A few days ago I was reading an article about a study that examined how journalists use different aspects of the Web. It revealed nothing terribly earth shattering, but what struck me was the title of the piece, which used the phrase "New Media." I couldn't help but roll my eyes.
New flash: It's 2008. The Internet and all it has to offer is a permanent part of life. Shopping, bill paying, even dating has found a permanent and functioning home on the Web. Why would it be any different for news and media? I'm boggled every time I hear anyone refer to the use of the Internet in journalism as New Media, because there is fundamentally nothing new about it. Even by simply calling online news New Media marginalizes it, as if it's some fad we'll be done with in a few years. What's more, the Web and what users expect from it, is only going to keep evolving, and anyone who doesn't embrace that is going to be left in the unprofitable cold.
Video, slideshows, polls and even games are no longer novelties, but rather the norm when it comes to online news. Gone are the days when words alone keep eyeballs on a page. It's too easy to click to another source if one isn't bringing enough interactive heat to keep a reader engaged.
From a business perspective, it's also not enough for traffic measuring standards, either. Nielsen recently announced that they will start measuring Web traffic by the amount of time users spend on a site -- not just page views. If a news organization -- big or small -- wants the kind of traffic that will attract advertisers, viewers need a reason to hang around. Pure content simply won't do it.
Practically every newspaper's stock is plummeting. Print ad dollars are sinking and the online revenue -- although expected to soar in 2008 -- isn't making up for the difference. Reports of newsroom layoffs and buyouts pop up almost daily. That said, anyone calling it New Media probably still has an AOL e-mail address and a clumsy, Geocites homepage.
I've taught Intro to Journalism classes, both at colleges and for adults. The first thing I tell all my students is to go home and get themselves a little plot of online real estate. It doesn't matter if it's a blog about their coffee preferences or a Web site where they post assignments they're particularly proud of. They just need to be Googleable. It's getting to a point that without an online presence, do you even exist?
So what to call it then? eMedia? Special projects? I say, just call it media, since the traditional venues of print and broadcast have all been blended together online. As we move forward, all the different kinds of journalism will still exist -- long form, photo essays and breaking news. They're just going have the same home -- online.
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