It’s no secret that traditional journalism has been struggling to stay viable in today’s digital, social media-obsessed world. Print media was the first to take a serious hit, but in the past several years, the foundational business model of quality journalism has been under threat by quick, sensationalist online only “news” providers with low overhead costs.
Little by little, technology tightened its grip on journalism, from online portals where unpaid bloggers had a platform to publish virtually anything they want, to transforming advertising with big data and targeted ads. Another way tech has changed journalism is by controlling the way users access news information, whether through search engines like Google or social media like Facebook.
Generally speaking, people loved the convenience that tech had brought to news and journalism (and, let’s be real, the confirmation bias of being targeted to only receive information you already agree with was very comfortable for most of us). But it was too good to be true, and it came back to bite us all in the form of the now infamous fake news.
The public’s opinion is swinging back in favor of traditional journalism worldwide. The Edelman Trust Barometer for this year reported that the number of people who say they trust journalism has risen from 54% to 59%, at the same time trust in social media sites decreased from 53% to 51%.
This change in public perception of news media has already impacted the way tech media are doing business. For example, Facebook has decided to try to combat fake news from unreliable sources by asking users to rank sources by trustworthiness. On the other hand, the Huffington Post is scaling back its online news platform where unpaid writers essentially have free reign to publish whatever they want.
Quality journalism provides added value
Some in the journalism business are seeing this as the perfect opportunity to ensure they are recognized for the added value they contribute to social media platforms. Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. has suggested that, since these platforms now acknowledge that they cannot adequately replace high-quality journalism, they ought to remunerate the media organizations who make it possible for users to get trusted news content in their Facebook feeds, for example.
Murdoch argues that a carriage payment made by Facebook to the media it wants to recognize as “trusted publishers” would have a minimal impact on Facebook’s bottom line, but would provide a great deal of security for traditional journalism going forward.
So long as these costs don’t get passed on to Facebook users, this does not seem like an unreasonable argument. In fact, the music industry has already made similar arrangements with the social media giant for the music used in home videos. Journalism is far from obsolete; it just needs to be adapted to its new digital environment.