If you were to list the changes digital media has ushers into newsrooms across the UK, the list would quickly become long.
The one I want to focus on today is the change in audience expectation and behaviour. Gone are the days when post-publication interaction with readers was confined to conversations with those who had the motivation to ring the newsdesk, visit ‘front counter’ or get their pen and paper out.
Since the victory by Donald Trump in the American elections, many millions of words online have been devoted to how the media Stateside got it so wrong, and what that means for the future of journalism.
I feel that’s coming at the problem from the wrong end. Digital platforms have given everyone a voice. Personalisation on those platforms – primarily through algorithms – has created a bubble-like experience for many people. I’m convinced the shock of the ‘exit’ vote in Brexit for many was worsened by that platforms like Facebook so effectively target what you see that Brexit-supporters were all but banished from Remainers timelines, and vice versa.
That bubble-like environment, and the ease with which people can now publish a view, puts a new spotlight on what people are thinking about what they are reading. This isn’t a Facebook thing. Any football writer whose club is also served by a fans forum where every story is analysed, reacted to and commented upon will know what I’m talking about. Everyone has a voice, and many are critics.
Overall, this is a positive thing. At least people care enough about what we’re writing to talk about it. Irrelevance-induced silence must be worse.