A world without journalists…?!

Imagine all negative arguments about the future of journalism and the discussion of journalism being a dying profession turn into reality.

Imagine there are no mainstream news sites anymore.

No CNN, no BBC, no New York Times, no ABC.

Imagine everybody would get information solely through Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

Imagine everyone is a reporter.

Imagine there are no journalists.

Some social media fanatics and citizen journalism advocates may say: “Who cares? We can do the same and in some cases even better.”

I mean, given the emerging possibilities for ordinary citizens to be first hand reporters on the scene, uploading photos, videos and first-hand accounts of mainly breaking news events, often even far in advance from professional journalists, like also Chris Measures points out, one could seriously question the necessity for journalists in a lot of cases.

Anyone with a smartphone and a Twitter account can do it, right?

Take examples such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, Hurricane Katrina and also the Arab Spring. Here, ordinary citizens played key roles in distributing information and news content. Leaving professional journalists look obsolete while their gatekeeping function has been bypassed. Dhirahj Murthy discusses these developments in great detail in his recent book about Twitter.

Or if we take a look on social media consultant Joseph D. Lasica, who states in his article, that ordinary bloggers receive sometimes even more trust than mainstream news organisations because we know who they are, while mainstream news organisations are impersonal big institutions. While he refers to Mary Hodder, a product manager at Technorati, four reasons for trusting bloggers over reporters are highlighted.

These are:

  1. Bloggers are niche experts, who can have an in-depth knowledge of an issue in comparison to journalists, who try to get the whole world.
  2. Transparency in their motives, as they are open about their potential biases or angles when writing
  3. Transparency in their processes, as they always link to their sources in order to increase their own authority
  4. Forthrightness about mistakes, as bloggers do mistakes they often correct their posting and take responsibility, which is often not done by newspapers and TV news.

So does that mean that citizens have become the new provider of information?

And that journalists are only left to re-tell and analyse what has already been said?

Not exactly, I would say.

These claims are quite dramatic and highly questionable and I doubt that it would come that far.

Within this dystopian world, people would not be able to manage the vast amount of unfiltered and unchecked information.

Here, Hayes and his colleagues (2007) make a good point as they say that:

 “Information in and of itself is not necessarily valuable. Instead, the value of information derives from the values of those who create it.”

So while news content might already be out there before a professional journalist could cover it, the public still relies on the confirmation and reassurance of a credible source, such as a mainstream news organization. We can observe this also when we look on Twitter. In most of the cases, as Lasica also points out, people re-tweet news items through mainstream news organisation with a reputation for reliability. Also Hayes and colleagues (2007) conclude that the values of authenticity, accountability and autonomy, are still valid in today’s news world.

For a very detailed overview on today’s news world, you should take some time and watch this video of Nic Newman, presenting the latest results of Reuter’s Digital News Report 2013.

Bildschirmfoto 2013-11-01 um 15.54.52

But that does not mean that everything will stay the same. As van der Haak and colleagues sum up in their article about “networked journalism”, the roles of journalists have to change and adapt to this new environment.

While a lot has already been written about the changing roles of professional journalist in this digital era, what I don’t want to repeat, I think that Jeff Jarvis made a good point in his article on the Guardian’s website. He highlights the journalists’ new role “to link”. That means, besides curating and moderating what’s out there and utilizing citizens’ content, a crucial role for journalists will be to link to other information and facts around a specific topic, especially around breaking news events, which hasn’t been covered yet in that particular way; instead of just sending out the 100th reporter to a scene and covering what has already been covered.

By doing that, journalists are able to stand out again, he argues.

Quite a good thought, I guess. What do you think?

To sum up this issue, here’s a funny pic I found:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sources:

Hayes, AS, Singer, JB, and Ceppos, J 2007, ‘Shifting Roles, Enduring Values: The Credible Journalist in the Digital Age’, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol.22, no.4, pp. 262-279.


Social Media: Nothing new anymore?!

Social Media is old.

Not old in an “ancient-100-years-old” sense but it has already grown out of it’s infancy.

It’s not a fancy, new thing anymore.

Looking back, it all started in 1997; when the first social network, which could be really labelled as such, was launched. Sixdegrees.com was the first service to combine several features which previously existed rather as single features of different services, such as e.g. ICQ. In the following years a wave of other SNS followed (boyd & Ellison 2007).

Alongside a huge amount of niche SNS, primarily attracting homogenous groups of people, some big global SNS have set themselves apart. SNS, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on are nowadays very much integrated in people’s daily practice all over the world. An animated video by Grovo sums up quite well how we got here:

Bildschirmfoto 2013-11-01 um 14.12.11

I mean, who doesn’t check Facebook regularly? Maybe daily? Even hourly? Besides maybe one or two exceptions, I can be sure that I can reach my friends via Facebook (long live the mobile app!) as good as with a simple text message or a call. So it’s no surprise that Facebook is nowadays even more often used on a mobile device than on an actual computer. According to Luke Brown on Techradar.com, an average of 618 million people used the mobile page daily in December 2012. Considering that only 126 million users were reported in September of that same year, it’s a huge jump.

To continue with impressive numbers, based on recent social media statistics, there are worldwide:

1.11 billion Facebook users,

500 million Twitter users,

130 million Instagram users,

and 70 million Pinterest users.

Of course, you can’t deny that there’s still a huge amount of people, who are not that much into social networks, but as Generation Y and Z outgrow the previous generations, I assume that “being social online” will become widespread normality.

Especially Facebook, currently the world’s largest social media network, has a tremendous global relevance as SNS. A recent edition of World Maps of Social Networks shows that in June 2013 Facebook has been the dominant social network in almost all countries worldwide (127 of 137).

World Map of Facebook

However, I experience that the hype during the last years, which went through all areas of life, from personal practices, over to businesses entering Social Media, to new advertising opportunities, has settled a bit.

Facebook, the new Myspace?

While membership numbers of SNS have steadily increased within the last years, some kind of downward trend can be observed. Especially with regards to Facebook.  The Guardian, as well as a recent study of PEW Research, report a continuous decline in Facebook users. According to these sources, Facebook has lost almost 9 million monthly visitors in the US and 2 million in the UK. However, what I find even more striking, is the fact that also the time spent on the site is regressing.

So what does that show us? Will Facebook be the next Myspace?

Of course, there’s always a potential risk. I mean who hadn’t had a friend on Facebook, who then suddenly disappeared in one’s friendslist? …And by that I mean not because he unfriended you.

But generally, I would doubt that. A NBC article about recent results from the Nielsen Social Media Report showed that the overall time spent on social media has actually increased. In July 2012 for example, an average US citizen spent 6.5 hours on social media – daily!!!

However, the interesting thing about the results of the study is, in my view, that while we still spent most of our time on Facebook with rather stagnating monthly visitors (probably because it nearly has reached saturation…), other SNS, such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest gain more and more attention and time in our lives.

The need for more, or less?!

One main reason, which can be repeatedly found in current discussions about this shift towards other, smaller networks, is that we are never satisfied with what we have. I admit that this sounds quite philosophic but indeed, Juliette Garside from the Guardian, for example, also highlights in her article the boredom factor, which leads to the fact that people want to try new things instead of only surfing within the known mainstream areas. One interesting contribution regarding that point comes from social media analyst Bob Zhukis, who states that people generally behave goal directed and need a broader sense. That means, while the pleasure of broad networking on sites, such as Facebook, was fun for a while, people now increasingly look for other ways to engage; primarily on more purpose-driven smaller sites, such as e.g. Pinterest or Instagram.

Even the godfather of social networks, Mark Zuckerberg, recently made a statement within the May edition of the WIRED magazine, which I find quite revealing and noticeable:

“The big stuff that we’re seeing now is sharing with smaller groups.” 

Mark Zuckerberg, WIRED 2013

Additionally, he noticed that, for example, Instagram is a much smaller product than Facebook, but that “it’s a really meaningful product” as it entails the clear and single goal of sharing and liking photos. I, myself, really love Instagram and all the creative pics that are out there.

So what can we take out of this?

Social media may have grown out of its infancy, but there will always be something new.

Social media includes “social”, “social” always involves “people”, “people” are always inconsistent, striving for something new. Thus, I am sure there will always be “something new” about social media.

The next big (small) thing is just around the corner…

What do you think?

Here, you’ll find some other interesting thoughts on this topic:

Other sources:

boyd, d & Ellison, N 2007, ‘Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, pp. 210-230.


How a donut can help to understand Social Media

Nowadays, there’s simply a huge amount of social networks available. At the same time, new social platforms constantly pop up, which offer new or a new combination of features or characteristics – no wonder it’s sometimes hard to stay on top of things. Douglas Wray, however, visualized in a very simple, yet brilliant, manner the distinct features of each major social network on a whiteboard and posted a photo on it on Instagram.

How a donut helps to understand Social Media

(Source: instagram/douglaswray)

Of course, in reality, it is not that simple as features overlap and are similar across platforms. For example: Facebook is also heavily used for photo and video sharing while Instagram strongly relies on “likes”.

Anyway, the next time someone asks you what Linkedin is… show him this and eat a donut.


What happens Online in 60 seconds

An interesting and thought-provoking infographic by Qmee and  mycleveragency showing what happens within one average Internet minute in 2013.  Impressive, eh? No wonder we always find something new to look at instead of working or studying 😉

What happens online in 60 seconds


A little bird once told me: Twitter… and why I can’t really connect to it yet

twitter-bird

Twitter.    Everyone has heard about it.     Some know what it is.      A few use it regularly.

I don’t.

I mean not really.

Well, I have an account but that’s it.

All the time spent in the Twittersphere has been rather work for me than pleasure until now. I just can’t really connect to it yet. But I swear, I’ll keep on trying.

Okay let’s first see what Twitter really is.

Twitter is a social media service that allows people to connect in real-time to the latest news, opinions and topics. In fact, it’s about short data messages containing not more than 140 characters, which are distributed online by a variety of official and unofficial sources; that is from you and me, but also from big companies, such as BBC News, or celebrities, such as Justin Bieber (who btw leads the TOP 100 Twitter ranking in terms of followers).

It’s a micro-blogging service that has been described and analysed in various ways by scholars and non-scholars; especially, since it has become a major and important communication tool during crisis or other breaking news events, such as the Mumbai attacks, the Iranian election protests of 2009, or, very recently, the Boston Marathon Bombings. In addition, Techradar gives an interesting overview about 10 news stories that broke on Twitter first.

I clearly understand the noticeable significance of Twitter in these kind of circumstances as Twitter’s immediacy and ability to provide “news first” via witness accounts, photos, soundbites and immediate reactions to that extent can be evaluated as unique within today’s online world. Some scholars, such as Malone et al. (2009) refer to it as “collective intelligence”, which enables millions of people to communicate directly, sharing and discussing events.

I mean apparently a lot of people use it. A nice and compact infographic, 20 amazing Twitter stats,  gives us an impression how BIG it really is.

20-twitter-stats

But, for me personally, I don’t see the point yet, particularly beyond the case of breaking news events.

I don’t really know what to share and why?

Most of the things people share are not interesting to me.

Most companies use it as an advertising tool and I don’t want to be exposed to it.

It’s another time-consuming thing and I already have no time.

I admit that during breaking news, it can provide faster information, which could be interesting. But it then still lacks verification. So it’s rather an entertaining tool than really an informational tool, I would say. You can follow in real-time the process of making sense of the flow of information. I guess that’s cool, if you’re in for something like that. But in the end, I would I would still rely on (hopefully) verified information from big news organizations.

But maybe I haven’t understand it completely yet. So I probably should just throw me out there and try again.

References:

Malone, T. W, Laubacher, R & Dellarocas, C 2009, ‘Harnessing Crowds: mapping the genome of collective intelligence’, MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 4732-09, retrieved on 14.09.2013, from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1381502