As technology is evolving, the internet is continuing to change the way we get our news. Yet, why are many media outlets (both national and local) struggling to converge the traditional with new age media?
I attended a journalism conference in New York City last Spring and the evolution of traditional media was a hot topic and focus of many sessions. With conference speakers from TV news networks, national newspapers, and popular online websites…they all seemed to agree on one thing: nobody has quite figured it out yet. Every traditional media outlet is still experimenting and tweaking. But one answer stuck out in my mind, it was an executive for the Wall Street Journal speaking to our group, when he asked the same question: “What is the future of traditional media?” The room was silent and he answered with just one word: “this”, in his hand was an iPad. He said the tablet was the future of the industry and as soon as the traditional media could realize it, the better off they’ll be.
The industry is in such a limbo period right now, with the traditionalists gripping onto familiarity and with forward thinkers making changes to much protest. An excellent example, New Orleans newspaper for over 170 years Times Picayune announced only a few days ago they will scale back their print copies from daily to three times a week. The response? Outrage. Readers are starting petitions, Facebook pages, and protests. The announcement has even captured national attention. Check out WVUE’s report on the response here. Is paper owner The Newhouse Family, destroying journalism or keeping up with the times? Is there even a clear-cut answer? Researchers think so.
Studies done on the topic all seem to make the answer glaringly obvious for both TV and print journalism. For instance, LSU’s “Media Landscape” 2012 study found that in a single year, the number of Louisianan’s that switch on their TV for news dropped from 61 percent to 56 percent. The numbers are even more significant when you look at my demographic (I’m 23), 70% of 18-30 year old Louisianan young adults head straight to the internet for their news. A Pew Research Center study confirms the finding in their own study, concluding that 70% of 18-29 year old people get their news not only from the internet but also from their smart phones. For a generation that is accustomed to immediacy and instant gratification, the numbers make sense. Why would we wait for the evening newscast or next days paper, when the news is available immediately online? It’s the million dollar question that has news managements everywhere scratching their heads. The young adults are the demographic that advertisers like to play to after all.
My opinion? If they want to stay profitable, the news industry execs need to loosen its grip on tradition and look forward. With that being said, I’m not talking cutting corners and comprising in-depth journalism, I’m saying why not look to additional mediums to find new ways to tell the story. I think the young journalists and newsroom leaders get it, they get the evolving industry, because we are the demographic that gets our news from the internet. We understand it’s well worth our time to connect to readers/viewers across multiple platforms. Although it’s more work, we still blog, keep up with work Facebook pages, live tweet meetings and breaking news, post content to the website, and even instagram pictures from the field. It’s about connecting and that’s what my generation knows how to do. The older execs running the show need to catch up to stay current. Heck, this time next year we’ll not only have smart phones and tablets, but smart televisions…demanding even more multimedia content to be integrated into the traditional news. It’s a changing world and the traditionalists who don’t want change need to get out of the business, because it’s happening whether you like it or not.