17

November

How digital is affecting our news consumption

In a digital world, the way we receive news is changing. While convenience increasingly draws people to consume news online, a sense of bias and inaccuracy is simultaneously pushing many away from mainstream media – 60% of Americans don’t trust the mainstream media.

As a result, numbers watching major TV news channels at prime time are down, while printed newspapers around the world are in serious decline.

With 1.4 billion smartphone users all potential ‘collectors of news’, and the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram ready to distribute it, the news landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented. That’s left many news outlets having to become social media platforms that now must compete against rivals who just a few years ago weren’t even on their radar.

With so many new players in the ‘news space’, stories that would once have been buried can now be ‘broken’ to global audiences. That’s to the good. But, with many of these sources not governed by the effective editorial control of established media, it’s often hard to know which of them can be trusted. And in an age of radicalization, knowing the difference between news and propaganda is ever more important.

Fortunately, there is a healthy distrust of social media among even the most ardent online enthusiasts compared with reputable news outlets.

Another factor is the growing trend towards tailoring news to individual preferences, following in the footsteps of Google, Facebook and Twitter, who personalize search results. While that may keep us interested, it does mean that we’re in a ‘filter bubble’, only getting news that confirms our own views, which lately was highly questioned in regards to the American election. For instance, now that we can buy just one article rather than a whole newspaper, we don’t have the opportunity to even accidentally come across other news that would widen our perspective. To paraphrase one-time US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, it’s then that we don’t even know what we don’t know. With no alternative viewpoint, our focus can narrow, and that’s not good when understanding and tolerance are needed.

And if we act as editors of our own news, we may opt to consume news only in bite sized pieces. Headlines with no in-depth analysis may be just the thing when the average attention span of a human is now said to be just eight seconds or so, one second less than that of a goldfish. However, what will that do to our understanding of the world and its many complex issues?

Then there is algorithmic discrimination – when others make news choices for us, often based on demographics. That could mean the poorest receiving little financial news and information.

The changing nature of news is just a reflection of the digitalization that’s ripping through business and society. That same disruption, though not always obvious, is happening in the markets in which you do business. So businesses will increasingly need to focus on ‘niching’ in order match what they offer ever more closely to what consumers want.

Cloud-based services are at the forefront of this, as they allow for the consumption and delivery of knowledge, services and goods in bite-size pieces, which is what the market demands.

Of course, when you are in the middle of things, it’s not always easy to see what’s going on around you, which is why we have created our Digital Index as a way for organizations like yours to get a better sense of how they should be ‘digitizing’ their business for maximum effect. You can find out your Digital Index here.