Digital revolution has taken the business world by storm. It has made its presence felt in every aspect be it manufacturing, sales and marketing, distribution, including the support functions. Digitization of processes have forced businesses to rethink their business models to survive in the new world. The media industry was amongst those that have felt the tremors of this transformation in the late 90’s. Whilst the industry accepted the emergence of digital technologies, the bottom just fell out from a revenue perspective. As publications moved from print to digital – the advertising revenues plummeted and subscriptions became increasingly harder to sell given the abundance of free content on the Internet. While many publications closed down their shutters struggling to stand still in the digital tangle, the smarter ones embraced this new world to their benefit.
Between March 2006 and September 2014, the number of newsroom jobs fell by 33 percent, and daily and weekly newspapers shuttered their doors with increasing frequency, according to the Pew Research Center.
It would be wrong to assume that only mid-level publications were hit; while in fact, even the top well known publications halved their employees during the past one decade. In early 2016, the New York Times announced that it would be laying off hundreds of journalists by end of this year.
This unexpected advent of technology proved costly for many journalists with many deciding to continue their careers in a different industry like PR, corporate communications, or freelancing for multiple publications, to make ends meet.
Whilst on one hand technology has impacted business models, on the other hand, it has revolutionized the productivity in the newsroom. Its impact can be seen on news gathering, expanding the reach of the newsroom, enhancing collaboration, driving transparency and driving sensitivity to revenue generation.
What exactly are the problems being faced by the modern journalists and how does this technology help them?
Gathering real time news/trends
Citizen journalism initiatives, coupled with a heightened sense of civic sensitivity, have lent a voice to the common man on the street. The advances in smartphone technology with its easy accessibility and availability help the common man break a story within few seconds. Social network sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram have broken the stranglehold that traditional media had over distribution – and can make the common man an instant celebrity for breaking the news. It’s evident that smartphones here play a dual role for the journalists -- as a friend and a foe.
The journalists must have knowledge and an eye to grasp news that will engage readers. Trend is the buzz word in the industry now and it is essential to keep a watch on stories or news that are trending. Tools like Buzzsumo, Feedly and Newswhip Spike allow busy journalists to check which topics are trending where and what time, and use analytics to assess the strength of a potential story in real time.
Vikas Shukla, former journalist and co-founder of Education publication Quantov, writes: “As a journalist you need to stay one step ahead of trends. There is no point spending hours each day reading the leading papers to see what the top stories are. You need to use technology to push you in the right direction, and then it will be your story on the front page. I use Buzzsumo to find the trending topics, analyse content, and find influencers in my niche.”
A notepad and a pen were considered to be the most significant tool for a journalist till a while ago. Jotting down the notes or a ‘firsthand’ documentation of the incident is not an easy task for anyone, especially if it is during serious incidents like a natural disaster or in a dangerous environment. It’s not just the feasibility part here but also the safety of the journalists during such situations. But the digital era has simplified the task much easier enabling the journalists to record the event (voice and video) and share them live with the consumers.
The new technology has also connected the journalists and the people more closely as they aid the media on the ground to shoot videos and photos and offer comments which can be used by them. Apps such as Periscope and WhatUSee allow journalists, who cannot make it in person, to search for users in a particular geographical zone who can send photos and videos live from the scene.
While the technology has certainly brought people closer, it comes with an organizational challenge for the media house. With the number of news desks diminishing at a faster pace, most of the editors are freelancers or remote writers who are placed at various geographical areas with different time zones. Coordinating with them at one point of time is a real hurdle for the editors in charge, which can complicate matters further.
For a media house to function successfully, it is significant for writers to communicate with each other for suggestions, and ideas as well as with the editors for timelines, edit and feedback. As a result, many remote teams are turning to tools such as Slack and Google chat to take up the strain.
Elizabeth Tenety, a former Editor of Washington Post and Co-founder of Motherly, writes: “We have a story ideas channel on Slack, where editors and writers are encouraged to write down random ideas as they come to them, and help one another to brainstorm. We also have a “Flare” box — a channel for any crazy ideas that come to our writers about how we can best grow and engage our users. We encourage our team to use technology not just to stay organized, but to get inspired and feel free to bring really out-of-the-box ideas to the table.”
Organizing the workflow is an important aspect for any efficient publication. Timing is more crucial in the digital era as a miss of deadline can make your story redundant. As a result, editors and journalists use a range of new tools to organize their workflow, assign tasks and manage deadlines.
CRM/Project Management tools like Trello, Kanban Flow, Contently and Basecamp add a visual element, which allows editors and writers to keep up to date with the progress of different tasks, monitor deadlines, and save notes and drafts on a central database, so that other colleagues can access them if they needed.
Elizabeth Tenety, writes: “We are currently leveraging Slack, Trello, Google calendar and our CMS scheduling tool, but we’re always open to new options that more seamlessly integrate our team into planning processes. These tools are lifesavers for the modern editorial team.”
The diminishing size of newsrooms does not certainly indicate any decline in the number of stories to be covered. More advancement in technology, more the number of stories and journalists need to receive real time information on new stories to stay afloat and survive efficiently in this competitive industry. Most of them turn to technology to help them cut corners and meet their editor’s demands and timelines.
Instead of spending time listening to long video or audio excerpts to gather quotes, journalists and editors can turn to tools such as Cogi to cut the exact information they need from large files. Others turn to online transcription services to get the information they need on paper when in a bind.
Elizabeth Tenety, writes: “I’ve had a lot of success using Rev.com -- it’s not an inexpensive solution for transcriptions, but in a time crunch, they do a great job at turning around copy quickly.”
With most of the consumers depending on the digital media for real time news, the media landscape has certainly undergone a massive shift; but with every cloud comes a silver lining. While citizen journalists did emerge with the advancement in smartphones, on the flip side, they have also become an all-in-one swiss army knife for journalists in the field.
Digital technology is here to stay and continue; how the media houses plan to utilize, nurture and grow with it will determine their destiny in the industry.
This article has been authored by Amit Rathore, Founder & CEO of Quintype, a data-driven platform for publishers