Sink or Swim: News media adapt to a tidal wave of change
No one could predict how drastically news media would change in a relatively short 20 years. Yet today’s news media have faced mounting challenges that have tried and tested even the most established organizations. From the advent of the internet to a shift in revenue streams to the rise of social media, news media have experienced an unprecedented transformation. Some organizations have become stronger. Others haven’t survived. Here in Utah, local news media are holding on strong, persistently innovating new ways to stay relevant and financially viable despite the seemingly never-ending sea change they are facing.
One of the biggest surprises in the past 15-20 years about news media is how fractured it’s become. There are so many sources of information out there. It began with cable news channels and then with the online sources of news. Now there’s an infinite number of places where people can get information. From The New York Times on your phone to alternative news sources like BuzzFeed—it’s bottomless how many sources of news there are.
The digital transformation has put a lot of pressures on newsrooms on terms of revenue. We have to do more with a lower budget. However, it’s also given us a lot of opportunities. The digital evolution has put us into a breaking news situation that we weren’t in 20 years ago. We used to publish once a day, so we had to wait until publication time to tell an audience what we know. Now we can do it instantaneously, we can compete with TV news and radio news in ways that we never could before. That’s pretty exciting. …
If you look at the future of the Tribune, I look forward to our role becoming more and more important, because we do something that so few others can do. As news media becomes more and more fractured, we are the ones who still have the ability to do an important service to the people of Utah—that’s being independent journalists looking at how powerful institutions in Utah do their business.
Terry Orme, editor and publisher, The Salt Lake Tribune
The way social media has impacted the reporting and sharing of news has been remarkable. It was apparent when Twitter and Facebook first emerged that they had the power to change our industry, but very few could have predicted the extent to which they have. …
Our reporters, producers, assignment editors and photojournalists work very closely with our web staff to make sure we deliver breaking news on social media in addition to on-air. Twitter and mobile apps are the primary tools for that. Facebook is much better for generating discussion and debate, while providing users with more detailed information.
Simply having access to more news sources doesn’t necessarily mean someone is better informed. There are too many sources and too many variables. Lies, propaganda, hoaxes and misinformation spread easily. People need to choose what news they consume wisely, which is why consuming news from a credible media outlet is essential. Credible local journalism will always be relevant, regardless of how crowded the playing field is.
— Marc Sternfield, news director, Fox 13 KSTU-TV
The rise of social media and in particular the move to mobile devices as listening platforms [has been surprising]. We are an audio medium. Some of our listeners now never tune in the radio but hear us online and on phones. It has extended the reach of our listener base worldwide. …
I see audience flight from the radio dial as the biggest and most disturbing trend. It’s why radio is now rediscovering it roots of being locally relevant. You can listen to national program streams all day and never know until you walk outside that you’re in the middle of a blizzard and your drive home will take longer than you thought.
Radio is 100 years old now. It is relegated by alleged futurists to the ash heap of obsolete media. But stations that truly serve their local audience with relevant, necessary and current information, news, weather and road conditions, and are available on each new audio platform that comes along, will do just fine for many more years.
Larry Warren, president and general manager, KPCW Radio
Digital/Social Media News
Deseret Digital Media is an entirely separate digital organization. We have digital content teams and a dedicated digital sales team. That’s different than many local media businesses where they manage their organizations to include digital as one media company. We keep digital entirely separate.[When] a digital buyer wants to buy media, where do they go? They go to Google and Facebook—those are their primary sources of digital marketing. And they’re continuing to grow rapidly and taking greater and greater shares of our local media spend in our market, and that’s true across the world. … For a local media company to compete, they really have to be an expert at digital in the same way that companies like Google and Facebook are.
We don’t think about competing with local media companies, we think about competing with global digital media companies who have audiences in our market and sometimes sales teams in our market. Those who have fantastic digital properties—those are our major competitors.
Chris Lee, president, Deseret Digital Media (KSL.com, DeseretNews.com, Utah.com, etc.)