The last decade or so has witnessed the irresistible rise of online media and it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is steadily encroaching into the area held by the traditional media. For centuries newspapers have been people’s main source of news and opinion, even the advent of the radio and the television couldn’t depose the printed media. However, that is all changing, the number of people who only become aware of the news via social networks and other online sources is rising rapidly; things are starting to look worrying for the old fashioned broadsheet.
A not insignificant reason for the shift in allegiances is the rise in the price of traditional media sources. Why are they doing this you ask? It is an attempt to combat the loss of market share to free online news sources and social media content. The threat is fairly substantial too; all social media sites, and most online news sources like the BBC, are free to users and provide the same news from a huge array of sources almost instantly. If you throw the current economic climate into the mix then traditional media is facing a fairly lethal concoction; and things don’t look like changing anytime soon.
By taking a quick look at Facebook, Twitter or even Google+ you’ll quickly realise that all the big hitters from the traditional media world have a noticeable online presence. The decision taken by newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian and The New York Times to make a concerted effort to cultivate an online presence on these social media sites illustrates the changing nature of media. Instead of social networks relying on coverage in printed media to be seen, the printed media is relying on these online sites to be heard.
Free speech has always been a principle that has been jealously guarded by Western society, the ability of the media to print what it wanted, without censorship, was seen as a hallmark of a civilised and free society. However, with countless court cases for libel and the super-injunctions imposed by the courts, the untouchable printing houses have gradually seen their ability to print what they want eroded.
Online, though, it is a different story; the internet is notoriously hard to regulate for Government agencies. The difficulties that the authorities face, especially from social media sites where a lot of content is user generated, has meant stories have been spread quickly around the world despite attempts to stop them. A notable example of the freedom experienced by social media is the Ryan Giggs fiasco a year ago. This saw the super-injunction imposed by UK courts bypassed first by John Hemming MP, then by hundreds of Twitter users. The authorities were helpless as the news spread across the internet being retweeted in its thousands. This rendered the super-injunction useless and cemented social, and digital, media’s place as bastions of free speech.
It has long been a criticism levelled at the youth of today, or of any generation really, that they’re ill-informed and ignorant of current events happening in their country and the world. But according to research 48% of young Americans find out about current affairs via Facebook; compare that to 52% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 who pick up a newspaper just once a month. It is becoming very clear that digital, and social media, are the go to options for the younger generation.
I’m aware that there are three kinds of lies, but these statistics are hard to argue against; 46% of Facebook’s 900million registered users are between 13 and 25. That’s over 400million people in the world using social media who will be running their respective nations in twenty years (bear in mind that these numbers are rising). If they consider these social media sites, and other online news sources, to be to be vital ways of staying in touch with current events then expect it to only get increase in importance. Whilst it is likely that traditional media will from a sharp decline in both sales and readership; unless of course they make some drastic changes.
So there we have it, if things continue on their current path then traditional media sources are going to be in trouble; although it would seem that the television sector will be unaffected. It is hard to envision anything that could really alter the course of the media’s future. Most other areas of society have embraced the digital revolution perhaps it is time that the traditional media stops dipping its toe in to the pool but dives in, head first. Obviously this is only my opinion, so I’d be happy to hear what you have to say on the ‘future of media’ in the comment section below!