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Former BBC Future Media chief talks about the challenges for media organisations in the Digital Age

RISJ Admin

Contributing Author

Jennifer Alejandro writes:Former BBC Future Media Controller Nic Newman gave a talk on Wednesday 28 April to Reuters fellows and journalist guests from Italy. He presented a strong case about the challenges of using social media in news organisations. The key points raised were about the disruptive power of the internet, the response of mainstream organisations and the impact on journalistic practice and culture.
Newman says that media corporations now realise that the old business models have disappeared or are disappearing and the new business models are still being experimented on. This realization has caused the creation of interactive desks in newsrooms and the use of smart phones, blogs and social networking sites by journalists. For example the BBC now has 23 journalists working in a UGC (user generated content) centre to process information, photos and text coming in from the general public.
Real time information is now the norm. The competition is changing whereby news aggregator sites like The Huffington Post is now considered a rival by the more established The Washington Post.  Even news consumption is changing as the audience uses a mixture of passive and active consumption or news gleaned through multiple sources. Mainstream media no longer have a monopoly on journalism.
So what does it mean for journalism? Newman concluded that multimedia requirements will force consolidation and change in the newsrooms. Journalists in the audience say that process of change is already happening. Journalists are now required to submit stories for multiple platforms – television or radio, print and online. More and more media organisations are entering into technological partnerships.
During the Q&A session that followed, Newman reiterated that he remains optimistic about the future of journalism. His key point was  that social media are not a threat or a replacement to traditional media but are in fact complementary. Examples given were news coverage of the Beijing Olympics and the US Elections of 2008.
Newman, a former Reuters fellow himself, is currently doing a study on the use of social media in the UK elections of May 2010.