The mantra for many newsrooms in the past five or more years was convergence. Join forces and platforms to remain relevant to our increasingly tech-savvy and gadget-wielding audience.
Before these integration attempts could even gain traction, the battle cry appears to be changing from convergence to disintegration.
Not to mean the scattering of forces into small parts, but the rise in the demand for specialization. It is not a reversal of what was started years ago. Disintegration means trying a new approach when attempts at integration hit a wall because of resistance by journalists or the impracticability of it. If it is no longer feasible to push convergence, why not try a different approach?
Disintegration and the call for a deeper knowledge of the audience are among the challenges that face newsrooms nowadays in the midst of calls to adapt to technology developments and media landscape changes.
Experts have said the future of journalism is not about journalists. It is about the audience. There are online tools available to track audiences and their profiles, but it is up to the organizations to analyze their data and use them.
Ethan Zuckerman, in his “Future of news and participatory media” class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said journalism is at a crossroads. The audience has the same publishing and editing tools as journalists; business models are failing; mobile is becoming more disruptive than the Internet some 15 years ago.
And yet, the public’s need for high-quality information about current events remains unchanged.
In the Philippines, newspaper readership may be stagnant or declining, but it doesn’t mean people are not getting the news.
Internet penetration in the Philippines is at 30 percent of the 100 million population. Mobile phone ownership was at 86 million as of 2012. It was projected last year that half of phone owners, or 43 million, would own smartphones or devices that connect to the Internet.
There are 25 million Filipinos on Facebook, making us the eighth in the list of countries on Facebook.
Those statistics show the slice of the audience that gets its news not from newspapers or television, but from social media, news websites and mobile sites.
The principle of disintegration is based on the need for specialization in the writing and dissemination of news per audience, per platform. A younger and more interactive audience set may be targeted on Twitter, while a critical and highly opinionated one may be comfortable on Facebook. An older audience may prefer reading newspapers and news websites.
Familiarity with readers and knowing how they get their news makes newsroom disintegration a practical approach to serving different audience sets and platforms.
Disintegration is not doing away with whatever gains were achieved with the converging of forces and resources towards a multi-platform, multi-screen publication of information. It simply is a strategy to step back, assess the situation, accept limitations and ask why this or that didn’t turn out the way we expected.
Bertrand Pecquerie, head of the Global Editors Network, reported after a summit attended by over 600 editors and media innovators on June 11 to 13, 2014, “Today the trend has reversed towards newsroom disintegration: specific teams for specific platforms.” (http://www.globaleditorsnetwork.org/)
Mobile, as a news platform, is becoming more disruptive than the Internet because news reporting and presentation are different for the newspaper, on the website and on mobile. Online changed the market and workflow for the newspaper. The characteristics of mobile—portability, access anywhere and anytime, and affordability of gadgets—make it disruptive to both online and newspapers.
Pecquerie said the newsroom would become a “mission control” room with fewer people at desks and more journalists on the field.
At this control room, editors also look at the tools available to help the audience make sense of the news. Data visualization and annotation are some of the ways to make the news easy to understand.
Here are resources that might help.
For data visualization – making news reports easy to understand:
- Meograph: Web-based multimedia presentation tool with audio clips and maps.
- Zeega: A multimedia storytelling platform for integrating web-based sound, video, and GIFs in a slideshow format.
- Storify: An easy way to quote social media and embed it in other stories.
For data journalism – making sense of big amounts of data:
- “Data Journalism: Making it Real,” Andy Dickinson
- “How to analyze unfamiliar data,” Ted Cuzzillo
- “4 examples of innovative online newsgathering,” Sarah Marshall
For research and data collection:
- Facebook Graph Search: Facebook’s social search service.
- Simply Measured: Collects analytics about people’s Twitter accounts.
- Storyful: A service to verify social media.
- IFTTT: A tool to capture data feeds from the Internet and make them for you.
- Google Fusion Tables: A tool to combine multiple data sets and publish them in various ways.
- Bounce: An online annotation platform where you can annotate web pages.
- Annotation Studio: Modern and usable annotation system, developed at MIT.