For almost a decade, social media has been a catalysis of change in the way we communicate and spread news throughout the world. Its growth and influence on the way news organisations have evolved strengthens by the day, as most people have various social media accounts on huge platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few.
Social media’s rise to internet domination has seen a large chunk of news organisations incorporate online into its readership. As some have even made the full switch from print to online the golden age of journalism, where hundreds of print dailies would compete with each other, has since become a thing of the past.
In an article for the Huffington Post about the golden age and decline in print media, author Tom Engelhardt wrote: “In the golden years, newspaper advertising took a terrible hit, circulation declined and bankruptcies were the order of the day.”
In today’s world digital born media companies like the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Vice are threatening the dominance of traditional, and broadcast news organisations, such as the BBC and CNN. The growing dominance of smart phones, tablets, and the wireless networks that connects them, mean that more and more people are viewing media on a digital device.
A report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford in 2015 found that the internet and TV are the most common way to access news, while social media is rocketing as a news source.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, British newspaper The Sun’s print readership has fallen from 3,006,565 (2010) to 1,787,096 in today’s market. In this example of social media’s reach perhaps what we should focus on is not the extent of such a decrease in circulation, but rather that people are still buying The Sun, and newspapers in general, suggesting that print is still very much alive and kicking.
Two sides of the news cycle
Many people argue that print will never truly be eradicated because it offers readers a completely different experience to social media. When you purchase a newspaper it’s yours forever, you’re free to collect, hoard and share it as you see fit. Furthermore readers gain a sensory experience with newspapers and studies have shown that we retain knowledge and experiences better through physical interaction.
Although newspapers contain adverts they’re easier on the eyes as ads aren’t continuously popping up on the already cramped screen of your smartphone. In newspapers news is also presented clearly according to news importance. Page one to six is where readers can find the most important news stories while features and sports results are found towards the back of the paper.
However, newspapers cannot keep up with the 24 hours news cycle and breaking news in the way social media does. Nor can it offer instant features, infographics, visuals, videos and public opinion in the way social media does from the Twittersphere, meaning its readership is limited.
In contrast social media offers a new level of interactivity and discussion as well as an audience with anyone who uses a social media platform. With social media you get readership feedback, user generated content, and social sharing as well as a means to read breaking news on the go in a world that doesn’t stop moving.
One thing print media trumps social media on is credibility as with social media, anyone has the potential to be heard. This allows people to share their ideas on a global scale, but can also lead to a loss of credibility if the writer is not considered an expert. Additionally some may be unaware that copying the words of someone who is not an expert is plagiarism. This highlights how popularity does not necessarily mean credibility.
A golden age of news
Steve Harrison, an academic in social media journalism at Liverpool John Moores University, believes the issue of social media vs print is a huge topic that often overlooks how, in general, social media is used to share news but not to originate it.
He said: “If it wasn’t for print media, there would be no news to share! Social media is a stronger platform for the distribution of news –it’s cheaper, quicker and has a greater reach than print- but print media is stronger for the creation of news content, it is where the majority of news stories are originated, researched and written.”
Mr Harrison believes the new challenge for print media to stay alive is determining how to make money when many advertisers are focused on online advertising.
He said: “Most news organisations will make use of social media in order to get their content shared but of course they don’t own these platforms so don’t make any money out of them. The future of news organisations may eventually be like that of the Independent – to switch to an online-only version. This will cut costs but whether this will generate enough revenue remains to be seen. However, I do think print newspapers will be around for some time yet.”
In the battle of social media vs print media there may not be a majority winner, as both news platforms are still sought after by the public and together have arguably created a new golden era of news.
What do you think? What influence has social media had on news? Have your say in the comments section below.