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So digital has shaken up the publishing world. Major magazine’s have folded, newspapers are dying out, and journalists are scrambling to find something that resembles job security. But how, exactly, is digital different from traditional?

This is the question that has caused so many journalists and editors so many headaches. After all, the news and stories haven’t changed, right? Just the medium, right?

a picture of a messy desk

by gudmd.haralds on Flickr

Well, not really. With a digital publication, the writers write and the editors make sure that what is written will appeal to the audience. In a way this hasn’t changed, but the relationship between the two has. Editors no longer have to rely on their own stable of authors. They can shop around. On the internet it is a very simple thing to link to another publication or to get permission from a freelancer to post his or her work (with payment, of course). And authors can get their work placed in a variety of websites and magazines. When I was working for the Phoenix Comicon I noticed a trend. More and more journalists didn’t say which magazine or newspaper they worked for. Rather they listed where their stories had appeared. I expect this trend will continue. Journalists turn freelance and editors become curators.

The traditional magazine or newspaper is also morphing. Before digital, magazines and newspapers each ran their own unique stories. No two articles were exactly the same and a battle existed to get exclusive content and be the first with a story. Now, even if you are first with a big story, it will be an hour or two before a competitor grabs it, too. Though getting a story first remains important, newspapers and magazines are now focusing on maintaining a consistency of topics and tone, according to Susan Currie Sivek in this article. They are becoming less a catalogue of content and more a brand where consumers can expect a to find the same presentation and general genre of content. The focus is shifting from the story to the brand. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is better.

a UPS truck

by zyphbear on Flickr

Lastly, before the Internet, a newspaper’s circulation territory was only as big as it could profitably deliver its product. With the Internet, this is no longer true. This is the key reason why the Boston Globe was able to expose the Catholic Church to world wide criticism in 2002 when it covered the trial of a priest pedophile. Not all Bostonians really cared about the woes of Catholics. But Catholics around the world sure did. Because the Globe was now easily available world-wide to anyone who spoke English, the message could be easily shared. Before the internet, sharing was too difficult and the base circulation too small.

So the Internet has, indeed, changed publishing. The relationship between the people who make publishing happen, the role of branding, and even the audience have all changed. Some things remain the same. It’s still a message being sent from one to many. But a lot is different, thanks to digital technology.

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.


Yes, you are that important. Well, at least you in aggregate. Just having the tools available to change the world won’t do much if the behaviors and habits aren’t in place to use them. Today’s content consumer not only has the tools but the behaviors to shape how digital media consumption and delivery will work in the years to come.

The two main behaviors that are affecting digital media’s place in our world are sharing and shopping around.

mail box with flowers

by kla4067 on Flickr

We Share Everything

We are share-happy, passing on restaurant reviews, news articles, comments on current events, and their our own insights with equal enthusiasm. I’d guess that sharing is on the rise and only going to get bigger.

Sharing has already had a tangible effect on the way digital media is consumed and used. Josh Catone tells of how sharing launched the Minneapolis/St Paul television station WCCO into celebrity. The station broke the news of a star NFL quarterback signing on with the Vikings with a Twitter post, before it even got the article up on the website. That day “WCCO” became a trending topic on Twitter. This only happens when people ReTweet or mention a subject a lot, thus sharing it. This fame helped the station to gain notoriety and build a reputation amongst Vikings fans, something important in the battle for attention. Clay Shirky, in his book Here Comes Everybody gives another example of the power of sharing: how the Boston Globe in 2002 published a string of articles about a Catholic priest’s pedophilia and forced the Catholic Church to reform. Of course, it wasn’t actually the Boston Globe. It was the hundreds of people it reached via sharing. Not everyone in Boston would care about this story. But Catholics around the world sure would, and did. Thanks to sharing and new forms of communication, people beyond the circulation boundaries of the Globe were able to communicate and organize themselves, spreading the news as they did so and giving the Globe a whole new audience to work with.

shopping bags held by a girl

by andrewarchy on Flickr

We Like to Shop Around for News Sources

The days of getting all your news from your local morning paper are long gone. People no longer have to sift through a bunch of filler to find the articles they want to read. Instead they are having that done automatically with news aggregators or a simple Google search.

This means that people are now getting their news from a variety of different sources. Sports from Yahoo, Politics from MSNBC, and society news from a list of cool bloggers. People are not going directly to websites anymore, they are going to RSS readers, link aggregators and social networks like Twitter. The articles can be thought of separately from the actual publisher because the reader isn’t going to that publisher, she is simply going to a cool story hosted on that publisher’s website. From there, the publisher may be able to rout the reader to something new on their website, but maybe not. As Clay Shirky points out in this talk, websites don’t have a front page because each page is a front page with the ability to grab and keep a reader’s attention. But because people are browsing multiple sources for stories rather than just a single newspaper, it is hard to get the consumer to click on the link and go to the website. The competition for that click is tougher because all the news sources are lined up next to each other with nothing but a brand name, short description, and a headline to work with. And worse, the newspapers don’t know who the potential readers are because much browsing is done on aggregator websites. It’s hard to target specific demographics without knowing who you are talking to.

The Future Will Look…

… different. My crystal ball gets bad reception, so I can’t predict how publishing will look in a few years, or even tomorrow. But, however it looks it will be shaped to accommodate sharing and aggregated browsing. I like to think that both sharing and aggregated browsing will meld, kind of like Digg or even StumbleUpon. It may even become a layer to a social networking site.

What do you think?

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.


Image of three coffee mugs that playfully make a sheep

by Little Hippo on Flickr

Many people have enjoyed the habit of waking up in the morning, grabbing the morning paper, settling down with coffee and cereal, and learning what happened to the world since the day before. I used to watch my mother go through this ritual daily. I never did.

The question isn’t how do we get young people to read newspapers. The question is – is it even possible to save the traditional newspaper or magazine?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Traditional print media, according to Clay Shirky in his article Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, relied on the fact that printing presses are expensive, thus limiting competition and creating positive returns to scale. The press is no longer expensive. It’s pretty dang cheap. It’s the Internet. As I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog, I’m using free Internet (well, included in my rent), and the free version of WordPress. Competition has just boomed, but the costs for traditional printing remain the same.

Beyond simple infrastructure, the institutional organization used by traditional print media is being challenged by a more fluid and agile structure – one without managers. As Shirky described in his book Here Comes Everybody, businesses and organizations pay a price to be so organized. So they can’t cover everything, like special interest pieces or all the little town hall meetings that might, though probably not, blow up into a big story. Considering the cost of covering such stories, the returns simply aren’t there. However, in this new digitized world there are free or cheap tools that allow groups to organize themselves, such as wikis or simply shared blogs and e-mail, without having a concentrated managerial layer. When the structural framework is digitized to this degree, the transaction costs are lower, allowing these new publishers to tackle more niche subjects – and reap the benefits traditional publishers can’t touch.

The way news is presented when it is digital is not analogous to a newspaper, either. Digital news is often accessed through news aggregators, who categorize based on subjects or categories. News is no longer bundled with a bunch of different topics, like finance and movies, sold to the same consumer, who may only want one. Putting all types of stories in a single paper makes sense when you have to balance printing costs. But it makes no sense when data is digital. People just switch to a source perceived as better for that type of news or pull it straight off of news aggregators.

Image of an iPad open to a blog post

by Yutaka Tsutano on Flickr

Finally, people approach digital content differently from printed content. They want it cheaper. Susan Currie Sivek pointed out that a study by the Reynolds Journalism Institute found that though users thought that reading magazine apps on their iPads was about the same as reading the traditional print versions or going to their computers, they would be more likely to purchase these apps if the prices were lower than the print version prices. People simply think digital material should be cheaper. The news institutions have to meet these price points or deal with more piracy.

The traditional printing industry simply can’t survive in a world where data is digital, both the institutional and the articles. The digital world simply has very little resemblance to the traditional marketplace they were created to serve. This is not to say the institutions can’t adapt to this new world, but they won’t look the same as they do now.

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.


Image of a newspaper vending machine
by laffy4k on Flickr

We all know that traditional media, particularly print, is looking rather sickly. I won’t list all the examples. I’m sure you know a few.

Rather, I want to list the reasons. I want to ask the question: “What disrupted the traditional media system and made it go bonkers?” Here are five digital disruptions that helped end the world of print media that we knew and (sometimes) loved.

  1. Sharing Because we can now share just about anything at the click of a button, the old model of paying for content went out the window. Of course some companies have taken to suing the people who do the sharing, calling it piracy, but they can’t sue enough people to persuade all the others to stop doing it. This was true in the beginning when sharing was via e-mail, and it’s doubly true now that sharing has become an integral part of our culture. In fact, Susan Currie Sivek describes how important sharing is to us. Apparently, when the new iPad magazine apps started coming out, one of the biggest complaints was that there was no easy way to share content. Allowing for sharing content may even be one of the reasons Flipboard had such an incredibly strong lunch. Not only did they let users share cool articles, they showcased the articles side-by-side with social commentary. When they launched they had to struggle to keep their servers up. The best worst case scenario.
  2. Aggregators And when people share, they often put it where lots of others can see it, on sites like Delicious and Digg. Or even certain Twitter feeds. Unfortunately for publishers, these aggregators allow people to skim headlines, get the gist of the news, and never actually visit the website. The publishers can’t claim these users for advertisers. They are, in a sense, wasted eyeballs. More than that, though, aggregators also throw the new breadth of competition into light. Suddenly users not only have a general idea of what the leading stories in different newspapers are, they see all sorts of topical stories lined up side-by-side. Competition goes from vague to very tangible as the story description or the headline either gets a reader or allows the other guy to get it.
  3. Lower Entry BarriersOf course, there is also more competition. Publishers used to have a monopoly on publishing because it cost a lot of money to run a printing press. Not any more. Heck, I’m publishing
    Stack of hundred dollar bills
    by AMagill on Flickr

    this right now and, as you may have noticed, I’m using the free version of WordPress. All I have to do is have Internet, and the local Library offers that for free, too. Suddenly, competition is potentially everyone with Internet access, which is not based on monetary investment, which the publishing companies still have to pay. And yes, much of what amateurs post is useless (except my posts, of course), but amateurs can also be a relevant news source, helping people stay up to date on hurricanes or spread political news.

  4. Advertiser Alternatives These new amateur publishers provide advertisers a host of new opportunities, from sponsored blogs posts and product placement to simply new places to stick ads. Advertisers also have the ability to post their own worthwhile content, like Kodak’s A Thousand Words. They can make games, post advertising to Facebook, even be on Facebook. Perhaps we are seeing the real value of advertising for the first time, as Clay Shirky suggests in this talk; advertisers pay a pittance to put an ad online versus what they pay to get one in a newspaper or magazine. What’s more, newspaper ads are not very targeted since the publications themselves are made to appeal to a very diverse group. Who would pay a premium for that when so many alternatives are available?
  5. Instantaneous The last major disruption is based on time. Suddenly the speed of everything is heightened. If a publisher wants to break a story, it has to move fast. Josh Catone gives us a great example of speedy news-breaking. TV station WCCO based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul broke the story of NFL star quarterback Mark Rosen’s move to the Minnesota Vikings on Twitter, even before they got an article up on their website. Because of this quick thinking, WCCO was able to triple their website audience and become a trending topic on Twitter. If a blogger had broken that story first, these gains would never have happened, but how many institutions do you know that can move that fast? The ability for news to fly on the internet is a major disruption to the way publishing has traditionally been done, including rigorous fact-checking.

 

So, do you have any other disruptions that digital has brought to the press media world? Share them in the comments!

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.

 

 


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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