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How journalism faces a second wave of disruption from technology and changing audience behaviour

31 Oct 2014

Seminar Report

The press industry « needs to adapt [and] need to change » concluded Nic Newman, presenting some of the interesting numbers from the RISJ’s 2014 annual digital news report. After Internet, the rise of mobiles, social media and visual is the second wave of disruption for journalism, he says.  Mobiles are becoming the main access to news, for more than half of the population in developed countries. During the Boston bombing, in April 2013, half of New York Times traffic was from mobiles.  More than half the BBC traffic now comes from mobiles and tablets.  The situation is changing rapidly because the growth is increasing for tablets and mobile access, and because the younger population uses mobiles and tablets throughout the day, and checks news more frequently. Whereas social media could be divided between Facebook and Twitter before, recent years shows that new social networks, like Whatsapp, are becoming rapidly used as news provider. For the younger readers, it’s even the first and main source for news. With social media come new challenges : direct access between readers and brands, politics, and organizations, and direct access to events. But it also means that the content can be more easily shared and discovered, with sometimes more viewers than for the original publication. Newman argued that these new revolutions imply that journalists have to adapt their content : make it more distinctive between ‘snacking’ and long format - between the 15 seconds « Now this news » video and the new long form inspired by Medium and the « snowfallisation » of news.  He says journalists have to use the data generated by the readers to make it more viral, to be sure the news finds its readers.  And we should not forget that « distinctive and unique content remains the key ». 

Written by Alexandre Léchenet

Nic Newman, former Future Media Controller, BBC and RISJ Research Associate spoke at the Business and Practice of Journalism seminar at Green Templeton College on Wednesday 29 October 2014.

Photo credits flickr:  Esther Vargas