This century has witnessed a continued erosion of the power of print media. There has been a strong move to compensate with online versions but even the few that gain large audiences return little revenue. If the public are offered a paid, online version they will probably opt for a rival's free version thus forcing the paid version to follow suit.
Consequently, despite the glaring trend to go digital, few major news sources are solely online.
Unable to fathom good profits in this arena, they have clung to print media whilst it disintegrates around them.
Online, the attention span of young adults has dwindled whilst the demand for more topics has increased. The result is more media than ever before (from digital versions of newspapers to blogs) that are more likely to gain a reader for a single topic and then have them bounce to another website after the next googled search.
Search engines have become more important than the sources of information themselves. This is dominated by a few search engines companies who are no longer returning true search results but rather, after data mining, what they have determined to be to be the best result for the user's taste. This lessens the chances of media having an equal opportunity to engage the user who is more likely to become a browser by habit which, in turn, will reinforce the 'custom' search result.
There are advantages:
More information for free. The barriers between the poor and the rich are no longer barriers to receiving information. News is less likely to become a media mogul product subservient to outside interests. Ignorance is less likely to be used as a weapon by those with knowledge as the ignorant become knowledgeable.
Despite possibly receiving several interpretations of the truth, or different points of view, the public are receiving more truth than ever before. It is almost impossible for the government and corporations to keep secrets from them e.g. Wikileaks. This is especially relevant regards politics and economics as an informed reader is more likely to become an active member of society.
A response from being flooded with information has been the increase in niche markets. Niche markets can overlap but, overall, it means the creation of more interest groups and small businesses.
It has become a trend for those around me to not be newsletter subscribers as an attempt, whether conscious or unconscious, to stem the flood of information. But niche markets will make news flow more palatable and encourage a return to email and cellphone databases even if dissemination is supported by social media.
The demand for smart phones and tablets continues to rise.
The popularity of video as a medium keeps strengthening e.g. 'Gangham Style' was truly a landmark when it hit a billion views in December 2012.
There exists the opportunity to arrest the Americanized attention span of readers and online surfers who possibly became that way as they were dis-empowered from their local communities. They can be helped to focus on what's happening in their community and thus become part of the change they wish to see in it.
Imagine our world if the public had received regular, informed news on events preceding the economic collapse that has thrown so many countries into disarray. Problems, whether inherent to the system or intentionally criminal, could've been recognized and addressed before they became the calamity of epic proportions which we still live with.
On a community level, using my home town of Knysna, it is unlikely that the politicians would have become so divorced from the public if the latter had been informed of their successes and their failures. Nor would the police have become so brazen and corrupt if their misdeeds hadn't been encouraged through lack of exposure.
How can we capture the attention of the public whilst simultaneously providing them the majority of the news which, despite their failings and misfortunes, newspapers have done?
The answer may be to concentrate on a niche market and give it the news that it needs and wants. Targeting your community, as an example, will allow you to better understand what will work as you are the community too. There is a need to diversify, to use as many channels of communication as possible, but the most important will be the distribution of news via cellphones and smartphones.
The only way to achieve message saturation is to offer it in the language of the user's choice. The latter will undoubtedly provide us a wealth of new information from which to further tailor our message.
Wicked Mike is an activist and community supporter through Love Knysna Projects and
owner of, and blogger at, www.LoveKnysna.com and www.KnysnaKeep.org.
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