Digital Journalism In Review
By Jennifer Ball
I have been blogging about brain injury for about a month now. I have blogged personally about different topics for many years. This particular blog is about the future of digital journalism. Thus, we are not surprised that the New York Times announced today that they are essentially laying off even more of the world’s best journalists. The hope is to focus more on digital journalism. Donald Trump must be so pleased. But graduates of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, like myself and like Attorney Gordon Johnson, are not.
The problem is not just about the loss of jobs for journalists. Many of my classmates are finding work in alternative media, or digital journalism. My new title is Content Strategist. That is more than a fancy way of saying blogger. I am working for a firm that believes in the importance of associating its online presence with information. The Brain Injury Law Group, S.C. was one of the first law firms to understand the importance of quality information on the internet. We offer information about brain injury and the events in the world that cause brain injury, such as car wrecks and carbon monoxide poisonings.
Journalists like myself are replacing the traditional newspaper reporters. Many of these news outlets are putting into effects layoffs. Papers are becoming thinner. Today’s Sports Illustrated wouldn’t make a decent door stop. The question becomes how do we keep journalism alive. The future is not the traditional newspaper journalism, but there is still going to be a need for quality news content, even in digital journalism. However, with journalism moving online, there is growing anxiety about profitability. Reporters are potentially going to be paid less.
“The Future of News Online” was the topic of an On Point Podcast with Tom Ashbrook about a month ago. The podcast pointed out that many people are getting their news more from Facebook and less from directly visiting a homepage. For our sites, Google is the number one source of traffic. If the website is not relevant to Google, it practically doesn’t exist. This is why it is part of my job to spend so much time optimizing posts so that they show up on Google. Sometimes I have to modify my writing for the overall goal of being found on Google.
Most of the money in this industry is moving to a very small group of companies like Facebook and Google, which are “platform companies.” People who do the reporting are “freezing” in this “media chill.” The challenge for the media today is to meet people where they are, through different platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. We make sure that our blog posts are promoted on our social media accounts. The hope is to meet our users where they already are. We also try to make sure our posts are relevant by writing about topics in the news.
One of the key challenges to new-age journalism is to maintain consistent content that is on-brand. We try to stay on the topic of brain injury and carbon monoxide poisoning on our websites. We also try to post regularly with hopes of posting something every day. Today, people have a world of information at their fingertips. My challenge is to make readers choose our content and actively engage with it.
According to the OnPoint podcast, $60 billion in advertising is monopolized by Google and Facebook. The challenge that I and many bloggers face is working with Google and Facebook to try to maintain readership in the world of digital journalism. Then we must analyze users’ behavior to see what it’s telling us. We can look at pages with high bounce rates and try to understand why people are not choosing to engage for a long time on that page.
Another challenge I face is trying to stay relevant on mobile devices. Delivering content to someone on a desktop computer might look different than on a mobile device. I try to keep the blog posts to between 300 and 500 words. On a smaller screen, people don’t want to read as much. I also make sure that nearly every post has photos or video.
On websites, the question of accountability is very important. This is why many times one has to give his or her name and email to join a website, for authenticity. On our sites, we approve all of our comments that have content that is relevant and is not spam. Since the Internet allows anyone to comment on anything or post anything, accountability is important to make it a safe place to browse.
With the buyouts and layoffs, the future of journalism is definitely uncertain. Journalists like myself need to make use of tools like SEO and Analytics to try to reach their audience. Being relevant on Facebook and Google is key in the digital journalism world. These platform sites are dominating the media industry today. People are not using homepages as much as they are “hanging out” on Facebook or Google. Watching the new media landscape formation should definitely be interesting to watch.
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