In the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism State of the News Media 2012, the annual report on American Journalism identifies not only the parallels between tech and news, but also the growing presence of mobile devices and its affect on news consumption.
We Are Digital
Key findings of the report indicate that Americans have become fully immersed in digital media. More than four in ten American adults now own a smartphone. One in five owns a tablet. New cars are manufactured with Internet built in. And yet, network television news increased in viewership, as did local and cable news.
Not surprising,newspapers and magazines continued to suffer. Circulation for six leading news magazines studied here was basically flat, while weekday newspaper circulation fell about 4% and Sundays fell 1% for the six-month period. However, newspapers’ digital audiences are growing and newspaper websites continue to be popular and maintaining total audience reach.
Content, Technology Collaboration
In 2011, content took on new forms. Media companies began to invest new resources to online video content. ABC News providing video content for Yahoo News sites, while Reuters became one of the leading news organizations to develop original content for YouTube and anticipates hosting 10 original news shows on the video-sharing site and The Huffington Post announced the creation of its own 24-hour online news channel, following a model more similar to CNN.
Hyperlocal sites such as Patch.com, in which many news organizations invested over the past few years, confronted new challenges, as their local news hubs competed with social media, mobile and localization platforms for attention.
Additionally, the news media may be taking a cue from the technology industry. We’ve seen Facebook, Twitter and Google partner, acquire and otherwise consume other companies in an effort to provide all-in-one services. It’s no longer a social media platform -- it’s a community networking with teleconferencing capabilities.
As we’ve become more acquainted with our new reality in which social technologies can integrate into larger parts of our life, more partnerships are forming between technology and news media. AOL and Huffington combined forces and buys TechCrunch, while CNN makes a play to acquire Mashable. Earlier in 2011, the launch of its Social Reader, Facebook created partnerships with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and others. And most recently, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes purchased the 98-year-old New Republic magazine.
Mobilization of News Increases Focus on Brand, Community Management
With the increased mobilization of news come new challenges and opportunities for the news media. The report highlighted new research that confirms that Americans have become multi-platform users -- that is, they get news on all their devices -- and even more so if they own all three types of devices (smartphone, tablet and laptop).
The research also shows that the reputation or brand of a news organization is the most important factor in determining where consumers go for news, especially when visited from mobile devices than on laptops or desktops.
What this seems to indicate is that Internet users have become more savvy. We once agonized over a user's ability to distinguish credible news sites from bad ones, and worried about whether consumers would actively seek out news sources if they weren’t in front of a television. American Internet users have been able to successfully navigate their way through an evolving digital media to find what they want, when they want it, where they want it.
Of course, their digital savvy doesn’t let the news media off the hook. It expects them to manage their brand as effectively and sophisticatedly as other companies do. The tricky part is learning how to engage users while remaining journalistic objectivity so as to remain a reputable and credible source.
Speaking of community engagement, the report also examined the impact that social media has on news consumption and delivery. They found that it’s not as large as you might think. While it confirms that Facebook and Twitter are now pathways to news, the population that uses these networks for news at all is still relatively small, especially the part that does so very often. Additionally, it isn’t as if social media has become their only outlet for consuming news. Many of these users still go directly to websites, use apps or conduct searches.
While there are many more components to the State of the News Media report, which should be examined and read more closely, overall it seems that, for as much diversity and new pathways for news consumption that exist within the realm of digital media, none of them are a singular source of influence. Similar to the challenges faced by the enterprise, the news media is also learning that building community relationships is the key to successful user engagement. No one technology, platform or media source is the answer. They must be taken together and optimized appropriately for your audience.