According to a US Census Bureau survey, print media has seen a significant decline in the last 20 years. Newspaper revenues declined by 52% and periodicals by more than 40%. To provide a better idea of the impact of this decline, 55.8 million newspapers were distributed every day in 2000. By 2020, the number had dropped to just over 24 million.
It is not that people are no longer interested in the news. They still consume it, but they would rather go online where they can get it for free. Why pay for a newspaper when you can click on a link for nothing and get the news of the day? Digital media has taken over.
This shift has forced journalists to rethink their craft. They can no longer operate as they did 20 or 30 years ago. To be competitive, they have had to adapt to the almost outrageous pace of digital media. They must be there when the news is happening, and they must publish before anyone else. Today, the first person to break a story online is the one who gets the most readers. The others have to play a game of catch-up.
Businesses have also been impacted by the shift from print to digital media. In the past, businesses, big and small, paid a premium to place their ads in newspapers and magazines. Not anymore. Their marketing budgets are now directed at online sites that have a wide readership. The space has become extremely competitive because online space is cheap.
Back in the day, small businesses could not advertise because they could not afford it. The internet has leveled the playing field somewhat, and almost everyone can afford to place an online ad. For a business to get a good return on investment on their marketing budget, they have to aim their advertising at the right segment and choose sites that attract their preferred customers.
Today’s journalism students must understand the intersection of business and digital media. They must learn how digital media affects business, and vice versa. One way to do that is to enroll in a Digital Journalism Master’s Degree, such as the program offered by St. Bonaventure University. The course teaches students how to incorporate digital news into journalism and how to report news in real-time via social media. They learn how to analyze data and understand user behavior as well as how to develop and execute major journalism projects. They also learn how to build their brand as a journalist.
If this course sounds like a good way to boost a journalism career, one needs to first familiarize themselves with some of the issues around journalism and digital media. Keep reading to find out the impact of digital journalism on business and what one can do to become a digital-savvy journalist.
How digital journalism is changing business
Trends inform people what is happening now and how it is likely to affect the future. Keeping an eye on current trends allows a journalist to stay ahead because they can change with the times. Below are some of the important trends in digital journalism, and how they affect business.
Everyone is a journalist
Many online stories are not reported by journalists. They are reported by whoever was there, had a camera, and thought to record and upload.
The rise of the citizen journalist has changed how news is reported. Journalists are often playing catch-up. When they do catch up, they must report their story in such a way that it is more compelling than whatever was reported by the citizen journalist.
How does this affect businesses? It can have a significant impact, especially because in many cases, people hardly report the good — it does not get much attention. Negative stories, however, have a much bigger pull, and people know it. If something bad happens, there is every chance it becomes a news item that people pay attention to.
Businesses must be careful to always do the right thing. All stakeholders must be aware of the business brand and make sure it is well represented.
A business can have a six-figure marketing budget, but if a negative event connected with them is reported in digital media, that budget is virtually useless. Rather than use it to reach out to customers, the business will likely direct it towards repairing the damage done by the negative online press.
There are numerous examples of everyday people publishing online stories about bad businesses practice. They range from stories about false product claims, to poor working conditions, to sexual harassment of employees. Businesses must be aware that whatever they do, wherever they are, there is a chance that someone — not necessarily a professional journalist — may report it online.
Not very long ago, businesses kept a close eye on what was reported about them. They crafted carefully worded press releases for magazines and newspapers, and the public had no way to verify that what they said was the truth. That has changed. Businesses are no longer the gatekeepers of what is reported online.
If a company is using materials that are grown using forced labor in China, or children in Bangladesh are sewing sweatshirts for an American apparel business, anyone can report it, and the company has no way to stop what is written or recorded online.
The backlash can be severe. Consumers boycott companies at the drop of a hat. They are the judge and jury. They do not wait until a story is proven or disproved. As soon as a negative story airs, sales can suffer an impact right away.
Changed revenue model
When print media ruled, revenue models for newspaper and magazine companies were straightforward. The business made money if they sold ad space.
Things are a little different now, and many digital media companies rely on subscription models. The New York Times, for example, is now a subscription paper. Those who want to read it pay a monthly fee that allows them access.
Journalists must look for the sorts of stories that subscribers want to see. The average reader of the New York Times does not care for tabloid material. They want to see serious analysis, op-eds and features. Journalists who write the sorts of stories that their readers are looking for help their companies make money.
Short news vs. slow news
The world moves along at an amazing pace. A great story can break, generate plenty of interest from readers around the world, and then be gone in a few hours, having been replaced by something even more interesting.
There is an ongoing battle between short news and slow news, and a good journalist must learn to distinguish between the two. A Digital Journalism Master’s Degree may teach some of the differences, but when a journalist gets into reporting, they must learn to recognize the sorts of stories that fade fast and those that stick around.
Journalists must also learn how to report on both formats. For businesses, it is important to understand the difference between these two types of stories. If a story promotes its brand, it should be a slow news story that keeps readers engaged for a while. On the other hand, a bad news story must exit the news cycle as fast as possible.
Social media is likely to lose traction in the coming years
It is the opinion of many that social media, as a source of news stories, is on the wane. Traditional journalism is making a comeback, and people are looking for long-format, well-researched stories.
For both businesses and journalists, this is significant. Journalists, who have been jostling to get the attention of social media users, may find themselves going back to the old format of reporting.
For businesses, it will not be enough to put out snippets here and there. They must seek in-depth media coverage that talks about who they are, what they do, and what they are doing about issues that matter to the reader.
Artificial intelligence is here
ChatGPT and other similar apps have many businesses unsure of their next steps. What role will it play in how businesses are perceived by consumers?
Journalists, too, are worried about how artificial intelligence (AI) will affect how they work. One thing they are sure about is that it will play a significant role in spreading fake news. No one is sure how AI is going to affect their particular industry, but the uncertainty is felt.
IT companies are laying off employees by the hundreds, hoping that they can replace them with artificial systems. Will it work? We do not know — it is a game of wait-and-see for both digital media reporting and businesses.
Podcasts are changing the landscape
Podcasts are changing the way people consume information. They have two advantages over other forms of media. They can be consumed on the go, and they go in-depth, providing details that consumers cannot get by watching the news or listening to the radio on their way to work.
Smart businesses have realized this, and they are using podcasts to talk about who they are, their products, and their contribution to important topics like the environment, safe working conditions for workers and sustainability in business.
Smart journalists have also realized that they can take their careers a little further if they know how to report in podcast format. They not only have to be excellent communicators who can report in long format, but they must also be interesting and investigative, putting together the sort of information that users are looking for.
The growing importance of data journalism
More and more, people want to see data. It is not enough for a business to publish a short blurb talking about how popular its products are. Readers want this sort of information to be backed by data and proof that what the report purports is true.
This trend may have risen from concerns about fake news. Just because someone publishes something online does not mean it is true. It must be backed up with facts and figures and the reporter should be prepared to defend their claims if questioned.
Journalists who stand out are those who seek out business stories that can be verified. At the same time, transparent businesses are more likely to stand out in the news and be noticed by consumers.
Fake news and fact-checking
Any business can be a victim of fake news. If a competitor decides to publish lies about a business or product, they will spread in seconds and can have dire consequences.
Businesses must be very careful about what information they put out on the internet. A comment by a CEO can have serious consequences. A simple tweet can be dissected hundreds of times, bringing negative attention to a business that affects sales for a long time to come.
Fake news has made work for reporters even more complicated. Everything they write about must be fact-checked. Most publishing houses now have large teams of fact-checkers, people who are employed for the sole purpose of making sure that everything that is put out to the public can be backed up by data and facts.
Everything happens in real-time
Gone are the days of 24-hour new cycles. Today’s news moves faster than that. It is reported in real-time. If it is happening, someone is talking about it online. Journalists must always have their ears to the ground. If they hesitate, someone else publishes first, and they lose online traction.
Businesses have to keep up the pace. Yesterday’s stories do not matter today. To keep a brand alive through digital media, they must look for new, interesting content that gets the reader’s attention. If they stay for too long with the same story, users lose interest in their brand and this impacts their sales.
The speed at which news is reported also means that it has become more difficult for businesses to get ahead of bad press. If a customer has a bad experience, they can go online and report it before headquarters realizes there is a problem. All that is left is for the business to try and repair whatever negativity has been created by the report.
How to become an outstanding digital journalist
The first thing employers will want to see is a qualification from a reputable college. A Digital Journalism Master’s Degree will give journalists an edge and help them get employment. However, to stay at the top of the profession there are certain things one can do:
Learn to spot the story before others do
Digital journalism is a competitive area. Before they know it, a citizen can beat a journalist to a breaking story and publish it before they do.
To stand out, journalists must learn to spot a developing story so that they are the first to publish it. Their editor will love them and they will have plenty of online readers.
Some journalists have sources in different places to tell them when something interesting happens on the ground. It is a smart strategy because it means they can be the first to break a story.
Understand how digital journalism works
One cannot hope to be a good online journalist if they do not understand the ins and outs of online reporting. They should know how to use social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
They must have an excellent online profile on different platforms, and it helps to have a blog. The more followers one has, the more credible they are as a digital journalist.
Journalists are often torn between building a personal brand and helping build that of their employer. They can do both. They can get followers while making sure that their employer gets their due recognition. One way to do this is to create a blog that analyzes current affairs and has users talking.
Develop contacts in the business world
Those who are keen to be an online business reporter should have people on the ground who can inform them of interesting stories before they break.
A business analyst, for example, is a good contact to have. One should also have a contact who keeps an eye on investments, banks and other financial institutions, Silicon Valley, the stock market and real estate. If journalists are covered on all fronts, they will be sure to have something interesting to write about every day.
Know how to write for a segment
Journalists will be taught different communication styles in the course of their training. They must know how to communicate with different segments of readers to achieve success.
The way journalists communicate to young people about business is not the same way they would communicate the same thing to their parents or grandparents. Understanding their language allows them to deliver stories that people want to read.
Digital journalism is critical for business. Everything happens online now, and businesses that have positive online stories gain visibility. One can become a digital journalist by pursuing the right degree course. Enrolling in a reputable institution that provides support to its students is a good way to start forging a successful career in this industry.