The Web Has Changed News Forever

The web changes news forever. News production and consumption have been affected because of the web and new technologies. Professional communicators must reconsider how they issue news, how they keep track of it and most importantly how they engage with their audience. Communication is no longer a one-way system, consumers are no longer data dumps for news outlets. People have opinions, voices, and they want to be heard.

 

How New Media Differs from Old Media

“We’re in the midst of a communications upheaval” (Brown 2009)

Traditional-Vs-Digital-Marketing
Image Credits: Techgoo.net

 

Brown (2009) suggests that new media is far richer and more complex than traditional media which provides platforms for traditional media to add their content to and reach a larger and different audience. New Media is a platform for frequent updates and engagement with audiences. Old media was a one-way communication of news dissemination. Grunig (2009) agrees with Brown stating the internet has empowered key publics in a revolutionary way. He continues to say people are less constrained by information provided by traditional media or by information given by organisations through the media. He adds that when new media was first introduced, it was used incorrectly; it was used in the same way old media was used, like television was used like radio was. People were reading words instead of utilising the visual aids available to them.

 

We Want It and We Want It Now                          

Traditional Media lacks immediacy ( Rusell Powell 2009 cited in Grunig 2009) while new media has made news generation almost instantaneous, an interview with Eoin English of the Irish Examiner has revealed. Robert McNamara of the Cork Evening Echo was also interviewed and reported that “getting news first has become more important than getting it right” which has led to a decrease in reporting standards across some social media platforms

The internet and social media means that waiting for information and news is a thing of the past. If a webpage or social media app takes too long to load or navigate, we close it down and move on to the next option. It’s quite the same for organisations too. They have news and want to tell us now, especially before the next big thing steals their moment in the limelight. In light of this, the humble press release may not be the best option anymore.

Brown (2009) suggests a new press release: the social media release. This is essentially a press release, but is used on social media. It can be used instead of a press release or in conjunction with it. The social media release allows consumers to receive information in an interesting way while allowing organisations release information in a timely manner. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) implied a similar theory  but insists the infographic is the new press release, as the majority of the population are visual learners. A study conducted in the Institute of Technology, Tralee dictated that 40% of its surveyed population were visual learners with the remaining 60% divided among the other learning styles: kinesthetic or a combination of the other four senses (Burton et al.2007). The National Learning Network (2012) states visual learners learn best by seeing information in many colours, formats, images, pictures, diagrams and charts. A visual representation of an organisations information may lead to stronger recall traits of within their audience.

Embargos still exists despite new media but in a different way. Instead of the traditional embargo, we place one ourselves through scheduling apps like Hootsuite. The main exception here is that you can adjust the release date and time, if needed.

Content is King and We, Are the Kings

https://pixabay.com/en/content-is-king-online-marketing-1132259/
Photo from https://pixabay.com/en/content-is-king-online-marketing

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) declares “we are all content curators” while Grunig (2009) adds “anyone can now be a journalist”. English states “everyone has a camera in their pocket (on their smartphone), and can publish their own content online through various platforms, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.” The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines content curators as “the process of analysing and sorting web content and presenting it in a meaningful and organised way around a specific theme.” (Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009

New Media has introduced a sense of inflated sense of self important that was absent in traditional media. We believe we are the ones to capture and break the news on social media and why not? We have the skills and capabilities to do so.

Blogging can quite easily be thought of as a form of journalism but it isn’t. They have similar characteristics like writing about themes and telling stories but there’s a crucial difference, credibility (Brown 2009). Published journalists are successful because of their credibility Their work is moderated and checked before hitting the shelves and their sources must be accurate. There is no such control system with bloggers and blogging, no editors or publishers to moderate the content.

The Impact Web has had on Traditional Media

“Consumers watch what they want, not what they’re fed” (Rob Brown 2009)

There’s no denying that web has made a significant impact on traditional media. McNamara suggests the practice of journalism is changing but”print will remain a niche product and not die out”. McNamara feels that there is a new wave of journalism coming that will require journalists to be in a story through several different mediums like text and video all a once.

Television needed to adapt quickly to compete with other information sources like laptops and phones. Brown (2009) argues that television had to adjust to allow customers be more flexible. We choose what we want to watch and when, whereas traditional media controlled that for us. Improvements in technology now allows us to pause, rewind and record our T.V programmes so by the time we get around to catching up, it’s yesterday’s news. How traditional has combated this is by using hashtags on Twitter. Dual viewership is a popular thing where people watch and tweet simultaneously. They encourage people to tweet the shock moments as they happen and engage in live debate (Brown 2009)

Radio has also suffered because of the web. Although it remains popular, it seems people just don’t have the time or they just don’t chose to listen to it. We can watch television instead, browse the internet for our news or just listen to music.  Brown (2009)  states that radio has become podcast. This is predominately to allow for flexibility. It is now customary  for radio talk shows such as morning talk shows to record and upload as podcasts that day. As well as the flexibility element, podcasts are cheap and easy to produce and some people may opt for a podcast over a radio show as their first choice.

New media’s influence on our news cycles and consumption

“It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure” Clay Shirky (Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009)

It’s no surprise that when and where we consumer our news has changed. We have a lot more power over when we choose to consumer and what exactly we consume, but sometimes it’s quite possible we have no control over it at all.

 Who’s really in control?

Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) suggests that digital culture is a filter

news
Image credits: koreabizwire.com

culture implying everything we see online has been filtered either by ourselves to our own tastes or by an external source but Clay Shirky ( cited in Chartered Institute of Public Relations 2009) argues that it isn’t the vast amount of information that overwhelms us, it’s the inability to filter. This statement remains quite true but we have found means and ways to control our news consumption either by self imposed filters or external ones.

 

Self-imposed filters allow us take control of the news we consume and can be found all over social media including Facebook and Twitter. Facebook allows us to block news source we don’t wish to see and favourite those we do. Twitter is similar as we can enable push notifications on certain accounts and block others. Twitter also allows us to customise what we see every day by composing lists compiled of a person’s preferred news sources all in one feed.

Another self-imposed filter are word filters, mostly used to avoid spoilers of popular T.V shows. In this way, we can filter what news reaches us and what we chose to avoid. This can be quite problematic for public relations and journalists.

External filters are those imposed upon us like Facebook’s news algorithm. Constine (2016) explains in an article on Techcrunch that the more a user interacts with an author’s post the higher the likelihood of wanting to see more of their content in the future. Presently, it can be summed as sources you frequently interact with have a higher chance of being seen organically in your news feed.

Wake up, check phone, repeat

McNamara of the Cork Evening Echo proposes that the web has created a 24 hour news cycle. English of the Irish Examiner offered a similar thought adding that it has made news production and consumption a 24 hour process.

Our news consumption cycles have changed. Drastically. No longer are the days where we waited till morning to hear what was new with the world. We are no longer glued to T.V screens or sitting next to radios to keep up with current affairs. Now it’s all within our hand.

I recently attended an event about turning likes into customers where Eoin Kennedy of Zone Digital spoke about the impact mobile was having on consumers and retailers. He stated phones have moved from our ears to our hands. We no longer use mobile phones as actual phones but as mini computers, where news from all over the world is just at the touch of a button.

Hern (2005) reported in The Gaurdian “smartphones are the third most popular way of accessing the internet while two thirds of adults own a smartphone”. News is mobile, like us. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2009) suggests that there is a need for media and news organisations to be more flexible for consumers. We no longer sit down with a coffee reading the daily newspaper but instead opt for scrolling with our thumbs while we adjust to being awake.

Below is a video about the impact twitter has had on journalism, addressing the changing new cycles,production and consumption.

The Implications for Professional Communicators

“If the social media are used to their full potential, I believe they will inexorably make public relations practice more global, strategic, two-way and interactive, symmetrical or dialogical and socially responsible.” (Grunig 2009)

Public Relations used to be an asymmetric, one way communications system,but now it’s vital to engage with and respond your audience.

Brown (2009) suggests a major challenge for the public relations industry is the fragmentation of media. There is an increased number of news channels to choose from to disseminate news and to find it. The web gives us access to news all over the world, and with media fragmentation it means professional communicators need to be creative with how to reach people because of much narrower targeting.

Brown also suggests relinquishing control as a big implication for the public relations industry. News is no longer reported by the journalist as previously explored, but by the ordinary person. PR Professional needs to extend their contacts beyond journalists to ensure maximum reach which includes media relations with social media influencers also.

Social media is quickly becoming a core channel for communications professionals to use for disseminating information. Gillen et al. (2008) conducted a research study, New Media, New Influencers and Implications for Public Relations and reported social media tools are becoming more valuable to public relations activities adding some people surveyed suggest social media is a core element of their communications strategy.

One of the most difficult implications for professional communicators is delivering on the need for instantaneous
communication. The pressure and workload increases as the communicator is expected to be a jack of all trades and deliver quality writing, photographs and video as well and optimising online content (Robert McNamara).

The web really has changed news forever and the only way to keep up with it is to continuously scan the environment of which you’re in and learn and develop skills on a regular basis.

jack of all trades
Image credits: Lifehacker.com

 

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Is Stealing Property Okay? Are Hackers Heroes?

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Photo by Jason Csizmadi

Hackers were once looked upon as creative, fun and would you believe it, innocent as researched in my previous blog ‘Hacking: The Art of Trickery’. But now we view hackers as mischievous, self-righteous and sometimes criminal. Traditional hackers were once seen as unsung heroes but what about modern day ones?

Hackers Vs Crackers

The above documentary shows clips from the likes of Steve Wozniak (founder of Apple) discuss what being a hacker is. Their perception of a hacker was somebody that “hacked at a keyboard” until the programme functioned as they wanted it to. People that used those skills for illegal purposes to ‘crack’ a system were called ‘crackers’ like anonymous which represent today’s perception of a hacker.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a hacker as  “a person who uses computers to gain unauthorised access to data. In the contrary, they also give an informal definition of a hacker as “an enthusiastic and skillful computer programmer or user” which is more in-line with what traditional hackers were.

The above video ‘Hackers-Wizards of the electronic Age’ suggests traditional hackers hacked for the love of it. They want to explore, create and share their interests and discoveries in order to help the community. They believed in open source software that allowed users have control over the programme. Hacking was an obsessive hobby that traditional hackers wanted to share with everybody. Traditional hackers who shared this idea shared the four freedoms as suggested by Richard M Stallman below.

Stallman suggests Freedom 0 allows users to use the programme as they wish to work on a project. Freedom 1 dictates the ability to study the work in the best way possible, be it studying the source code or changing it. Stallman suggests that the two above freedoms allow individual people to adapt the software to their needs but individual control alone is not sufficient. Freedom 3 suggests individuals need the freedom to redistribute exact copies with freedom 4 allowing users to redistribute modified versions to allow for group co-operation.  Stallman argues that traditional hackers operated on freedom 4, sharing their findings and programmes with the wider community to learn and benefit from. Are traditional hackers heroic for sharing discoveries with the community? Should information be free and accessible to everybody in order to learn, grow and develop?

Popular hacking group ‘Anonymous’ seem to think so. Anonymous initially started out  as ‘trolls’ which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as “people that intentionally leave annoying messages on the internet in order to get attention or cause trouble.” In recent years, they have grown into a larger organisation with hidden IP addresses and faces covered by Guy Fawkes masks as portrayed in ‘V for Vendetta‘. Their values are not quite clear but they have seemed to grow into an activists organisation fighting for moral causes. Does this make them heroic?

Who are the Real Heroes?

Both traditional hackers like Richard M Stallman and modern day hackers like Anonymous are heroic in their own ways.  Traditional hackers promote open source programmes to allow people learn and develop their own programmes (Hackers-Wizards of the electronic Age).  A lot of programmes we have today wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for the hacking pioneers of the web world like Steve Wozniak and Apple. They were the heroes behind today’s inventions.

If I was to directly compare the traditional sense of what a hacker is to modern-day hacking groups like Anonymous, modern hacking groups must be villainous. They seem to be power hungry and self-serving. According to their activity in recent years, it seems their values have shifted from trolling to fighting for moral causes.

anon
Screenshot from above video by Mashable

Anonymous now seem to work to expose corruption and help fight the injustices of the world. A lot of projects they participate is are illegal like stealing confidential information (Dailymail). But when they vow to fight the likes of ISIS (Mirror.co.uk), can we really condemn them for trying to help the world? It’s clear they’re not helping the world like traditional hackers did with open sharing of code, but they are sharing something, and helping someone.

It seems society has altered what’s acceptable in our minds. In the past, hacking to steal private information was frowned upon by most everybody, but if it’s for the greater good, is it all that bad? Are Anonymous the heroes we initially didn’t want, but now need?