Social media platforms offer plenty of opportunities for newspapers to engage their audiences. Despite this, newspapers still favour the one-way model of news distribution, write Mark Badham and Markus Mykkänen.
News items are consumed increasingly through various social media services. News items are also commented and shared more than before. In particular, major newspapers in the United States, Australia, and the UK have followed this trend and adapted their business to match the changed consumption habits of their audiences.
In Twitter, people often share big or significant news, whereas the news shared in Facebook are more entertaining and narrative by their nature. For newspapers, Twitter is more suitable for news distribution, whereas Facebook suits better for marketing in terms of its communal quality.
Both these services enable newspapers to collect a larger audience for their news and websites. Social media make it possible to tailor news into emotionally appealing pieces to attract clicks and spread the news further. Despite the new possibilities offered by various media platforms, newspapers still seem to operate in an old-fashioned way. News items are provided unidirectionally for the consumers. Newspapers are not seeking to engage their audiences in such a way that would benefit both the newspapers themselves and their audiences.
Social media would offer plenty of opportunities for this kind of engagement, though.
Newspapers could activate their audiences by asking for feedback on the news and encouraging the readers to discuss about the news more often and send pictures.
In addition, newspapers could share information in a more open and transparent way about their own organisation, operation, finances, or factors related to news editing as well as the reporters behind the news stories.
However, newspapers wish to stick to the traditional way of news distribution, where a news headline with related links is posted to social media in hope for further reactions from the audiences. This conservative model limits the newspapers’ possibilities to create communicatively richer contents for their audiences.
Ultimately, it limits the accessibility of news as well. It seems that an underlying reason for this is that newspapers and reporters are contented with the potential of social media just to distribute an unlimited amount of news.
Research shows that activation of audiences has become one of the key indicators of journalism. It is therefore contradictory that newspapers are not keen on engaging their audiences and increasing possibilities for reading and commenting on the news.
Mark Badham is working as Senior Lecturer of Corporate Communication at Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics, and Markus Mykkänen is working as Postdoctoral Researcher of Journalism at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä
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