The Internet & News Media

The Internet has brought with it a new era for news media, redefining the ways in which we access and interact with the news we consume on a daily basis. It’s hard to imagine life without the Internet – did people really use to go to the library when they wanted to research an essay?

Similarly the paperback newspaper, whilst still relevant today, has become much less common following the development of new technologies like the smart phone and tablet. These technologies, which harness the unlimited potential of the Internet, provide a huge number of options for any individual seeking to access the news. In fact according to the most recent statistics, 33% of people read their news media on more than one device, as illustrated below. 

Media Consumption

This led me to ask the question – Does the platform we use to read the news change the way we consume it?

Online v Paperback

Reading a few journal articles online the results were a little bit unnerving. In fact a lot of studies had been done in the area, but the one that received the most media coverage was titled ‘Is Google making us stupid’. The study put forward the notion that ‘people who read text studded with links, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages’ (Carr, 2010).

In an increasingly digitally oriented world, this presents a serious issue for our ability to critically interact with the content we are reading. This ability is becoming all the more valuable, particularly when online newspapers produce significantly more junk journalism than their paperback counterparts, who have a greater focus on quality and investigative journalism.

Internet Monkey

The counter argument to this is exactly the opposite and represents a view held by a number of leading experts. In the wake of the Google study, the Pew Research Center decided to conduct a survey, focusing on 895 technology experts who were asked questions about their expectations relating to social, economic and political change by the year 2020.

Referring directly to Nicholas Carr’s book ‘Google Will Make Us Stupid’, 76% of respondents dismissed the claim, arguing that ‘by 2020, people’s use of the Internet will have enhanced human intelligence’ (Anderson, Rainie, 2010).

While the argument that the Internet is making us stupid is still up for debate, there is little to no doubt that the quality of journalism has dropped in transitioning to the web. With so much competition online, readers have developed this tendency to skim over news until something captures their attention.

Despite some newspapers offering a finite number of ‘free’ articles to read online, most of the major newspapers are beginning to introduce subscription fees. Whilst this is a positive thing, as it promotes quality journalism, it will also drive a number of people the plethora of free alternatives.

Passive readers who seek free alternatives only serve to enhance the large amounts of junk journalism online. Without quality journalism, the media in its role as the fourth estate begins to lose its traction within society – that’s if you still believe the fourth estate exists of course.

Google

Never before have we had access to so much information at the touch of a button, although the main argument that Carr was attempting to make was in relation to our cognitive abilities or rather there lack of. Carr also calls in to question the effect that the Internet has on our memories, because why would you bother writing something down when you can simply type it into Google later?

 The fast paced, dynamic nature of the Internet has our attention constantly switching between different things and Carr argues that this will affect our ability to properly digest what we are reading. Perhaps the issue is made more significant when we think of the roles that sites like Wikipedia play in our everyday lives.

Wikipedia is often used as the first-stop shop for developing a very general understanding on a topic, which is reinforced as it often appears as the top hit on Google Search. Again the issue comes back to the fact that anybody can edit Wikipedia, leaving many to doubt the accuracy of the information being posted. It is becoming increasingly important for individuals to know quality journalism when they see it and to engage with the material being written.

Digital media is here to stay and without a doubt the future of journalism. How we interact and access our news becomes therefore all the more important. Perhaps the Roman Philosopher Seneca summed it up perfectly 2,000 years ago when he said, “to be everywhere is to be nowhere” (Tosta, 2013). Never before has this statement had so much relevance in this digital age.

 

References

 

 

 

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Social Networking Sites: Marketings New Weapon

During our Week 2 lecture we looked at the rise of Web 2.0, and in particular the increasing popularity of Social Networking Sites (SNS). The reading, ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, by Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison presented a snapshot of the history of SNS and how they’ve changed over time.

The first social media sites began to emerge way back in 1997 with a site called ‘Six Degrees’, which used a layout that has been fairly consistent for all right SNS for the past nearly two decades. “While SNS have implemented a wide variety of technical features, their back-bone consists of visible profiles that display an articulated list of Friends” (Boyd, D, Ellison, N, 2008)

One thing that has changed over time though, is the ways in which we use social media. Perhaps the most famous SNS in the short history of the Internet is Facebook, which was created by Mark Zuckerberg.

Originally called ‘Facemash’, the site was restricted to Harvard University students who used it to rate their fellow classmates. Despite landing him in hot water with the University hierarchy, the site was incredibly popular. It was this popularity that inspired Zuckerberg to write the code for what we now know as Facebook.

facebook-1st-website-from-dhaka-city-guide

This is all well and good, but like I said the sticking point for me is the changing nature in which we use social media. In the digital age that is, social media and SNS have become a key component in how we operate not only socially, but also professionally.

SNS that offer free user registrations traditionally make a profit by selling advertising space, in tandem with the information provided by its users. Advertising on Facebook operates slightly different to AdWords (Google’s paid advertising product) in that “Facebook ads are targeted to the users’ demographic and interests, not what they’re searching for” (North, E, 2014)

While buying advertising space on Facebook is proven to increase publicity, there are just as many if not more strategies for promoting your brand on SNS without spending a dime. The amount of books, articles and courses you can take to improve your online marketing skills for Facebook are evidence enough of this.

MDIA5002 Blog Post Image 1

The development of SNS that solely target business alone have become increasingly popular over recent years, with LinkedIn being at the forefront of these platforms. Created to help business’ nurture and grow their connections, it also gives job seekers a place to search for openings in the industry and promote themselves professionally.

I recently read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) by Elsita Meyer-Brandt, who conducted a study about the use of social media in increasing sales. Working in the events industry, Elsita analysed the transactions across the business for a period of time, this then allowed her to identify which transactions were linked with their social media campaign.

The results that came from the study were interesting to say the least; particularly given that this was study was conducted within the Australian marketplace. The results showed that:

  • “One message on social media delivers $4.80 in additional revenue”
  • “A single share resulted in nine additional visits on average”
  • “Twitter lead this trend with one share generating on average 38 additional visits” to the website”
  • “Twitter is Australia’s most effective social channel” (Meyer-Brandt, E, 2014)

Of all the SNS that were used, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were proven to be the most effective for advertising online. For the most part this is not surprising; to begin with, Facebook’s sheer user numbers and popularity make it a powerful marketing tool for anyone. LinkedIn was setup to cater to businesses and job seekers, its niche market makes it the perfect platform for advertising. Twitter is supremely popular amongst the older generation and its 140 character limit often leaves its reader thirsty for more information, an intriguing or eye catching Tweet is therefor crucial when Twitter is used as a marketing tool.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve gained a first hand insight in to the ways different demographics use social media and the common trends amongst them.

Working in the marketing sector for a Players Association (the Rugby Union Players Association, or RUPA), we produce media that targets the players. Like most professional codes, the age for a professional Rugby player in Australia generally spreads from 18 up to about 34, although some players may play for longer.

With our two main platforms being Instagram and Twitter, it didn’t take me long to realize the split in its users. All of the younger players, 18 to say 23/24 used Instagram. While some of these players also used Twitter, the vast majority of Twitter users were the older blokes, 25 and over. This was extremely useful in that we could tailor the way we used our social media to reach our intended audience, much the same as any business would.

References

  • Boyd, D, & Ellison, N, 2008, ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, pp210-217