Will ‘News Influencers’ Replace Traditional Media?

The Washington Post looks at the “millions of independent creators reshaping how people get their news, especially the youngest viewers.” News consumption hit a tipping point around the globe during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, with more people turning to social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram than to websites maintained by traditional news outlets, according to the latest Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. One in 5 adults under 24 use TikTok as a source for news, the report said, up five percentage points from last year. According to Britain’s Office of Communications, young adults in the United Kingdom now spend more time watching TikTok than broadcast television. This shift has been driven in part by a desire for “more accessible, informal, and entertaining news formats, often delivered by influencers rather than journalists,” the Reuters Institute report says, adding that consumers are looking for news that “feels more relevant….”

While a few national publications such as the New York Times and The Washington Post have seen their digital audiences grow, allowing them to reach hundreds of thousands more readers than they did a decade ago, the economics of journalism have shifted. Well-known news outlets have seen a decline in the amount of traffic flowing to them from social media sites, and some of the money that advertisers previously might have spent with them is now flowing to creators. Even some outlets that began life on the internet have struggled, with BuzzFeed News shuttering in April, Vice entering into bankruptcy and Gawker shutting down for a second time in February. The trend is likely to continue. “There are no reasonable grounds for expecting that those born in the 2000s will suddenly come to prefer old-fashioned websites, let alone broadcast and print, simply because they grow older,” Reuters Institute Director Rasmus Kleis Nielsen said in the report, which is based on an online survey of roughly 94,000 adults in 46 national markets, including the United States…

While many online news creators are, like Al-Khatahtbeh, trained journalists collecting new information, others are aggregators and partisan commentators sometimes masquerading as journalists. The transformation has made the public sphere much more “chaotic and contradictory,” said Jay Rosen, an associate professor of journalism at New York University and author of the PressThink blog, adding that it has never been easier to be both informed and misinformed about world events. “The internet makes possible much more content, and reaching all kinds of people,” Rosen said. “But it also makes disinformation spread.”
The article notes that “some content creators don’t follow the same ethical guidelines that are guideposts in more traditional newsrooms, especially creators who seek to build audiences based on outrage.”

The article also points out that “The ramifications for society are still coming into focus.”

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