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Journalism Today? On the Fragmentation of the Media Landscape
    2008-10-28 10:19:29     CRIENGLISH.com

22-23 October 2008 C Beijing, China

In Conjunction with the 7th ASEM Summit

Journalism Today? On the Fragmentation of the Media Landscape

by Dr. Mercedes Bunz

In the digital era, media becomes fragmented. How does journalism work in a fragmented world? And how does this change the role of the journalist?

1 News today

1a News consumption is changing

- Circulation of local daily newspapers have declined in Europe and the US. Over the last 10 years, German circulations have declined by 5 million copies. Circulations in Germany have declined from 29,4 M in 1998 to 24,54 M in 2008.

- Polls show that while people between 30 and 40 use (daily) both newspapers and the internet to inform themselves (40:40%), younger people prefer the internet (55:25%). And this preference is likely to stay.

- In recent years, internet consumption has increased greatly to the detriment of print: In 2007 44 % of the 20-40 year old Germans with higher education thought that the Internet is the most important medium for current news. 26 % have the opinion that because of television and internet they dont even needed a newspaper. (This number has increased rapidly. In 2004 only 17 percent said they didnt need a paper. 29% thought that the internet is an important source for current events.)

1b The role of journalists has also changed, or not

- It is financially challenging to maintain a parallel editorial staff and most stories dont have to be done twice. Journalists today should therefore be trained to work with different media and, more importantly, think with different media.

- Example: A journalist investigates a local crime. The journalist calls online editors and reports developing research. The journalist gathers more information and prepares a detailed report published both online and print. Witness accounts recorded as audio-quotes can be teased in the print edition as exclusive content available in the online edition.

- Quit whining. Some journalists blame online media for a decline in quality journalism, yet little has changed: There were always journalists who were experts and journalists who were generalists. This will now, in a fragmented media situation, be translated as follows: Some journalists will work only for one medium, while others will use them all. The means (or media) in which news and source material is reported has gotten more complex but the most important thing will always be The Good Story.

1c Reinvention

- Journalists have, until now, tended to categorize themselves according to the media in which they report. We are Radio-, Print-, Television- or Online Journalists. We have to change this thinking. The new journalism is about the story and not about the medium.

- We work no longer work for a medium, instead we have to think in the logic of a brand. Who are our readers? What will interest them? What do they expect from us in which medium?

2 Online Journalism

2a Modern Problems

- Marshall McLuhan wrote: new media act like old media. However: the internet is not a kiosk. Forget about selling news online, it doesnt work. At a kiosk, we decide for a newspaper. When we watch a news television we concentrate on one show. Since Google News, this is over. We get a story in different versions online, a story changes, grows and deepens with every referral. We are quickly someplace else: the internet facilitates comparison and second opinions.

- Loyalty to newsites is surprisingly low. Only 12 % of German internet users come to newsites daily (that is 4 times a month!), compared to 36%, who visit general portals each day or 40% who are daily using Google.

- Newspaper readers want it all: politics, boulevard, the sport section and the film reviews. But not online. Popular portals provide readers with generic news in headline format. On the other hand, readers prefer to look up cultural events or sports on webpages focused on special interests. In an ocean of information newssites can only be a niche.

- Online advertising revenue is rising, but not enough: German online newsportals make only 5-10% of the advertising revenues generated by their print counterparts.

- Advertising online can be much more intelligent. It is more often than not, unnecessarily context irrelevant, peripheral and just plain boring. In more conventional media advertising can be information, or even entertaining. Online advertising is rarely informational, hardly engaging and almost never fun.

2b News reception online

- As the saying goes: All ways lead to Rome. Links to articles are as important as the homepage. The homepage is only one door to content. Specialized news aggregators and blogs are significant referrals to content and generate further traffic. Use the backdoors!

- Guide the user. Take them by the hand and encourage cross-traffic.

2c Last, but not least: Values

- Until now, content was something that had to be produced and that production took a long time. Remember the days in which we all did our research with the telephone? Times have changed. Content is everywhere.

- The role of the journalist has shifted from Gatekeeper to Translator. The world is abundant with information. In this surrounding, providing important and relevant information for the reader is essential. The way in which we filter news online, is as important as the investigation itself. Give your reader orientation and help them find quicker and better.

- From customer to communication: In an information society, audiences change. Not only is every reader, via their mobile phone, equipped as a journalist, the iconic pictures of the most important events in earlier history (9-11. Abu Ghraib. The Tsunami) all came from non-professionals.

- Readers want to be taken serious. Enter into a dialogue whenever possible, and actively engage visitors with a story. Encourage them to be part of the investigation. Visitors can provide important information for certain kinds of research.

- The production of articles changed from piece to process: Readers want to know what is going on and they want to know it fast, often faster than journalists could ever produce it. Be transparent Ctake them along for the ride and show them the research and development. To provide quality news, we have to be fast and, more importantly, trustworthy. Transparency is a key value in journalism today.



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