In the last 48 hours, two articles that originated in ‘traditional’ media (aka the tortoise), but wound up being shared heavily in ‘social’ media circles (aka the hare), have been playing on my mind.
These two articles neatly sum up the real problems facing mass media, particularly newspapers.
The ironic part? Both articles were about trends ‘developing’ in social media.
Let me explain…
The offending articles
First up, The Guardian posed this question: Is Foursquare the next Twitter?
Talk about getting to the dance a little more than fashionably late.
This debate has been raging in social media circles for months.
Then the Daily Mail had a pop at chatroulette, making it out to be an immoral scandal (no surprises there), but again, that ship set sail weeks ago.
Unfortunately, both publications couldn’t have possibly broached either subject any earlier because it would have been ‘beyond’ their audiences (especially as most of their readers are still trying to get their heads around Twitter).
But it’s not the subject matter which is the problem.
It’s the antiquated notion of ‘audiences’.
Social media, on the other hand, has paved way for a totally bespoke form of news – shaped to suit each individual person’s needs and wants.
(Actually, a great example of this is paper.li – the online daily newspaper constructed from your Twitter stream – it is customized based on who you follow and what you are interested in – here’s my latest edition)
What can newspapers do?
Sadly, no matter which way you look at it, physical ‘papers’ don’t have many places to run.
They can’t be customized.
They can’t be personalized.
And they can’t be monetized.
Will iPads save the day?
Will quality journalism survive beyond all these changes?
Or will these outlets stop playing safe and get back to setting trends, instead of jumping on them six months late?
The media outlets that make ‘people’ the centre of their product, instead of ‘audiences’ will not only survive, but they’ll probably thrive.
If they don’t, we might be in the process of witnessing the first time the tortoise loses out to the hare…and then what do we do…re-write that?!?
Note: This post is part of my year-long series look at media consumption, based heavily around an experiment I’m conducting which involves not reading physical newspapers for 12 months – for more information about the experiment, click here.