Analyzing the Effects of Social Media and Mobile Devices on Journalism

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Yu 10

Cheong In YuWR 13300Prof. Dietel-McLaughlin7 March Analyzing the Effects of Social Media and Mobile Devices on JournalismOn the final day of 2012, Newsweek published its very last magazine, with its cover presenting a vintage photograph of the publications New York office and the hashtag #LASTPRINTISSUE. The cover emphasized not only the 80-year history of the newsmagazine, but also the impending future that is online publishing. With one of the largest magazines disappearing from supermarket newsstands and subscribers mailboxes, the future of journalism seems bleak, as the internet brings uncertainty to the industry. But in an announcement two months prior to the final issue, Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown wrote about her organizations decision to merge with The Daily Beast. Brown said, Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print but as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purposeand embrace the all-digital future. In her column, she cites not only the increasing difficulties of maintaining print operations, but also the immense upsurge in readership for online and tablet versions. In 2012, Newsweek generated 15 million unique visitors every month through The Daily Beast, although the quality of journalism from Newsweek remained unchanged (Brown). The 70% increase in readership revealed the industrys future. In terms of business and long-term planning, the decision to move completely online was the most strategic choice; Newsweek reached a tipping point, where readers would best benefit from an all-digital platform. The internet will mark a new age for journalism, rather than the death of it. News organizations can harness new technology to not only regain readership, but also to deliver their stories efficiently and effectively. But with such a complex, intertwined relationship between new technology and the institution of reporting, the transition from print to web is tumultuous. Technology creates passive online readers, shortcomings in citizen journalism, and failing corporate business models, all of which can compromise journalistic integrity. Although online news presents newfound opportunities for publications, the industry must judiciously care for and respond to these issues if journalism is to survive this digital generation.With the advent of versatile mobile devices and social networking, news consumption is on the rise. According to The Pew Research Centers Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks trends and consumer behavior for American journalism, 44% of adults own smartphones and 18% own tablets (Christian et al., Mobile Devices). New gizmos such as Android and iPads have exploded in the market with American consumer behaviors; mobile devices have turned into common household items. And with the increase in popularity for these devices, Americans are starting to read more often through mobile apps. While laptops and desktops are currently the most prevalent method of reading online articles, tech consumers are beginning to utilize their toys. Recent research has revealed that approximately 23% of Americans now consistently read news on two or more different devices (Christian et al., Mobile Devices). The mobile news consumption is rather simple: as more devices are sold, readership increases. Smartphones and tablets purely provide a consumer experience unmatched by newspapers and even the most advanced laptops. Journalism surely has a prospect in the mobile industry, but must be wary of technologys effects on readers, which will be discussed later in this essay.Social media usage points toward the same effect on news consumption. With exponentially growing Facebook and Twitter memberships, more Americans come in contact with news services in the social network. The Pew Research Centers Amy Mitchell states that 47% of adult Facebook users receive news stories during their time on the website. Since roughly 64% of Americans are on Facebook, this amounts to approximately 30% of the U.S. adult population receiving news through a single website. The nature of Facebook fluidly exposes its users to worldly topics and stories, virally spread throughout the network of friends and families. News organizations, from international broadcast networks to high school newspapers, can participate in spreading news by creating pages and using features such as hashtags and Facebook Trending to reach a wider range of audiences. But perhaps the greatest benefit Facebook offers to news websites is its natural stickiness; the average user spends 12 minutes on one of the top news sites, as opposed to 423 minutes on Facebook, nearly 35 times longer (Christian et al., Facebook and Twitter). In that time span, Facebook users regularly see news articles shared by their connections and click on new links, redirecting themselves to the host news site. Social medias versatile abilities hold the power to revitalize consistent levels of readership through the online platform.However, the sheer number of mobile device and social media users fail to capture the consumers attitudes on online journalism. In reality, technology is creating a new generation of passive readers. Much like newspaper readers who look only the headlines and photos and broadcast news viewers who tune out while watching the channel, passive online readers disengage themselves from the content and skim through news sites. Raj Aggarwal of Localytics states that while the frequency of news apps being launched on devices has increased by 39%, session lengths have decreased by 26% on a year to year basis. Several statistics point to a rise in the popularity of mobile news, but users are devoting less time into reading. While people still spend more time on news apps than on others (4.2 minutes on news apps versus 3.2 minutes on all apps), this downward trend of shorter reading periods indicates that mobile users are less engaged in the news than previous years (Aggarwal). In addition, tablet news users are increasingly utilizing browsers to access news, rather than the publications apps. Sixty percent of tablet users and 61% of smartphone users mostly use browsers to get their news; The Pew Research Centers 2011 survey revealed that app users, in many ways, are the more engaged and deeper news users than their browser-using counterparts (Rosenstiel 5). In other words, online publications currently do not have apps which can promote regular, consistent readership from its consumers, reshaping consumer behavior towards mobile news. Social networks are also contributing to the increase in reader passiveness. Of the 30% of American adults who get news on Facebook, only 22% see Facebook as a useful way to receive news, with the other 78% getting news while using Facebook for other reasons, such as connecting with ones friends (Mitchell, The Role of News on Facebook 1). In fact, in the same report, only 16% of Facebook users identify getting news as a major function of Facebook. News on Facebook is more of a byproduct of the website, rather than conscious efforts by news organizations to reach their audience. Most importantly, surveys show that social media does not drive news consumption as projected. Only 9% of U.S. adults who digitally receive news get it through Facebook and Twitter recommendations (Christian et al. Facebook and Twitter). Considering that 30% of all Facebook users receive news on the site, the numbers are fairly concerning to online news operations. Social media is failing to meet its full journalistic potential.While recent numbers may point to an overall increase in visitors and distribution of news, consumers generally hold apathetic attitudes to online articles, a behavior which can easily translate into reversal of trends. Decrease in readership should stay as a threat in the journalism industry, which must not be fooled by the statistics of increasing mobile users and social media users. However, this is preventable. Aggarwal says, The key to unlocking monetization for mobile news apps such as paid subscriptions and in-app advertising lies in having deep insights about your users, their lifetime value, and how they engage with your content and then personalizing the app experience. As long as news groups can design apps and mobile content to user preferences and accessibility, online publications should stay consistently popular, if not grow in readership. As for social media, news organizations should seek to become a more consistent part of the social media experience, by more aggressively pushing their articles and their profile page to the users without compromising the social networking site. Journalism must restore the intimate connection between the reader and the news and close the gap created by hypermediacy of online articles.Yet, this intimate connection can also pose another danger, as the industry exposes itself to the inadequacies of citizen journalism. The most valuable element of online news, the ability to connect the reader to the journalist, compromises the integrity of reporting.Through the form of blogs and comments, the internet gives the audience the ability to respond and publish stories of their own. Amongst professional journalists, netizens may create and distribute their stories easily and even anonymously. Journalism, in some ways, can be enhanced, as database of knowledge deepens with these participants.OhmyNews, a South-Korean citizen news website written entirely by contributors with no prior journalism experience, represents the most dramatic example of this participation. While professional editors review the articles, the writers bring a fresh, personal angle to the stories. OhmyNews strays from the tenets of traditional journalism, but the website has gained traction and credibility over the years. The website now hosts over two million pages views every day. As Professor of Journalism at Bournemouth University Stuart Allan calls it, OhmyNews represents the Korean startup of future journalism (Allan 235). Yet, as developed and successful online participatory journalism can be, several critics such as Professor of Journalism at Columbia University Samuel Freedman, believe that to treat an amateur as equally credible as a professionalis only to further erode the line between raw material and finished product (Allan 219). Nonprofessional reporters are particularly subject to mistakes, especially in breaking news conditions.Following the bombings during the Boston Marathon in 2013, social networking service and news website, Reddit, found itself in media frenzy, after users mistakenly identified the wrong subject as the bomber. In what was supposed to be the most crowdsourced terror investigation in American history (Abad-Santos), community members began to post speculations of the bombers, incorrectly labelling missing Brown student Sunil Triphathi as the bomber. In an interview, founder of the subreddit /r/findbostonbombers stated, Theres a big difference between journalistic integrity and the opinion of some guy on Reddit. Reddit should never ever ever [sic] be used as a source, unless there's actually some proof there (Abad-Santos). While Reddit demonstrated the power of online communities and its ability to research and report breaking news immediately, the internet can easily propagate false information. Moreover, studies show that the public now considers online news to be the most credible news source (Speakman 7). Due to stories of bias and inaccuracies in broadcast and print journalism, news readers now perceive online articles as the most dependable resources, assuming a stricter editorial gate-keeping from online communities. However, the internet can produce grave errors, as it was seen with Reddit post-bombing. Publications such as The New York Post and NewsBreaker made the error of pulling false and undeveloped speculations and attributing them as facts. Because online journalism has the publics trust, publications must be even more wary to be factually accurate in all coverage. While incorporating the user in modern news experience is beneficial for the industry, utilizing online communities as journalists can effectively damage the journalism industry and the reputations of major publications.The industry must also consider the effects the online transition will have on the business aspect of journalism. In the Digital Migration, where reporters move from failing legacy publications and into newly developing online organizations, such as BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, employment has significantly risen in the industry as more native digital news organizations are set up. For example, in the past two years, BuzzFeed has grown from six editorial employees to at least 170. (Mitchell, Growth in Digital Reporting 11). Having struggled with continuous employment cuts in the media industry for the past decade, journalism now appears to have found a stable business operation in the internet. However, the new employment rate fails to portray the economic realities of news organizations.The clear indication that business operations in journalism still struggle is the lack of success in advertising. Currently, advertising accounts for 69% of news revenue (Holcolm), but digital ad revenues have only grown by 3.7% in the past year (Mitchell, Growth in Digital Reporting 30). Despite several high-profile financial investments in publications, such as Jeff Bezoss ownership of The Washington Post, and significant rise in employment, there are no clear indications that the journalism industry will bring in enough revenue to support these digital age expansions. Media analyst Ken Doctor stated that The Huffington Post is flirting with probability in hopes of making a profit (Mitchell, Growth in Digital Reporting 5). In addition, for his investment to turn in a profit, Pierre Omidyar of eBay will likely have to commit even more money to First Look Media, even after depositing $250 million into the company (Mitchell, Growth in Digital Reporting 30). Even with these financial activities, no business model exists for digital media organizations, putting the industry in a precarious position. The current state of the industry presents an exciting time for journalism, as new pioneering digital news organizations develop more investigative and engaging news reports. But without a stable, financial outlook, these ventures cannot be sustained. Online news organizations must be fully developed enough to replace the dying print operations in America and preserve the industry.The internet offers a haven for the endangered monoliths of journalism, but concerns of decreasing readership, credibility, and failing business plans still haunt publications to the web, and, to a certain extent, are accentuated online. Despite the benefits of an all-digital platform to...


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