What print news can learn from social media geeks

11 Nov

print newspapers are not dying

The day printed newspapers were created, they’ve been dying. Beginning in the early 1700s, newspapers in America began competing with each other. Often one newspaper would be circulated in the morning and the competitor would circulate evening news.

Later, newspapers would compete with radio and then with television. Nightly news anchors would deliver the day’s news before newspapers would be circulated the next morning.

Printed newspapers have never been able to keep up with breaking news. But they were still one of the most trusted places to get your news. And because of this, newspapers never learned how to adapt.

Fifteen years ago, many of us in journalism were giving up our pica poles, floppy disks and proportion wheels. Digital media was beginning to rear its ugly head and “The Internet” became a dirty word.

There are journalists and publishers who cannot accept the fact that the Internet has became today’s medium for breaking, local and national news. In fact, many small business owners are still struggling with how to use the Internet to advertise their company.

Those newspapers have gone out of print or are close to doing so.

What many old-school publishers don’t realize is that there is still a place for journalists in today’s digital media. Recent college graduates can tell you the convergence of all types of mediums are necessary in order to keep journalism alive. Today, reporters must know how to write copy for print, television and radio. YouTube and Facebook have become some of the best tools for newspapers that give breaking news online.

The trick to keeping newspapers alive is to realize two things: the Internet is not your enemy and your reporter is your brand.

The Internet has given us a way to update our readers instantly when there is a traffic accident they should avoid or when a flood is imminent.  Our Internet readers are looking for quick updates and breaking news, and that’s what we give them.

Print newspapers give reporters the chance to go in-depth and talk about upcoming news.  This works well for those who want to sit down and put some thought into the story. Print newspapers are still key when it comes to informative news and great photo layout. Print newspapers still drive the most consumers to local businesses when marketed correctly. (As a side note, there is a trick to keeping readers without making them pay for your online content. Unless you’re as big as the New York Times, paywalls are a very bad idea for print newspapers.)

Social media gives readers the chance to become part of the story and interact with reporters in a way they never could before.

In the early days of the Internet when newspapers began going online and readers were able to comment on stories, editors made it clear that reporters were never allowed to respond to reader’s comments. Doing so was a clear violation of most newspaper’s policies. You were allowed only to correct a fact or error; you were not allowed to have an opinion.

That, however, is not what readers have asked for. Yes, they want unbiased news, but they want it from a real person they can trust.

Roland Martin has over 90,000 Facebook followers and nearly 80,000 Twitter followers. He’s an analyst for TV One and CNN. Roland has learned that he IS the brand. Those who follow Roland trust him not just because of his intelligence and political know-how, but also because they can connect with him and ask him questions. You may be halfway across the world and know zero about politics, but ask him a question on Twitter and he just might answer you. Plus, it is harder to swear at him when you disagree with his politics because he often uses a profile picture of a child – presumably his own.

Prior to social media, the brand was the newspaper, radio show or TV station. Now you find reporters personal Twitter accounts at the bottom of their articles. The brand is the reporter, talk show host or news anchor.

Print newspapers, radio and television will always have their place. But unless publishers learn to use the Internet and social media as an additional tool for reporting, they will soon find themselves irrelevant in today’s changing world.

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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in In Jen's Opinion


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