The Implications of the Growth of Social News
This is a guest post by Jeremy Bamidele, a brand strategist, publicist and adjunct professor at Rancho Santiago Community College District. Jeremy is also a nationally syndicated journalist and writes for Huffington Post.
According to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2015, an on-line poll about the future of digital news in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Urban Brazil, Japan and Australia, there have been drastic shifts in the amount of news that is accessed through smartphones and other mobile devices.
The United Kingdom, the United States and Japan are especially important to understanding the gravity of these shifts as well as hypothesize some of the consequences that may result.
Over the past 12 months news accessed via the smartphone has jumped 24 percent from 37 percent to 46 percent. Sixty-six percent of smartphone users are now using their phone weekly to access news.
As a result, the smartphone is becoming an increasingly more important platform for the distribution of news and media. Moreover, articles are being formatted to better accommodate the small screen size of phones. Articles and paragraphs are becoming smaller and photos and videos are increasingly being utilized to tell stories.
The increased ingesting of media via smartphones and other portable devices coinciding with the increase of social media apps being downloaded on smartphones has led to a more socialized media distribution. No longer are people getting their news recommendations from media publishers, instead they are getting it from their relationships on social media.
Media consumption is becoming more personalized and segmented, as social media relations often share common value and belief systems with those they are connected.
According to a Reuter’s report, “Surprisingly, given the amount of time spent in apps generally, people in most countries say they are likely to access news via a mobile browser. This suggests that news may not always be a primary destination but will often be found through links from social media or email.”
Forty-one percent of people polled access news via Facebook each week, more than twice the usage of its nearest competitor—YouTube. Social media has moved from just being platforms to now being publishers. Social media has become so powerful in the media space that some companies like Buzzfeed almost entirely rely on social media as opposed to companies like SEO for the distribution of their articles.
Social media as the new source of news is made further pertinent by the decrease of the computer as a source for digital news. Only 57 percent now consider the computer as their most important device for accessing news online.
This is important as computers often only receive social media alerts when one is currently visiting the website, whereas phones alert an individual of many social media alerts once the social media application has been downloaded. As a result, your exposure to social media increases with the increase of portable digital devices.
In the last two years, the United States has suffered a 21 percent drop in the amount of people under forty-five who tune in for scheduled TV bulletins. Still, television remains a strong contender for the source used by most Americans for news; 40 percent compared to 43 percent who gain the majority of their news online and via social media.
The decline of television as a news source pales in comparison with the decline of print, which has been drastically declining since 2013. The visual nature of television may be serving as a buffer to the greater decline faced by print media. This hypothesis is further strengthened by the increased consumption of media utilizing visuals in comparison to media using just text—the constraint of print media. Consequently, more publications are integrating visuals into their news.
As you might expect, the consumption of digital news and online as a source of news decreases with age, with only 22 percent of those over 55 considering online as their main source of news. This is in comparison to 81 percent of those between 18 and 24 who consider online or social media as their main source of news.
This has led to a shift in the stories covered by publications to better align with their target audience. For example, Buzzfeed, an exceptional pioneer in the digital news space, tends to focus on softer human interest stories that favored by the younger generations. In contrast, the New York Times tends to focus on politics and more hard hitting stories.
Marketers, in turn, advertise in the publication that attracts their desired audience. With the explosion of content now available online, publics are no longer restricted to a few sources for their news. Instead, they can choose news that most interest them. The effect of this holds drastic implications for the content that publications publish considering that as much of the most important news is not the most interesting to the general public.
The news industry is faced with a conundrum of how to balance the importance of news with the interest it will generate from its consumer base. Going too far in any one direction will lead news organizations to suffer both in influence and commerce. Therefore, news organizations must tether the line and find some way to present hard hitting news in such a way as to encourage social media sharing and interest.
Jeremy Bamidele is a corporate communications specialist, publicist, and journalist based out of Los Angeles, CA.
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