Last week John Oliver (HBO) made a plea for real journalism as he sees a trend in the media landscape. As all media, including newspapers, are gradually (and sometimes drastically) embracing social media, it has become clear that revenue targets are focusing on clickability and visual content. Is that statement an exaggeration or close to reality? Is a medium like a newspaper indeed shifting from real journalism to ‘light’ journalism?
The digital revolution
It’s an unmistakable fact that social media have changed the way we experience ‘digital’. Only 10 years ago, who would have thought that media like Facebook would conquer the world or have an impact on how news is consumed or shared? Who would have thought that companies were to adopt a social media strategy to keep or grow their readership? Same goes for media like Instagram or Twitter. That very readership has shifted from subscription-based to shopping-based, hopping from one news provider to the other, shopping for content that appeals to that specific reader. Like. Share.
The classic subscription formula expanded to also offer a digital subscription, but still, in spite of that, newspapers lose subscriptions. To anticipate to that, many online newspapers also show ads. The content shopper gets to see free content, but also some ads. Adblockers however forced newspapers to look into different strategies.
Shift to paid content
Some newspapers offer ad free content, if the visitor is willing to pay for that. Others choose to provide a healthy mix of free journalistic and paid content. Paid content is about specific insights, columns, analyses, interviews, etc. The added value seeker most likely finds additional content there, if he is willing to pay for it. Nevertheless, the ‘puppy’ images or the viral video is not always very far away, depending on the audience the newspaper is targeting. Based on specific traffic analysis and amount of clicks, they may decide on what content should get what spot on the home page. Media publishers constantly look for ways to keep newspapers afloat, consequentially steering coverage to what sometimes may have less journalistic value.
Targeting the right audience
Despite all that there is no reason to panic. Newspapers have always had a tradition of picking content for a specific audience. Those looking for more human interest articles, linked to what’s buzzing on social media will most likely find a newspaper that pays specific or more attention to those topics. Those looking for added value, specific insights leaning to the global or local news items will surely also find a proper newspaper.
Are we shifting to paid journalism? Most likely, depending on the content. Will the newspaper as a medium change, knowing that many social media also provide newsfeed services? We will see what the future will hold.