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This Just In: Expect More Disruption in News Business

11 Feb 2016 by Insight Agency

Technology is constantly evolving — not unlike a living organism. It isn’t static. It isn’t constant. That makes it disruptive. Businesses, even niche businesses, often forget to, or choose not to, evolve with technology and are turned upside down — because their products, their policies, their customer interface becomes, simply put, outdated. We live in a consumer-driven world, and we are often drawn to technology everything — from convenience to novelty. This is Insight’s Disruptive Technology series. We will be addressing how technology enters an industry and does exactly that — disrupts.

News aggregators. Citizen journalism. Mobile platforms. Social media sharing.

Disruption in the news business comes at a dizzying pace.

“The who, when, where, why and how of news now relates as much to the industry itself as it does to the basis of good journalism,” Larry Sands, a veteran broadcast industry executive, tells TVNEWSCHECK.

“The who now includes anyone with a smartphone at hand at the moment that news actually occurs. When people choose to consume news has gone from waiting for 6 p.m. to the moment that the need to know first manifests itself,” he says. “Where is no longer restricted to the living room but has instead migrated to anywhere you have your smartphone. The why? Because we can! As for the how: It’s been reduced to a swipe, a tap or a click.”

Innovations will only continue to disrupt an industry that, Sands says, is “changing at light speed.”

Market disruptors

All sectors of the news business — print, TV and radio — have seen sweeping change in the past decade. Consumers’ constantly evolving news habits continue to shift the model for gathering and delivering news.

The overarching challenge? Keeping track of new market disruptors, keeping pace with tech innovations, and keeping old school consumers satisfied, according to Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2015. Among the findings:

  • New market disruptors are hitting the scene at a clip so fast it’s hard to keep track of them. At the same time, traditional news providers are launching their own new digital products, adding to the growing mix.
  • There’s no stopping the pace of tech innovations and variety of choices — from platforms to devices. 
  • The “social space” is gaining traction as a news source.
  • Consumers still turn to comfortable old platforms and pathways for their news.

Concludes the Pew Center, “Americans’ changing news habits have a tremendous impact on how and to what extent our country functions within an informed society. So too does the state of the organizations producing the news and making it available to citizens day in and day out.”

Ones to watch

Here’s a look at three evolving disruptive trends that will continue to shake up the news business.

1. Path forward — Consumers are constantly seeking out convenient, new and different pathways to get their news.

Mobile could be the top disruptor in the news business, according to Poynter. “Mobile will become the dominant screen … If you're planning and building a news experience right now, it's highly likely that it will be visited primarily by mobile users over its life cycle. By extension, mobile first is already here.”

In terms of pathways to getting news, social media continues to grow in influence. One Pew Research Center social media survey showed that nearly half of adult Web users accessed political and government news on Facebook. The site topped CNN, Fox News and NBC News as the source of this type of news.

Consumers also want to experience news in different ways. Take NPR’s podcasts. The organization saw a 40% jump in podcast downloads between 2013 and 2014. Podcast listenership is expected to grow with the proliferation of mobile devices. And startups like Clammr, which allows users to quickly sample and share podcasts, will only increase their popularity.

2. In the crowd — The way media outlets gather news has changed dramatically with “citizen journalism,” crowdsourcing and the broad use of specialty contributors.

CNN, for instance, harnesses the power of citizen journalists through its iReport. Users can contribute photos of natural disasters, videos of political candidates on the campaign trail, or shoutouts for soldiers in the military. They can also get inspiration and ideas from the virtual “assignment desk.”  

Forbes magazine takes a different tact, relying heavily on a large pool of freelance contributors — journalists, topic experts, authors and more — for a wide range of content. In 2011 alone, the magazine’s website offered nearly 100,000 posts from these contributors.

Then there’s WNYC, New York City’s public radio station, which has taken crowdsourcing to a whole new level. Its Cicada Tracker project encourages contributors to build bug sensors and help create an online map showing the insects’ path across the country.

3. Go-to news sources — Aggregator services have become hugely popular as sources of news and information for consumers, and they are evolving beyond their original roles. A recent survey of millennials showed that they are more familiar with digital sources like BuzzFeed and Google News than sources like NPR, Politico and Bloomberg, which are familiar to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Disruptor Reddit, the self-styled “Front Page of the Internet,” launched a decade ago and so far boasts more than 231 million unique visitors to its site.

What’s more, sources like The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, which launched as aggregators, have grown substantially in influence, says NiemanReports. “They may have started by collecting cute pictures of cats, but they are now expanding into politics, transforming from aggregators into generators of original content, and, in the case of The Huffington Post, even winning a Pulitzer Prize for reporting. They are classic disruptors.”