with a legacy of traditional media insist on thinking that throwing the same content into different "jars" (read, "media"), immediately doubles or triples the efficiency of the content, when it is precisely the opposite: content generation teams must be assisted by content "adaptation" teams].
  • Growth of "one-for-one" apps?: Garner underlined a tip from the BBC's app editor, Trushar Barot. What is the future of direct and semi-individual communication tools, like WhatsApp? They are a way for journalists to have direct contact with the audience. Barot classified WhatsApp as the social media 'with the greatest potential for distribution' and with great ease of sharing. Barot and Garner also cite other problems such as difficulty of use, instability (at large scales, tools of this kind offer engineering challenges and stability and cell phone exclusivity). Media born in digital (Buzzfeed et al) are also fascinated by the dynamics of WhatsApps. [A question emerges here: massive tools like WhatsApp have a serious privacy dilemma in all markets and in Europe, it may stumble on laws dedicated to protecting individuals from defamation. Certainly, the market will 1) grow and 2) undergo continuous mutation in search of technology answers to legal problems. In relation to Buzzfeeds, despite the 'hype', it is hard to imagine that it is possible to get away from the "recipe for success" of "click-bait headlines". As much as the market is fascinated by the nature of Buzzfeed, I don't believe they will mature as reliable sources of information without changing their nature.]
  • Reddit: a frontier unknown in Brazil: Reddit is a kind of ultra-addicted information community where oceans of data are furiously exchanged. Advantages: like all communities, there is a strong spirit to preserve the integrity of the community. A lot of traffic can come out of there (Brazil has not yet discovered Reddit) and the best thing to do is to become a source of information that gains the trust of the community instead of posting your own things. [Reddit is social with steroids. The advantages of getting information quickly are as great as the risk of spreading rumors - see the bombs at the Boston Marathon, for example. In Brazil, there is another obstacle which is the low level of truly functional literacy].
  • Facebook: not just the 'evil' side: despite all the criticism for the changes in the experience in the last two years, FB is still the big engine of social traffic for most publications, being number 1 in mobile device traffic. An average FB user checks the timeline about 14 times a day. [The part that caught my attention the most: the global pages for companies and publications, where the curation is regionalized, but within a global repository. The user is redirected according to the IP of his visit, nationality or language. Facebook is a fundamental part of the digital environment and the platform will be criticized indefinitely, because nobody reaches that size without displeasing someone, as already said the slogan of David Fincher's film about Mark Zuckerberg].
An event like the one in London would be revealing in itself, but the context is even more fundamental. Newspapers and journalists, apparently, are no longer treating the new era of information as an optional accessory and understanding that it is history passing and that they can be alongside, on top of or underneath the historical locomotive. Traditionalists clinging to anachronistic practices and theorists whose attachment to theses is greater than the attachment to knowledge are being left behind. For society, the possibility of change is a relief.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024