Reinventing The Media In Age Of Disruption


With digital technology reducing the circulation of mainstream newspapers, and the art of news consumption, gathering and writing more democratised, the need for journalists to remain relevant on the digital platform becomes imperative.

In the last decade, mainstream media has struggled to compete with the new media with little success. This has left it in a state of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. This is why there is hardly a mainstream media in the country that is not active on the digital platform.

A few newspaper houses that understand the importance of the digital platform are maximising opportunities it offers to reach a wider readership, hence they invest in human capital for best delivery.

Watchers of events in the industry have noted that in this age of media disruption, organisations today must likewise contend with opportunities and threats implicit in a host of emerging technologies. They must execute upon a multitude of data-driven, tech-centric tasks, such as audience measurement, social media analysis, and cross-platform app implementations.

They equally noted that brands need to decide who they are, where they want to play, what their consumers want from them and how to provide the best services for their needs from an entertainment or information standpoint.

For many, building the right media team and culture is critical to newspaper success as it continues to evolve across the business, from advert sales to distribution, content development and operations.

While raising the need for media firms to adopt a digital mindset, they noted that the industry needed to iterate faster on the changes necessary to compete in a digital environment.

They also harped on the need for media organisations to evolve adaptive strategies in the midst of massive digital transformation.

Professor of Mass communication from the University of Jos, John Sanni Illah, said he was happy that the social media has the capacity to disrupt the mainstream media, adding, “Disruption is a very positive thing as the media in several ways have gone to sleep, taking a lot of things for granted. The social media is delivering on various platforms the mandate of the existing media.”

Pointing to some of the advantages of the social media, Illah said, “It is immediate, participatory and democratic. The mass media has over hobnobbed with the existing status quo, many people have lost confidence in them; some of the media owners are members of the senate and are part of the problem that the media are supposed to be addressing. Media houses are no longer held in trust for the people but are private properties owned by individuals.”

Illah advised media managers to produce relevant content that would keep the readers’ interest. He said, “If a newspaper is not readership content-driven, why should I waste my money to buy? The media has to determine for itself how to write human interest-based content that must not side too much with the establishment. The fact that somebody owns a newspaper does not mean that he determines every content.”

The mass communication teacher further advised that the mainstream media must specialise in such a way to reorient readership, as well as be adaptive to new media technology and have more digitize platforms. “For example, The Guardian was very authoritative and it managed to drive opinions. Today, people are no longer interested in heavy stories, but in trivia stories; real-life stories. They must adopt a viewership upload model that is interactive on social media platforms.”

Also, Mr. Chido Nwakanma of Pan Atlantic University, Epe, stressed that the effect of digitisation reflects on the online platforms, as the online media are now dominant.

He said, “a number of players that are not necessarily trained in the niceties and canons of the profession send out the narratives from the online media. Hence, all professional journalists need to be scrupulous in observing the canons and ethical code of the profession. The rate at which negative news spread requires us to go back to some of the earlier precepts that ‘when in doubt, leave out’.

“But we are not leaving out because of competition or the need not to miss out on news, but we leave out because the online guys are dictating the news for us. There are two things that underline the practice of journalism; the purpose of journalism to verify information that has utility. The practice is based on the principle of verification; that we are sending you these news items with a guarantee, the guarantee that our team of reporters and editors have gone through the processes and have verified that the news is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

“It is better to miss a story than run an incorrect piece. Stories circulate today, and most people will say The Guardian don carry am? They are passing a judgment call that I trust that when The Guardian has carried it, it means that they have done the professional thing; that is the public passing a vote of confidence on the brand. Let’s not because of speed, because of competition dilute our brand because if we do that, if we lose that vote of confidence of the reader, then it is finished.”

Reacting to how newsroom ethics could be upheld in an economically challenged country where most media outfits are commercialising content to survive, Nwakanma said, “It is wrong.”

He called on the mainstream media to develop good content so as take back their lead.

Prof. Muyiwa Popoola of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State said the fact that online journalism was thriving is a function of what the dominant paradigm is in respect of digitisation.

According to him, “The electronic age is driven by the digital approach of getting things done and the fact that most media organisations are doing much to register their visibility is giving a nod towards that direction.”

He said though the social media readership is on the increase; a lot of people still rely on the hard copies of newspapers, that is the conservative audience. Stressing the need to make the newspaper’s design more aesthetically appealing. “They should think of producing two editions in a day and target their readers because the problem with newspapers is that they produce for generalised audience. I can tell you that specialised publications sell more than omnibus ones. They fail to do audience analysis,” he added.

Also speaking at a recent digital media forum, Editor in Chief, The Guardian, Mr. Debo Adesina advised journalists to be unique and make the news, ‘a news people can use’ in a language that the new media journalist cannot write.

He said the era where media companies made all their money from subscriptions and advertising is rapidly disappearing.

To him, successful media companies develop multiple products and services, often in partnership with brand advertisers, to insulate themselves from economic uncertainty.

He noted that media technology is at the epicenter of industry disruption. To address shifts in consumer behaviour and deliver first-class content and experiences practitioners must continue innovating for the future.

According to him, “reading is key to writing excellently and it prepares one for leadership. We need to create content that is king; content that is rare.”

For Martins Oloja, what interests the reader is something someone is trying to hide. Hence the journalist must have the ability to find out what was not disclosed by probing to address systematic failure.

He said, “The failure of investigative journalism is a follow-up. To be relevant in this age, we need to be curious about the things around us and break every piece of information.”

He pointed out that though the demand for news had not changed, the journalist must be anxious about not losing his job, power, and influence to invaders, as the social media has made tomorrow too far, adding that journalism had become a conversation today.

According to him, “Research is key to investigation. There is a need for documentation. It is important to have full knowledge of the law as a journalist.”