Future of news media: 10 takeaways from Media Rumble

Media Rumble 2018, organised at India Habitat Centre, by Newslaundry and Teamworks, and supported by Facebook, was curated around the theme ‘News What It Can Be’. The 10 points on the possibilities of news media that I could gather are:

First, the tsunami of false and fake news and post-truths in media seems to be winning now, but the battle against it has just started and the warriors of factual news are giving an increasingly stronger challenge in every possible way: through the use of Google reverse image search, TinEye, the free video to jpg converter transforming video into images, and InVid. Google has developed several tools for facts and video checking, and so has Facebook started several measures to create awareness against false news, identify and pluck them out.

Second, the need for media literacy and a higher internet literacy is felt stronger than ever before. Media organisations need to have content and programmes focusing on creating awareness on what type of media to be consumed and how, and how to identify and avoid false and fake news. This is an urgent need of the day.

Third, the need for visionary investors today was felt stronger than ever before, especially when data is often seen as being mined, stored and used for specific interests only, which may be detrimental to the common good. Social values of technology and data can be harnessed in news initiatives backed by visionary investors. 

Fourth, though women are in quite a number in television newsrooms in English, that is not the reality in language TV newsrooms and in print newsrooms in general, more particularly in the smaller towns.

A cultural shift is needed in newsrooms to take the focus away from patriarchy or marriage or patronising discourse with regards to women media professionals. Women in newsrooms are seen to bring in more transparency, democracy and collaborative partnerships.

As someone noted, creative destruction can come in newsrooms with a bit of woman-bonding through handholding and seeing another woman as an ally.

Fifth, the news industry revenue is going through a churn like never before. Currently, 38% of total global ad-spending is in the digital medium, which has gained heavily from print, which has come down to 9% globally. Television is at 34%, globally, but is on fast decline. The remaining 19% is distributed among radio, outdoor, events, and other channels. Advertising pundits opine that digital will finally stabilise at two-thirds of all ad-spending globally. This makes a strong case for news media to focus on the digital platform all the more. There is no need to create different teams for print and television and digital. In fact, an integrated newsroom is the right thing to do and creating multi-skilled multi-media convergent team of journalists in the field and on the desk is a must for the news of tomorrow.

‘Mobile first’

Sixth, not just digital, but ‘mobile first’ will be the new mantra of news media of the future. Worldwide and in India, consumption of news on mobile and news on the run is galloping ahead with the sharp rise in the use of smartphones. Ability to tell news in the first one paragraph that fits the mobile handset screen is important. Then creating hooks to read more. 

Seventh, the digital news media of tomorrow will experiment with diverse revenue sources apart from traditional advertising on the web. There is the subscription route, the crowd-funding route, the paywall route, the events route, social campaigns route, co-subscriptions with non-competing content platforms, customised story-telling for brands, collaborative revenue sharing among media platforms with similar approach, etc.

Eighth, solutions journalism, taking a stand or a perspective, will stand out and create its niche audience, to be catered to through news, views, humour, info-graphics, events, referrals, etc.

Loyalty to such specific brands can be leveraged through membership drive as well which goes beyond just subscriptions. The New York Times is a good example. Wall Street Journal has developed a membership model with Fox TV and Harper Collins publishing together, benefitting all three. 

Ninth, legacy media needs to innovate to survive. In the US, from 1,410 daily newspapers in 2000, it is now 1,286 in 2018. So, print news is in decline, but not going away for sure over the next decade or more. Newscorp is the world’s largest digital real estate company: it moved from Mansions coverage in print and digital space to owning up digital real estate media brands across the world. Thinking beyond the known comfort zones would be needed.

Tenth, the media has traditionally been the gate-keeper and agenda-setting news platform. With multiple options of news, entertainment and engagement available to each consumer, news media has to creatively be the gate-opener that brings newer consumers and the existing ones repeatedly to its doorstep. The broad brand concept of the news media has to be to engage people -- without them asking for it, and creatively, not obtrusively. They may give away sources of stories, can refer to other news sites for further support to the readers, give solutions, integrate digital video with textual stories, etc. 

So, content is still the king and will always be, but commerce may help it rule longer. Content-led commerce will be important going ahead.

For example, a media platform can tie-up with Walmart or Amazon, review the products they offer, and take margins on sales. Alongside, news media must know that they need to worry about time or attention span of their audiences, and not just their competition. They have to move to engage the audience and not just resort to merely a clickbaity journalism.

(The author is Head, School of Media, Pearl Academy, Delhi and Mumbai campuses)

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Future of news media: 10 takeaways from Media Rumble

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