Craig Kanalley of the Huffington Post thinks the news media should reconsider its current obsession with social media.
“These tools enable us to easily connect with others, engage with them, and distribute the work that we do. And, really, we have to be there. That’s where our readers and viewers are.
“The problem lies in over-reliance on social networks, obsession with them, and over-dependency.”
He gives five points to consider as downsides of over-reliance on social media:
- Forgetting what journalism is about
- Losing a sense of reality (eg. not everyone uses social media)
- Compressing the news cycle even further
- Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are becoming competitors to news media companies
- There are risks in giving up control and becoming too reliant on social media channels
Read the whole story for detail.
Here is Kanalley’s cri de coeur on what should be done:
We need to be careful; that’s all. We need to “be everywhere” these days but not overly rely on any one site or place.
A futurist told me just the other day — Facebook and Twitter will be gone in 20 years. Why? Technological advances, pressures to keep growing and monetize, generational differences are among the reasons, he told me. It’s an interesting thought to ponder…
The social media communication revolution is here to stay. And if these companies ever do go away, others will fill the void. But why sit back? We should be proactive and try to build our own solutions, at our own companies, innovate with new technologies for the world today instead of waiting for tomorrow.
The problem, however, is that most news companies aren’t exactly incubators of innovation. They largely don’t see themselves as technology-driven firms, although global brands such as the Guardian, New York Times and the Huffington Post are leading what innovation is occurring.
Let’s say some tech-minded individual working at a news company had come up with the idea for Twitter in 2005 (the service launched in 2006). Do you think it’s likely that a) he would have been given the resources and team to build it in-house, or that b) he’d have to quit and find some venture capital to pursue the idea?
My wild guess is that b) would have been the default option.
Despite the disruption that’s been forced upon them in the past half-decade, my other wild guess is that much of the news industry still doesn’t think much about how it can get ahead of the wave of change.
Even worse, even a leading newspaper such as the Guardian is having to cope with heavy financial losses as it attempts to become a digital-first company.
If Kanalley’s futurist friend is correct, Facebook and Twitter could yet be casualties. The Facebook share price shows that the stock market currently doesn’t consider the premium social media brand to be a money-making machine. The Oct. 8 closing price on NASDAQ was just over US$20 per share. On May 18, the IPO price was set at US$38 per share.
Twitter is still a private company, but it’s been annoying some commentators as it makes changes to attempt to better monetize its user base, perhaps as a move to ready itself for an IPO.
What that means for news companies isn’t clear, but Facebook and Twitter need news in their feeds because generally, people need something to talk about. Any successor company will presumably have a similar need, but nothing in this world is guaranteed.
Similarly, people want to access news as easily as possible. If social media is where they are spending their time, then your news products must be accessible to them — as Kanalley has noted.
While I’m trying to think big tonight, I can’t see the news industry coming up with its own network that would compete with existing social networks.
HuffPo, the most digital-native major news player, has adapted by making its content easily shareable, having an ascertaining eye for the potentially viral and by putting up a river of content on Twitter, much of it the quick-bite variety.
If HuffPo is a guide for the news industry, perhaps the secret to thriving in this chaotic new world is tailoring one’s content to the streaming nature of social media, rather than competing directly with technology companies.