Rotimi Ige: Newspapers and the social media challenge

The world is changing everyday. In fact, it is normal to hear people say that it has become a global village. And this may not be unconnected to the giant strides made in technological advancements worldwide. One can travel from one side of the world to another in a day, speak to loved ones, business partners, etc across the world from the comfort of one’s bedroom; access the best of health care and information anywhere in the world in seconds etc.

With the accelerated developments in technology in various fields and the increase in global events, the need for prompt information gathering and dissemination had remained extremely important.

Before now, traditional newspapers had remained the main source of information dissemination and for centuries, had provided news and important occurrences across the world and there was hardly any country which did not have its native newspaper. Advertorials, world news, feature pieces, investigative analyses etc made up the contents of traditional newspapers and this had been the norm for centuries.

However, with the invention of the internet and the reliance on wireless technology, most people across the world, according to Temidayo Adeniran, serving as  National Youth Corps Scheme member, after realising the vast opportunities therein, began to make use of its array of services, thus kick starting a new era of communication, information gathering and dissemination. Today, computers and mobile phones can enable its user get access to information all over the world at the touch of a button; thus posing the question on the survival of traditional newsprints.

According to an online research by the Chicago Sentinel, nearly half of all Americans receive some form of local news via a mobile device, and 46 per cent of them get their news online, at least three times a week.

Online media officially surpassed their print counterparts in advertisement revenue in 2010, and digital media has continued to make major inroads ever since, the Chicago Sentinel said. Social media is now one of the top three news sources, commanding an impressive 27.8 per cent of the market, and it’s catching up with the traditional newspaper, and fast.

Indeed, according to a recent data, newspapers have just a single percentage point lead on social media as a source of reportage, with Facebook (59.5 per cent), Twitter (19.9 per cent) and YouTube (12.7 per cent) leading the charge. Since 2009, traffic to news sites from social media channels has increased dramatically, and some 57 per cent of adults who consume news via a digital device predominately use Facebook and Twitter.

In Nigeria, the declining rate of reading habits among youths and Nigerians in general, according to Henry Aderibigbe, a social critic, is largely responsible for the seeming reduced patronage of newspapers and magazines in recent times. This trend, is worrying, especially with the spate of false news spread over the internet and social media, he said.

“Newspapers remain the best source for factual news and event reporting. Most of what is passed around on the social media is most times frivolous and sometimes outright lies,” he added.

With the advent of social media, it became easier to disseminate information, true or untrue to a large audience without fear of regulations or sanctions. Although, social media platforms have immense advantages too, its disadvantages could be extremely damaging especially as it is faceless.

“Newspapers and other traditional media cannot print false information for fear of being discredited or incurring libel suits and so it helps pass credible and insightful information,” he said.

Nweke Chukwuma, an IT specialist, however disagreeed with the notion. To him, the social media platforms are now the best avenues for breaking news and passing information across the world. He listed platforms like the Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Hi5, Instagram, among others, as being easily accessible and heavily relied on by youths for information.

“How many newspapers today, promote the journalistic values of yester years? Today, we have newspapers owned by politicians or businessmen to promote their own agenda,” he said.

Chukwuma also said social media platforms are also being used by traditional media houses to gather news and information. According to him, the only main advantage that newspapers had over internet and social media platforms was that they possessed the ability to investigate properly, news that broke on social media sites.

“I buy newspapers to know more about recent happenings or behind-the-scenes information on supposed tragedies, etc. Newspapers are more reliable for features and analyses of events but most of the news are first read, though in bits, on the social media,” he added.

Bala Shehu, a lecturer, in his account, said the reason why the social media platforms were more popular was partly because of the economic situation in the country, where most people could not afford to buy newspapers, and then the always-on-the-move nature of jobs that were the requirements of most good jobs nowadays.

According to him, most of “our youths either lack reading culture or cannot afford to buy newspapers. There are those who can also claim to be either too busy to read the papers due to their busy schedules, therefore,  they constantly patronise the social media to keep them informed on news and general information, through emails and other means.”

However, even with the arguements, there are certain claims that newpapers still wield most power, especially in advertising.

Accordng to a research by a national daily abroad, newspapers are still seen as strong value for money by many advertisers since they go out to hundreds of thousands of households across the country. The Daily Express in England, for instance, is published in 11 cities and has a circulation that vastly exceeds that of the most widely read English newspaper in the country. It is said that advertisers view a newspaper as an opportunity to have an advertisment available to their customers for an entire day, as opposed to the few seconds that they might or might not see as clips on television.

English language newspapers have also found ways to make the digital age work for them. The two leading national English-language papers in Pakistan, Dawn and The Express Tribune, have managed to monetise their website to varying degrees of success. Both of these newspapers have applications for mobile phones that are “ad-supported”, offering both newspapers a new revenue stream.

Yet will this be enough?
According to Ihenacho Godson, an electrical engineer, it is entirely likely that the digital age will cause some newspapers to fail. But others will likely continue to succeed, particularly since many advertisers, particularly those in financial services and others that offer more complicated products, still see print media as the best way to promote their wares. And even though digital advertising is cheaper, its efficacy is far lower than that of print advertising, some people have argued.

“Reading a newspaper is a habit, and you cannot change it easily. So while the share of newspapers in the total advertisement spend is shrinking gradually, it is not going to disappear anytime soon,” said Saad Hashmi, a client services manager at Orient Advertising in England.

And then there is the small matter of the fact that a large chunk of the content shared on social media is produced by newspapers. Some of the most interesting news stories are shared virally on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, driving even more traffic to their websites and creating a positive feedback loop, where social media and old media work to support each other, rather than act as rivals.

It was advocated by most respondents that both media were dependent on one another, and for this reason, should stucture out a way to balance one another.

Like Ihenacho put it, “Of course, journalism isn’t actually going away, it’s simply the medium that is changing. While social media empowers all of us to be the source, and to break the story, there will always be a high demand for quality reporting which traditional media provides. None is independent”.

 

Contact the author:

The Herald NG

The Herald NG is a leading newspaper in Nigeria at the forefront of the digital revolution.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

The Heraldng

Stay in touch with us on your social networks and never again miss out on any updates.

FOLLOW US ON