Digital journalism is beginning to take shape to meet the expansive viewer base of the internet. More than 2 billion people use the internet as a medium for entertainment and relevant information. The state of traditional print newspapers has been declining in recent years while news consumption on a digital database has steadily increased. A gradual transition is being made by newspaper companies in an effort to adapt to technological advances. Digital journalism offers exciting new possibilities to newspaper companies but is also a double edged sword for widespread and uncensored information.
Advantages of Digital Journalism
One of the largest advantages for this new form of media is the large audience it draws in. The internet provides easy access to viewers from around the world and a plethora of information. Viewers can even participate and add their own information from photos, videos, and live streaming aspects of their daily lives. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr have large user bases:
- Facebook boasted 1.35 billion monthly users in 2014
- Twitter has over 288 million active monthly users
- Instagram holds 75 million daily users and 300 million monthly
- Tumblr averages 420 million users overall
Journalists have taken notice and began using these social websites to build followings of their readers to aggregate and post their news stories. Events are uploaded onto the internet within hours of release, viewing is instantaneous and large amounts of information are spread by active participants. This allows journalists to keep tabs on several leads and find details that they wouldn't have found or have been able to cover otherwise.
With the introduction of the internet not everyone needs to work at a newspaper or obtain a college degree in order to be considered a journalist. Citizen journalists have taken the stage and are free to post their work on the internet. News reporting has become interactive as the readers now have the ability to participate in news coverage on a local or national scale. Content management systems such as blogspot and wordpress have furthered participation from citizens reporting on their daily lives and repressive atmosphere in Gaza to four individuals at the Franklin Avenue attending events in Los Angeles such as the conventions and interview panels with famous celebrities. Franklin Avenue has nearly 13,000 Twitter followers who read on their event coverage every day.
Local stories become nationally covered in hours through aggregation on Twitter and Facebook. The case of Eric Garner and Michael Brown blew up overnight and became national headlines for weeks and even months because of the amount of attention it received from viewers on social media. Videos and photographs add depth to the writing it accompanies and builds a deeper connection with the reader that simple print wouldn't be able to.
Disadvantages of Digital Journalism
This new form of media is relatively new and not fleshed out. Newspaper companies have been losing money because of the amount of "free" content in the expanses of the internet. It's difficult to find a financial model that actually works because of the murky transition between print and online reporting. Many companies have begun to institute a pay wall which allows viewers a certain amount of articles before they must pay for full access within that month. Some organizations sell bundle deals that allow print readers to also access their online database. Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, Emily Guskin, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of PEJ analyzed the New York Time's metrics:
"The Times’ first full report on results of the pay wall, instituted March 31, was altogether sunny. Besides the 250,000 digital-only subscribers, 75,000 more were paying for the iPad and e-reader versions by the third quarter of 2011. The paid total had grown to 390,000 by the end of the year. An advertising sponsor is providing 100,000 more users with a year’s free trial subscription.8 Far from cannibalizing print, The Times’ bundled deals actually supported a modest growth in paid Sunday subscriptions. Digital unique visitors were also up slightly (though page views were down) and digital advertising was holding steady."
Edmonds, Guskin, Rosenstiel and Mitchell added:
"But signs are positive for others making the switch. Morris Communications’ Augusta Chronicle began a metered-model pay wall four months before the Times in December 2010. Page views actually went up 5% in the next three months. The Augusta offer began by allowing up to 100 page views per month free, gradually reducing that threshold to 15. It charges digital-only subscribers $6.95 per month and print subscribers an additional $2.95 for digital access."
Despite revenue falling the print edition is what continues to provide the most income for newspaper companies and so transitioning into strictly digital has remained an impossibility. The Ann Arbor Chronicle is an example of this as it shifted to website publication; it worked for years but the amount of workload it put onto its publishers was too great and they couldn't afford to bring in more staff to work on the paper. 38 percent of its revenue came strictly from donations.
Potential pitfalls for digital journalism also include poor information because of its lack of censorship and sources, inaccurate reporting, no form of income for citizen journalists as well as a "it's good enough" mentality adopted by some papers because of instantaneous deadlines.
Why Digital Journalism Has Potential
Digital journalism is in its early stages of development, causing newspaper models to gradually shift from traditional to digital sources. The amount of information, credibility and sources is vast which allows journalists to report on events that they never would have been able to cover otherwise. Citizen journalists complement professional reporting in its representation. The biggest obstacles for this blossoming medium is professional newspaper companies making a profitable transition and journalists becoming more proficient in distinguishing credible information with biased inaccuracy. Times are changing and as technology advances so does the world of reporting; wider audiences are being reached and will usher in a new era of modernization for reporters and their readership.