Ask older generations of media professionals about their early career days and you’ll likely get a nostalgic answer about the golden era of journalism. These were the days when reporting was done by “real” reporters and edited by “real” editors in a medium that was well-funded by advertising dollars and read by consumers who respected the craft.
Flash forward to the 21st century where the digital age has burgeoned a new generation of journalism, where news is shared instantly via social media and often not by traditional journalists. Like it or not, we’re approaching a new age where instant access is valued over accuracy, blogs and social media compete with newspapers, advertising is dwindling and traditional media is struggling to stay alive.
This month, our own Senior Vice President Leah Haran sat on a panel of expert media professionals to discuss the new nature of news in front of members of our partner, the Adcraft Club of Detroit. In addition to Leah, the panel featured prominent journalists including Jeff Green, Detroit Bureau Chief of Bloomberg News, Joann Muller, Midwest Bureau Chief at Forbes and David Kiley, Editor-in-Chief of New Roads Media. It also included Michelle Gilbert, Vice President of Public Relations and Social Media of Comcast’s Heartland Region and an Airfoil client.
With decades of experience from both sides of the media aisle, this panel shared their predictions, concerns and general perspectives on the changing media industry, and yes, reminisced about those good old days. Below are their key takeaways:
Brands must incorporate all channels to tell their story
With the digital boom, traditional media relations is not enough for a brand to truly tell its story and be heard over the chatter. They must take advantage of all mediums, including earned, paid, owned and shared media. Good news stories should be merchandised to make sure they’re seen.
Sharable stories are relatable
The old journalism adage “if it bleeds it leads” may not hold true when it comes to what people share on social media. Personal stories about weight loss or battling cancer that are relatable and encouraging tend to be the ones that spread the fastest.
There are legitimate fears about journalistic integrity
Dwindling revenue from reduced ad spending means fewer formally-trained journalists and more contributors. In fact, Forbes has only 60 full-time journalists but 1,750 contributors who are paid per click, according to Muller. While those contributors may offer unique, expert perspectives, the down side may be the reduction of a discerning, unbiased perspective from a trained journalist. And the increase of native advertising may blur the line between objective, traditional journalism and subjective sponsored content for undiscerning readers. Furthermore, obtaining news from social media based on preferences may mean people are not learning about the things they’re not interested in.
But in the end, the main theme was this: the future of journalism is simply not known. As the industry goes through perhaps the largest transition in its history, professionals and consumers alike are eagerly watching to see what comes next.