”Too many friends, too many and too cheap. It gives me a thrill, I’m getting in too deep.” Thus sang Finnish sleaze rockers Smack back in the eighties, and I suppose we’ve all felt that at some point using TweetBook. But social media is here to stay, and you want to keep on top of developments in society, that is where you need to be as well. In my last post I wrote about how the ”old media” finally came to understand the importance of having a face on the Book.
The problem, as I wrote, is that traditional media is still stuck in it’s old habits, it’s old ways of working, that is to say, towards a deadline. Social media is always ”now”. And this is is specifically a problem when you try to squeeze this thinking into the world of, say, Twitter. Then Twitter becomes more of a marketing tool than the fast media platform it was intended to be. And this is, of course, one way to use it. But then we are not using it’s full potential. At the moment most large media houses are sort of half using, half not using social media.
Now the problem, as I see it, is that the traditional media is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. The internet has utterly changed the way we look at news. The news is always out there, and we are flooded with information in real time. Newspapers and broadcasters are desperately trying to keep up, but traditional media will never be able to keep up with the fast moving pace of the web, unless you are a 24-hour news channel such as CNN or BBC.
The problem we get is that traditional media suddenly feels itself as the slow grandfather, and tries to rejuvenate itself by moulding it’s core product, reflecting, analyzing news into this new, fast moving vehicle. We put less and less time on producing the news products so we can get them out faster.
Ironically, the tables have now turned. As more and more newspapers and broadcasters start fiddling with live streams on their websites, making minute-by-minute schedules covering breaking news and concentrate more and more resources to keep up with the pace of the web, bloggers are now starting to adapt the old role of old media. Increasingly, the real analysis is now found with indpendent bloggers, on journalists’ own web pages and blogs and the ”experts” are now feeding the public their analysis without middle hands or filters.
Now the blame for this is not to be put on the journalists. We do as we are told. We write shorter articles, because the executives say the public doesn’t have the patiance for long analysis. We squeeze tv and radio news in a shorter and shorter time frame, since the allotted slot for news broadcast gets smaller and smaller, making way for ”Meidän häät” and ”Kahjot ninjat”. The web journalists, who might produce long and insightful articles on the web, are often reduced to the role of factory workers – to deal out the short, breaking news as it comes in, then move on to the next item. Very rarely do they get the time for actual reflection and research. And since the traditional journalists very rarely take the time to produce longer text ”just for the web”, the traditional media houses’ web pages tend to look like news agencies, rather than reflecting media.
The thinking of Facebook, Twitter and the internet has now spread to the whole machinery of news. Instead of making use of the social media in a correct and productive way, we are trying to compete with it. Do we really have to have a text on our own website before we tweet the news? Is that the proper way to serve the public, or are we just lifting our own tail? We can never beat social media in it’s own game. What we can do is stop to bite ourselves in our own asses trying to do so, and concenrate on what traditional media does best, gather information, process it thoroughly and present the audience with a wider picture. We have gotten so lost in the fast moving media pace that we have now let even our core activity slip to the independent bloggers. The analysis, afterthought, etc is now being spread on Facebook and Twitter. That is where the real debate is taking place, blogger to blogger. Traditional media need to reclaim that authority.
So what am I saying? Yes, the media needs to use social media. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that we are the social media or that we can compete with it. We should use it as it was intended. Have a guy on a computer doing nothing but updating social media all day, all the breaking news in one or two sentences. Then we are out there, and we are staying with the pace. Let the rest of the staff take a step back, concentrate on their deadlines (which can still be sufficiantly hard to meet) and do what they do best: good, solid news reporting. Yes we still need a quickly updated website, but at least the ones who do that job don’t have to worry about Twitter. And then, take back the role as the analyzer, the media that gathers up the loose, wiggling ends and puts them into context, provide some reflection, go deeper into the subjects that skin deep comments fom the minister in charge.
Yes, it is a question of resources and money, but it is also a question of a way of thinking. Just because the web moves at a dizzying pace, doesn’t mean we all have to stay in constant overdrive. The printed page is still not going to update itself any faster, nor can good radio and tv journalism be done without proper time for research and reflection. The public shouldn’t have to comb the web for insightful analysis, we should provide it. And we would love to, given the time to do it.