OPINION: There is a new digital “social” platform. It is called Ello. It purports to be ad free and independent of influence. Started by a designer, it has attracted many talented graphic and design artists, and because of this there is some really beautiful work to see on Ello. Andrew Barnes takes a look.
But there are other contributors too, including a page from Bloomberg which I elected to follow. In keeping with the general artistic bent of Ello, the Bloomberg page is populated with many beautiful charts and diagrams and pictures… and very few words.
It was here that I saw a chart depicting the decline in TV news audiences across the USA over a 20+ year period. My gaze was instantly arrested. TV news audience decline? While the explanation centred on news anchors and studio infighting, I saw one thing only. I saw newsprint written all over the chart. To me it echoed what I knew to be true in the newsprint medium.
A little rough mental arithmetic showed that the TV news audiences had come close to being cut in half. This was profound erosion. More importantly it had come on the back of growth of TV as a medium.
There was only one thing to conclude. “News” was the weakness. Surely a decline in TV news audiences alongside a decline in newspaper readership eliminates the medium as the cause of the trend? I thought of newspapers. Could it be true that the news part of newspaper is the issue, not newspapers per se?
In the past half century, increasingly it is argued that the news we see and read is the news that the media elects to call news. We are told it is NEWS and therefore it becomes news. Could this ‘push’ model of communication be dying? News for me is new information that I can integrate in my thinking and my choices. It might even build some character and resonate with my personality. News is what should smooth out some of the rough edges and possibly make me a little more interesting to others.
We can pontificate about what is news and what is not news and then we can debate about how we get news. I chat to my children who neither watch the news show on TV nor read newspapers, yet they say newspapers seem cool. They say they would read them if there was a reflection of hipster culture. If there was something they could keep. If it was beautiful. They actually seem to like the concept of a newspaper. Or should that be daypaper or citypaper?
With the growth in digital media audiences, the drive for bite sized info chunks and staccato communication, we know that much of modern dialogue is around events and feelings and reactions and consumptive experiences. We seek out the specifics that help us make better choices to get through the day.
In light of this, much of what is presented as news is noise. TV news audiences declined because the news they reported was not needed. Perhaps similarly with newspaper readership.
But no one would say that TV is anachronism. And the news reported can change. Indeed it seems to be doing that. In the chart above there is a turning point.
Andrew Barnes is an independent researcher and contrarian thinker. He manages De Facto Business Strategy Research.
* Opinions expressed in posts published on The Media Online are not necessarily those of Wag the Dog Publishers or the editor but contribute to the diversity of voices in South Africa.
IMAGE: Al Jazeera newsroom in Doha / Wikimedia
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