News organizations should be ready to do what it takes to keep up with new media

4 Apr

It seems that the mantra newsrooms should be adopting these days is “adapt or die.” Evidence abounds that journalism + social media = more stories and more readers. For traditional print media to ignore these benefits is potentially fatal: Editors who haven’t caught on to the necessity of an online presence for their publications should spend less time counting column inches and more time on Google. You can bet their competition will be the first to pop up in the search results.

But once the content reaches the Web, how should it stay relevant? Using new media can mean testing strategies, such as aggregation, that challenge the values of traditional media. For example, can you always assume you have the answers your readers are looking for — as print media traditionally has done — or should you be the 34th Street Santa Clauses sending customers down the block to the guys who’ve got the goods? In Internet terms, this is the strategy behind linking and aggregation. Linking to a competitor may seem insane to journalists who have been in the business for decades, but when you know some guy’s done it better than you can, write up a quick post and link to his story. He may return the favor one day — and that’s what the sharing system of social media is all about. 

In a few years, there may be no more room in journalism for the so-called institutions that won’t adapt. In the old vs. new media debate, the news organizations willing to embrace Twitter feeds, crowdsourcing and real-time reporting in addition to the tried-and-true print methods are the ones with the fighting chance. Staying print-only will only limit readers’ choices. 

News organizations are no longer in charge of deciding where and how people get their news. These days, people are more likely to hear about breaking news from a friend’s tweet or Facebook status update than from glancing at the front page of The New York Times on a newsstand. Figuring out how to stay on readers’ radar as a source for up-to-the-instant news is essential to competing in the new-media world.

The words of caution for new media come in the form of practicality: How is new media sustainable? New York University professor Clay Shirky says, “News has to be subsidized, and it has to be cheap, and it has to be free.” He argues that new institutions can arise from these new-media methods, but they may be unrecognizable. The crisis of news is now, he says, and people should be figuring out how to adapt for the future instead of willing the public to get back to the way things were. 

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One Response to “News organizations should be ready to do what it takes to keep up with new media”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers April 4, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    Another good analysis

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