The Information Age
You hear many people talk about the “Information Age”, also known as the digital age, the computer age or the new media age. The Information Age is the shift in our history from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution- by this I mean our society has begun to move from the traditional to the digital. We can do so much with the touch of a button these days: instant communication, online banking, online shopping, instant access to information, etc.
According to connector.ie, in 2016 87% of Irish people were online. The web gives us quick access to information, communication and is a source of entertainment for people due to its relative ease but also allows each individual a chance to explore their own personal needs. Because of the internet you can find out what is happening on the other side of the world in an instant. You can look up numbers and addresses and even walk up and down a street (virtually) using Google Street View. You can build a community based on specific interests you share, without leaving your house.
The Internet has Given Many People a Voice
More and more people are expressing their thoughts, opinions and values everyday online. With the introduction of Web 2.0- applications for the web which step away from the static homepage and offer user-generated content i.e. social media- people have been given an online platform to have their say. Have their say on what, you may ask. You will find an opinion for or against almost anything online. Think of anything, put it into Google and some one will have blogged or posted a comment about it somewhere on the World Wide Web.
Old V New
Traditional media includes print, television and radio broadcast. There was a time when PR professionals and journalists relied solely on traditional media to get their content to the public. However, in recent years there has been a significant shift and more PR professionals, journalists and even business professionals are utilising new media to reach their target audiences.
New media refers to mass communication using digital technologies, i.e. the Internet. More and more businesses and consumers have turned to new media to find their information. It is key for businesses to have an online presence, that is, not only to have a static website but to also be present on all if not most of the social media platforms. Having this presence accentuates the ease for the consumer to find, interact and do business with you.
These platforms also gives the public a voice. As Web 2.0 applications give all users the ability to create content, if people have something to say- whether good or bad- they can have their voice heard. This is an example of Gruinig’s Excellence Theory: the two-way symmetrical communication model. Facebook has given the chance for publics to really interact with organisations with the ‘like’ button and comment sections. This also leads to organisations learning more about their publics. Digital communication like social media has made the two-way symmetrical communication model a reality for PR. Social media platforms should not be used to just dump information for the publics to see, PR professionals should use these platforms as genuine opportunities to communicate with and listen to their publics.
“I think that digital communication makes symmetrical communication fairly easy to practice and, in fact, might make it unavoidable. With digital communication, publics have much more control over their sources of information; and organizations have little choice other than to communicate with them symmetrically.” (Grunig, cited in James Grunig Excellence Theory Blog)
Jill O Sullivan of BreakingNews.ie says that interaction online is key for your business. Breakingnews.ie has added a “How do you feel?” button at the end of their news articles to encourage publics to have their say and in turn makes the audience feel connected and cared about by the organisation.
Social media gives everyone who uses it a voice but this voice is very public. Not only will publics show their positivity in ‘likes’ and comments, they will also show negativity with complaints and negative comments for everyone to see. Not alone will these comments come from an organisation’s key publics but a PR professional should also be aware of “trolls”. “Trolls” are anonymous commenters who’s main aim is to aggravate others online by “trolling” or commenting negatively on anything they feel like online. To deal appropriately with this PR professionals should have good social media policies in place.
The Age of Immediacy
According to an Eir survey, in 2015 70% of people in Ireland own a smartphone. The mobile phone is like an extension of the arm. According to Jill O Sullivan, 70-80% of online traffic comes through mobile and Facebook. Seeing as we are never far from our phones we are always connected. This includes PR professionals and journalists having to be on 24/7.
Many scholars propose that online journalism has contributed to the collapse of the twice-a-day news cycle (Boczkowski, 2009; García, 2008; Lawson-Borders, 2006; Williams and Delli Carpini, 2000), leading to the ascendancy of ‘high-speed news’ (Pavlik, 2000: 232) (E. Mitchelstein & P. J. Buczkowski).
There is a constant flow of news stories throughout the day and night emerging all the time, both local and worldwide. This is down to the easy accessibility to worldwide news at the touch of the button but this also causes huge competition for local news agencies. Because the Internet never sleeps and society has such a demand for instant information, journalists are turning out news stories at a constant rate. Could this do damage to the traditional journalistic form of writing a news story? Releasing news stories at such a rate means you don’t spend as much time on research, cross-checking and original writing (E. Mitchelstein & P. J. Buczkowski, 2009).
How the Internet is Changing News
People are changing the way they consume news. Ask a room full of students if they read the paper and I doubt you will get very many hands. Newspapers are still in print and are still being bought and read but more and more people are pursuing their news online via news websites, blogs or social media. Terms like ‘national’ and ‘regional’ are losing their significance because of the reach of the internet (Phillips & Young, 2009). Even though the content still reflects the geographical priorities, people from all over the world can now find out what is happening across the globe in an instant. These online news articles have also become more and more interactive in recent years with the additions of hyperlinks, videos, images, comment sections, etc. This can cause the reader to click on numerous hyperlinks and never finish a news article in full.
Who is a journalist anyway? The answer to that questions these days is: everyone. With the use of smartphones, video and easy access to data or wifi, more and more hard breaking news is coming to us through citizen journalism. Things don’t always happen when there are journalists or media professionals around. However, almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera. Members of the public are recording events more and more now and having this ‘in-the-moment’ action caught on camera is what people are looking for to get the real story. Sometimes this footage can be hilarious, heartbreaking or even terrifying. This footage is never edited, mostly all one take and never high quality or broadcast quality. Citizen journalism can also be seen when journalists ask members of the public who were present in the action for their take on the event, their story. Has society turned away from news corporations and more to the public to find out the real story?
Storytelling is Changing: Blogs
Nowadays you find more and more bloggers and social influencers on many different social media platforms across the internet. The emergence of these blogs are leading to another genre of journalism and public relations. According to Phillips and Young (2009) blogs offer us news in a narrative style with use of personalisation and an emphasis on non-institutional status. Gina London, of Fuzion PR, emphasises how the personal element still matters. I agree with this, people put their trust in human beings over corporations.
Blogs are written in easy to read language which makes them more accessible to everyone. However, they are often very opinionated, one-sided and very rarely do you see cross-fact-checking, whereas reporters are expected to stay uninvolved in their stories (Phillips & Young, 2009). Are they really trustworthy? I think people who follow certain bloggers or social media influencers treat them as friends. You would normally trust a friend’s recommendation even though you know they may not always be right.
These days, even that trust element is starting to decrease. More and more social media influencers are promoting products: hotels, food, makeup, vitamins, etc. and it is becoming hard for the viewer to know what is truthful promotion and what is just basic advertising. New legislations are being brought in where the blogger has to state it in the post if they have gotten paid to promote with use of hashtags e.g. #ad.
There has been a massive shift in how society consumes news. Print and broadcast news media can’t keep up with the ability the internet has to break news stories. Because of the internet society has instant access to breaking news all around the world. Traditional news media, print in particular, hasn’t the ability to keep up with that. Because news is now consumed more and more online, news forums have begun adding additional links, videos, images and interactive comments sections for the readers to fully be a part of the experience of reading the news. Does this lead to news not being read in full? Are these add-ons just distractions for other reasons? Are we as a society more or less trusting of news corporations now than ever before? Or do we put our whole trust in the personal/people element?
The internet has changed news completely but I also feel that society has changed with it.