The new normal: ‘Digital first’ titles increase worldwide

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The full digital tool-set is now in use in newsrooms and editorial offices around the world – with far-reaching implications for the public relations industry, the latest Oriella Digital Journalism Study has found.

The study found a ‘digital first’ policy – breaking news online as it happens – is in place at over a third of the media titles surveyed. The use of mobile apps, in-house produced video, and social media as news sources are all on the rise.

The Oriella Digital Journalism Study, based on a survey of almost 550 journalists from 15 countries including India and spanning Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, tracks how digital technology is impacting how news is gathered and published around the world.

This year’s study – the sixth – provides evidence of wholesale changes in how publications gather and communicate stories. It found a quarter of the journalists surveyed often prepare multiple versions of the same story as it develops, while a fifth said that ‘citizen journalism’ now carries as much credibility in their organisation as mainstream reporting.

Digital media is also shaping publications’ revenue models. The proportion of respondents saying their outlet has a mobile app has nearly doubled over the past two years to 40%. In addition, use of premium apps to monetise content has increased by a third since 2012.

“Our study suggests 2013 is a watershed year for the world’s media. The growing interest in ‘digital first’ reporting, video, real-time news, mobile content and citizen journalism all exemplify what we’re calling the ‘New Normal for News’,” says Robin Grainger, director of the Oriella PR Network.

“If these trends accelerate, there are some potentially game-changing ramifications for media and communicators alike. First, touch-screen interfaces will open up new possibilities for storytelling. One example could be interactive graphics (or digi-graphics) that blend high design and big data to enable readers to navigate their own path through stories,” Grainger added.

“Second, we may see a polarisation of journalistic output. At one end, short, tweet-like news updates will provide near real-time coverage of events in print and on video, optimised for small screens. At the other end, we may see much longer-form feature and investigative pieces. ‘Shorter but quicker’ journalism could also afford media brands greater prominence – and consequently greater traffic – in search rankings, news readers and ‘social news aggregator’ apps such as Flipboard and Pulse News,” he says.

The survey in India threw up interesting trends that have emerged in the Indian media. “Digitisation of news and the availability of social media platforms have drastically reduced dependence on conventional news gathering sources. With the increasing use of smart phones in India, access to real time news is only a click away,” says Sanjay Bose, executive director, Candour Communications.

Amid the technology change, traditional values remain

The study discovered journalists are using social media for newsgathering, but continue to place an emphasis on trusted sources and pre-existing relationships. For example, 51% of journalists said they source news stories from microblogs such as Twitter and Weibo, but only when they already know the source behind them. When the source is unknown, their use by journalists halved to 25%. By contrast, 59% of respondents said they sourced their news from ‘conversations with industry insiders’.

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