The Future of Media in a Digital WorldBy Juliet Travis

With the rise of social media and digital information tools, it’s a nonstop struggle to stay on top of the latest trends and stay informed about the overall trajectory of the media industry.

The pace of change in the media industry seems to be accelerating now more than ever—affecting everything from how we get our news to how we interact with our favorite people, personalities, and brands.

The very concept of what makes a “news organization” and the lines between “news” and “content” or “media company” and “technology company” are in flux; and it’s up to PR professionals to understand the latest shifts in the media environment that affect all of us.

The Future of Media Panel

On October 13, I attended the event, “Journalism Disrupted, Journalism Reborn: The Future of Media in a Digital World” hosted by Weber Shandwick,that included a seriously impressive panel of experts—and perhaps most impressively, it was an all-women panel (one of the first times I’ve seen this in Silicon Valley).

The panel included:

  •  Moderator Vivian Schiller, executive editor-in-residence at Weber Shandwick, who was an early proponent of digital media as a former top executive at Twitter, NPR, the New York Times, and other organizations;
  • Connie Guglielmo, CNET news editor-in-chief;
  • Ann Grimes, Stanford professor and former Wall Street Journal San Francisco deputy bureau chief;
  • MC Wellons, CNBC’s San Francisco bureau chief; and
  • Caroline Fairchild, new economy editor at LinkedIn.

The future of media in a digital world topic is a hot one—and one that is constantly top of mind for journalists and PR experts, especially as just as we experienced a flurry of digital media news to include Twitter’s launch of “Moments”; the LinkedIn news around the revamp of its mobile app, which puts a greater emphasis on messaging; and the Reddit launch of “Upvoted,” its own original editorial content site.

The panel shared both strong opinions as well as valuable insights about where the news and media worlds are heading.

Distribution vs. Destination? Can’t Do Both

The future of media panel talked about the trend of news organizations becoming platforms and the implications for journalism, brands, and consumers.

For example, we’re seeing big shifts in the way that publishers distribute their content on digital platforms—such as the recent launch of the Apple News app, and the Washington Post becoming the first partner to publish 100 percent of its content on Facebook’s “Instant Articles” platform.

One of the future of media hot topics right now is “distribution vs. destination” and publishers are grappling with if they should just “distribute” their content to the widest possible audience by working with distribution partners or should they focus efforts and resources on making their own sites and platforms into more of a standalone destination by building their own audience.

Caroline Fairchild felt media companies have to choose between distribution and destination, stating

How can you be both a partner, platform and distribution? If you are not thinking about both product distribution as well as content you are not reaching the biggest audience.

BuzzFeed Gets Lots of Clicks…But People Still Wants Authentic News

The future of media panel buzz then switched to who else, but Buzzfeed. The blog/news outlet is not just about viral content, the company has invested heavily in original news content, with 140 out of 300 editorial staffers dedicated to news.

When asked which news organization is doing it right in today’s digital media climate, most of the panelists felt BuzzFeed was the clear leader, but other names came into the mix such as Nuzzel (a social news aggregator that lets people see the best news stories shared by their friends on Facebook and Twitter), and Medium, a social blogging site with an emphasis on community-building and high quality writing.

BuzzFeed might be better known as a source of viral videos, humorous assortments of GIFs, and headlines such as, “19 Breakfast Cereals that Only 90s Kids Remember,” but its aggressive move to do good news journalism is a powerful sign that even in a clickbait culture, online publishers still need good original editorial content. 

The Rise of Long-Form Storytelling

Moderator Vivian Schiller closed the lively discussion with a thought-provoking question:

In a crowded media environment where you don’t own the platform and you can’t control the audience, how do you achieve loyalty and business goals?

Connie Guglielmo cited how the recent announcement that Playboy will no longer publish nude photos is a sign of the growing importance of storytelling. Instead of focusing on images, Playboy has a chance to emphasize its high quality journalism content, such as its famous celebrity interviews.

Connie felt the announcement shows recognition that people crave storytelling with an in–depth, honest, and authentic voice, and that if you are using data to chase traffic, you’re lost.

As Connie said

If you are using analytics, you’re at risk of being ‘of the moment,’ so when it comes to media and journalism, it’s more about what you are talking about and who you are talking to. You have to have something behind all these gimmicks.

Perhaps the next “new thing” the future of media will be something that is actually very old: Long-form storytelling.

Even though many media critics have bemoaned the rise of data-driven clickbait content, every online publisher is trying to attract the long-term loyalty and interest of its audience.

Long-form storytelling, high-quality writing, well-sourced original news, and excellent editorial content haven’t gone out of style. Media fads come and go, but authentic voices and powerful human storytelling will always endure.

image credit: 123RF

Juliet Travis

Juliet Travis is the founder and principal of Travis Communications, a Bay Area-based digital communications PR agency. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Juliet holds nature near and dear to her heart. She has a great sense of adventure and loves a challenge. She has hiked the Alaska Range, following only a moose trail and dipnetted salmon in Chitina, Alaska—one of the more dangerous fishing trips she’s ever experienced! She spends several weeks each summer experiencing the almost 24 daylight hours and every winter celebrating the holidays back home in Fairbanks, weathering 20-30 below zero temperatures in near total darkness with the Northern Lights dancing overhead.

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