Are the 21st century technologies a threat or an opportunity? They have caused disappearance of newspapers. They have changed the pattern of news gathering and news dissemination. They have changed the pace at which information was transmitted. They have made text and consequently writing skills redundant. Are new media gravediggers of traditional media?
But they have ushered in new generation readers/audience. They have made networking easy. Digital technology compresses information and allows text, graphics, photos, and audio to be blended to provide a multi media experience. Archiving, retrieval, and transformation has become less cluttered
Nascent technologies have changed the age old news rooms. Journalist is no longer just a word smith. He has to grasp a bit of technology. He can not afford to be just a chronicler, but he has to become a researcher. He can not derive comfort by simply dwelling in the well he dug for himself but would be facing a global community that seeks answers
Yes, things have changed. But is it for better or worse? History has shown us that each medium builds and adapts to the one that precedes it. Radiowas considered a threat to newspapers, television a threat to radio and internet a threat to television and now social media to websites and blogs are threat to news websites. But in reality all these mediums coexist in an intricate news delivery system that has expanded the choices for the public.
In other words we don’t have a crisis at hand, but an opportunity. Convergence is the window of opportunity for traditional media to align itself with technologies of the 21st century.
The blending of media forms should evolve as a strategy to create a win -win situation for both traditional and new media. This strategy necessarily has to deal with seven elements in order to derive best out of it. The seven elements are :
6) Competition, and
Communication is the basis of our business. When we fail to communicate we cease to be a medium. With the arrival of new technologies communication has become rapid and makes the print media redundant. A twitter message in 140 characters may deliver a headline immediately than a news paper that lands at the door step next morning.
But if your news paper opens a twitter account and build followers in thousands, you will be able to ‘break the news’ the moment it happens and can use it as an interest arouser for your next day morning edition. It is not difficult to cultivate a team at news desk to receive and send tweets and to ‘go behind’ the news in the single line tweets and write a researched detailed account for the news paper/magazine
Along side the external communications, the internal communication lines with non editorial department need to be built robustly. They need to be sensitized with the changed market environment, and the opportunities in the new business model. News websites hardly brings in money and it is but natural for revenue departments to sulk when a print medium build its web sites for transmitting news. But we have to make them realize that it has become a necessity to protect the brand value and to reach out to a new generation readers.
Commitment may make this happen. Commitment to excellence can only sustain the brand value and commitment to excellence is not just a skill but an attitude. News paper houses are built not with bricks but with credibility. The new media offers an opportunity for instant interaction and that provides for instant course correction. The interactivity of electronically produced text creates a dynamic experience and that helps to build excellence in writing, in dissemination and transmission
Cooperation among the editors, mangers, reporters, and photographers is not un usual in a print medium environment, more so in the news rooms of dailies. But when one is trying to integrate the print media with new media it is natural for ‘senior’ print journalists to consider new media as an alternate media rather than a complementing companion. News rooms have been working for many long years on a well defined, well accepted hierarchy. Now with the arrival of new media relationships have become lateral and top –down approaches may not help.
Compensation is a growing concern for journalists, particularly in print, as expectations of the skills and knowledge of individuals are keep raising in the organization. Media managers have more often confront a question as to how to acknowledge and compensate for the additional skills and expertise expected of the changing roles of staffers. In a digital environment, journalists and other workers may have a specialty in one area, but having an understanding of the multimedia environment is considered at a premium. And it has evoked heart burns that ultimately upset the morale and working environment. One solution is to offer training and to include multimedia initiatives by staff of traditional media as part of performance reviews, and reward these skills monetarily. The additional training and new responsibilities that are expected of journalists must result increased compensation. It has been seen employees who are trained, allowed to grow, paid well for their services and happy with their work, will perform better in a converged environment.
Synchronizing cultural dynamics of different media are necessary to build a win –win situation between traditional and new media. There are different cultures for journalists working in print, broadcast and electronic delivery environments. There is a difference in the language used and methods of production. For example, the use of the term “budget” has different meanings for print and broadcast journalists. Print journalists understand budget as a Newspaper’s slate of stories and photos, while the new media thinks of financials for their unit. Print journalists have argued that they bring depth to the printed word, and suggest that sound bites and electronic clicks are not enough to satiate the needs of readers. Broadcasters recognized the visual nature of society and their ability to capture people’s attention. Among the many strengths of the Internet, is that it is interactive and has infinite space.The blending of the cultural dynamics that are specific to a medium is key tothe success of convergence.
Competition has changed dramatically with the arrival of new media. Online activities create national and global competition and hence the competitor is no longer the local newspaper or television station. More over, now a days ,we face competition not only from old pals –the traditional media houses- but from new giants. A news paper today competes with Yahoo!, Google news, Microsoft’s MSN, and scores of others.
Another competitor is ‘time’.The Internet has intensified the 24-hournews cycle because of its immediacy. And there is a massive attempt to capture people’s attention at a time when most have little time for all of theirneeds from commuting, to jobs, family, activities, media, government, etc.
The best solution to tackle both the competitors is to strike a convergence between traditional and new media, that is to go online with a multi media edition or to “push media” that delivers news at hand held smart phones.
When televisions arrived traditional newspaper readers have distinguished themselves from television viewing “audiences” by their desire to have the printed, portable document in hand for perusal. They used throw barbs and bouquets to their admired editors through long mails. They respected the erudite scholarship of the editors but has not hesitated to point out spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical slips, and syntax error. A few loved long and untiring hair splitting arguments on trivia.
But now we have customers who are eager to consume news They are looking for news they can use in their chats, tweets, Facebook status, in their blogs and in websites. It is indeed a paradox while many newspapers are folding up, traditional media remains the “content provides” for many news web sites. Traditional media theories such as gate keeping, have privileged journalists such as editors, reporters, and news producers as the determinants of the flowof information.The Internet has created producers as well as consumers of media. A computer, modem, time, and creativity can turn anyone into a producer of online content We are in the threshold of an era of “citizen journalists” In this process readers have been transformed and customers decide when and what they select to access.
Although new technologies have changed the pattern of information dissemination and the situation of the media industry, traditional media must endeavor its best to find and make use of the opportunities. New media need not be considered as opponents to traditional media, but as partners to create a win-win situation. New media will bring new vigor and vitality to traditional media, and that will make it even more influential than ever before through multimedia and other new technologies.
Gist of my speach made at the Media Leaders’ Round Table , Boao Forum for Asia, on 8th April 2014