A DIGITAL WORLD: THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR DIGITAL JOURNALISTS
TSTT Corporate Communications
Traditional media companies and journalist must adapt in order to remain relevant and profitable in a digital world.
How will heavyweight veterans of the trade match up against nimble, new and tech-savvy reporters, as well as the hundreds of thousands of persons armed with a smart phone and an internet connection, who have been taking over the news on social media platforms merely by posting their information, photos and opinions? Is digital journalism taking over? Is it making mainstream media a minority player?
An Introduction to Digital Journalism by multimedia consultant and former Wall Street Journal Editor, David Ho, sought to answer these questions on August 20th, at a training session organised by the Trinidad & Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) in partnership with bmobile and Huawei.
“This is a very special initiative by bmobile and Huawei,” said Immediate Past President of the TTPBA, Kiran Maharaj, as she thanked them for partnering with TTPBA to make the training programme possible.
Big Challenges Require Big Changes
Explaining bmobile’s involvement, TSTT’s Ian Galt, General Manager Enterprise Services, said the company was committed to media excellence and supporting media personnel in adapting to the changing times because: “We recognise that a highly skilled media fraternity serves the people and benefits us all…It is therefore imperative that we partner with entities like the TTPBA to invest in journalists and elevate the profession.”
Recognising the challenges faced by local journalists in today’s social media dominant world, Galt said: “Today, you may have a beat, but you are all multimedia journalists. You’ve had to adapt, and you’ll have to keep adapting.” He predicted that while the core of what journalism does would remain intact, “the way journalism looked five years ago and the way it will look five years from now, as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data become more pervasive, will certainly be different.”
He added, “Technology and new media represent opportunity but in the same breath, it has given all of us an ultimatum - adapt and innovate or cease to exist. The landscape has changed, and you are challenged with evolving and responding to this new normal. It is my hope that today’s session arms you with some of the tools you need to continue rising to the occasion.”
The TSTT executive also commended the TTPBA for including 20 students from COSTATT’s School of Journalism in the session, in addition to the 22 participants representing media houses from print, radio and television.
A News Studio in Your Pocket
The webinar explored fundamental concepts of digital journalism, including why digital journalism was unavoidable, the responsibilities of traditional media, the metrics of digital news platforms, and ‘doing it right’ tips and best practices. It then concluded with a roundtable discussion on The Challenges of Digital Journalism.
“How news is gathered, distributed and consumed have changed. We now have the digitisation of content and a greater focus on engagement metrics. We can’t ignore that the news must also be tailored to appeal to an audience that is primarily consuming content on their smartphones,” the TSTT executive said.
Ho noted that with 10 billion active mobile devices, there were more mobile devices than people in today’s world, with US consumers spending on average five hours a day interacting with apps such as YouTube and Facebook rather than on websites. Top news outlets nearly all have more mobile traffic than desktop traffic, Ho said. Today, everyone has a smart phone which is not just a potential source of news, it is like having a news studio in your pocket, he added. The Beirut explosion was a recent demonstration of this where the Internet was almost instantly flooded with countless photos and videos from different perspectives, he noted.
It is important to know all this because the world has already changed, Ho stressed. “Digital is not coming. It’s now. Right now.” If you’re not digital as a journalist you’re behind and it’s about catching up, he warned. “We have to get used to that.”
What is Digital Journalism
But what exactly is digital journalism? Ho has honed his own definition. “It is the art and science of collecting, crafting and disseminating news with digital tools that use the language of computers.” It is about audience and reach, immediacy and speed, multimedia and interactivity, he said.
Adding that digital journalism was about immediacy and speed while print is for depth and analysis, Ho stressed the importance of avoiding stale news. A digital news website can’t have stale content. Publishing is continuous. Deadlines are always now, and breaking news and alerts are key, he said.
The Data of News - Is Anyone Out There?
Remaining relevant to readers, viewers and advertisers means news media personnel have to deepen their understanding of their audience, which they can do by using the available technology to collect and analyse data on how persons are interacting with their content on digital platforms. Traffic, Engagement Metrics and Testing are essential tools to achieving this, Ho explained. Engagement metrics, for example, can tell you a lot about how you are interacting with your audience, he noted. You only have two seconds to hook your reader who could navigate away at any time. Six key metrics that measure if people are watching and reading are: articles per user, bounce rate, recirculation, time spent, scroll depth and video completion.
Big digital companies also run tests to see what works and what doesn’t. To test how news is being received by people and what works best, you can write two headlines for a story, have two versions of the same story, use different fonts, different photos, or different layouts and send out to five per cent of your audience, Ho said. He gave the example of the Wall Street Journal testing alerts to see what worked best. The result? More people tapped on alerts that started with “Good Morning.” Understanding your audience, interactivity and creating news as an experience are the keys to success in today’s digital world, Ho said.
The second webinar with Ho takes place on August 27 and will focus on the Ins-and-Outs of Technology Reporting. It will also feature a special presentation by Huawei’s Chief Technology Officer, Government Solutions (LATAM), Luis Guillot, on technology and the fourth industrial revolution.