Becoming Professional: A Blog

Five Digital Disruptions to Traditional Media

Posted on: May 9, 2011

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 ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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