TRADITIONAL media is facing a vastly changing landscape. Consumers are no longer restricted to newspapers, radio and television.
They are instead opened up to information like never before through the internet. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging means that not only is there now a 24/7 news cycle, requiring massive amounts of information but there are more authors producing that information.
So with this convergence of new media, what is the role of social media in journalism and what is social media’s place in the world of broadcasting?
Earlier this year I was tasked with creating a radio show along with other group members, as well as a TV news story, which was to become a part of a larger news program.
The difficult task of building an audience from scratch for the shows began immediately. The easiest way to build an audience was through the use of Facebook and Twitter.
This clearly highlights the importance of the use of social media in the modern media landscape. It is especially the case for new writers and journalists that are looking to build an audience.
My experiences of building the audience were made less difficult by the internet and social media but it was still far from easy. By starting from scratch without the backing of an organisation, it can be really difficult to build an audience.
Standing out from the traffic of the many bloggers on the internet was incredibly difficult. In saying that though, there is no faster way to build that audience.
Pestering friends and then friends of friends increased the audience base and ensured a larger reach as time went on. Despite the incredible amount of information available on the internet, it is still the best tool for a new blogger, writer or student journalist to share work with others.
The internet of course does have its advantages and disadvantages in the world of journalism. One of the advantages is that it changes the way journalists are able to share their stories and information.
Journalists are not restricted to traditional stories produced for newspaper, radio or television. Content is able to be merged, combining print with video, embedding links or even turning radio stories into print formats for consumption on the internet, while including the audio from the radio stories.
There is also a large scope for the way one can tell a story. The ability to update content instantly means that journalists are able to use internet platforms to update stories on the run and create stories in the mould of mini serial narratives.
Roy Peter Clark describes how journalists are using Facebook and Twitter to write these narratives. He said that being able to release small but regular amounts of information at a time on Facebook and Twitter helps journalists reveal a breaking scene or snapshot from an unfolding narrative (Clark, 2011).
Reflecting on the way I built my online audience, this is perhaps an area I could have utilized more effectively when promoting mine and my group’s stories.
Had I done this better, this would have helped engage my audience more effectively and encourage a bigger audience to follow along on my various Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
With all the advantages of using the online world to share journalism content, there are of course pitfalls too.
With such a large amount of information available for research, it is not always easy to determine fact from fiction. Rory O’Connor describes these pitfalls and highlights the importance of knowing what they are and why you should avoid them.
He said that it is harder than ever to determine fact from fiction and truth from spin in all forms of media. He also emphasised that while the amount of information currently available can be empowering, it can also be potentially disruptive and present its own set of challenges to journalists and society as a whole (O’Connor, 2009).
These pitfalls were most definitely relevant to the stories my group and I produced this year, and were something we avoided by conducting thorough research to ensure we presented fact, not fiction.
Below is a video that discusses the use of twitter in journalism and highlights some of these advantages and pitfalls.
With a focus on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, how should journalists use this medium effectively?
There is no avoiding the fact that practically every journalist will use Twitter or Facebook to extend their readership, if they don’t already.
Graeme McMillan says there are over 100 million active twitter users (McMillan, 2011) while The Economist Online states that if Facebook were a nation, it would be the third largest on earth with a market capitalisation greater than Boeing and Amazon (Online, 2012).
With such a large reach, it isn’t any surprise then as to why when building an audience for my work, I constantly used Twitter to create links to guide my audience to information on web pages such as my Facebook pages.
Twitter and Facebook have also come to play a large role in broadcast journalism. Twitter in particular is a huge part of the industry.
Julie Posetti said that Twitter is the platform that is responsible for moving Australian journalists into the social media age, while at the same time increasing the movement to reinvent journalism (Posetti, 2009).
Mark Scott, the ABC’s Managing Director, said in a speech in 2010 that during an hour long episode of Q&A during the election campaign, 36,000 tweets were recorded at a rate of 600 a minute. He also said that one of the ABC’s greatest uses of twitter is to share links, stating that 25 per cent of all tweets contain links (Scott, 2010).
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have also become convenient ways to stream broadcast media quickly to a large audience.
James Fallows spoke about how during the Egyptian protests, massive amounts of pictures and video were being broadcast via Twitter and YouTube, giving the world real time feeds of what was happening, while expert analysts attempted to deconstruct the images and put them in context for the people who were consuming this media (Fallows, 2011).
This yet again highlights the importance of social media in the modern media landscape and it also alludes to there being further use of social media in broadcast media in the future. It is for this reason I tried to build an audience mainly through the use of social media.
It would be hard to overestimate how important social media will be in the future of journalism. Already we are seeing media outlets distribute their stories through platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook on a large scale.
As traditional forms of media merge platforms and incorporate new forms of media, I believe that the future of journalism will be online.
Media outlets, bloggers, and freelance journalists will learn how to effectively use tools such as social media and as a result, in time, we will see a large shift in how media is consumed.
This meant it was essential, as a student journalist with no major backing, to build an audience for my work via mediums such as Facebook and Twitter.
Having looked back at my experience I feel I could have used a few more social media ‘tricks’ to better build that audience; however just as the industry itself is learning to improve its use of social media, so am I.
CLARK, R. P. 2011. How Journalists are using Facebook, Twitter to write mini serial narratives [Online]. Poynter. Available: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/writing-tools/115607/how-journalists-are-using-facebook-twitter-to-write-mini-serial-narratives/ [Accessed 14/05/2012].
FALLOWS, J. 2011. Learning To Love The (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media. The Atlantic, 34-49.
MCMILLAN, G. 2011. Twitter Reveals Active User Number, How Many Actually Say Something [Online]. Available: http://techland.time.com/2011/09/09/twitter-reveals-active-user-number-how-many-actually-say-something/ [Accessed 15/05/2012].
O’CONNOR, R. 2009. Word of Mouse [Online]. Rory O’Connor. Available: http://roryoconnor.org/uncategorized/word-of-mouse/ [Accessed 14/05/2012].
ONLINE, T. E. 2012. Facebook by numbers [Online]. Available: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/02/daily-chart-0 [Accessed 14/05/2012].
POSETTI, J. 2009. Media140 Brings Old and New Media Together, With Explosive Results [Online]. Available: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2009/11/media140-brings-old-and-new-media-together-with-explosive-results317.html [Accessed 14/05/2012].
SCOTT, M. 2010. The Golden Age for Australian journalism [Online]. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-11-25/the-golden-age-for-australian-journalism/2349850 [Accessed 14/05/2012].