May 13, 2013
In recent years, new technologies have revolutionized the ways that we think about the media and how we get our news. Innovations such as Twitter and “smart” mobile phones have made information faster, easier, and cheaper to consume. At the same time, customary media sources like newspapers and magazines have weathered declines in their readership and advertising revenues. The conventional wisdom has decreed that the established media’s days are numbered. In reality, though, talk of the “death of the American newspaper” is premature and overlooks some of the real advantages that traditional media sources have to offer.
First, while online platforms have increased their market share in recent years, the vast majority of Americans – 72%, according to the State of the First Amendment survey – still get their news from familiar media sources such as the TV, radio, or newspaper. More interesting still, a 2010 Pew study on news content and usage revealed that 95% of new information, meaning a story the reader was not previously aware of, came from traditional sources. This suggests social media is being used primarily to share content that has already been produced by their conventional counterparts, rather than as a vehicle for original journalism – making the two more like partners than rivals.
Second, traditional media sources benefit from their proximity to the public they serve. As members of the same communities, these journalists understand what is important to their neighbors and how best to reach them. Furthermore, conventional media outlets offer a standard of credibility and accountability for their output, and stake the reputation of their public brand on the quality of their work. The new media technology’s emphasis on transferring information as rapidly and freely as possible also creates the potential for that information to be inaccurate or incomplete.
For these reasons, traditional media sources have a great deal to offer in spite of the increased options for consumers in the media market. It has never been easier to write a guest editorial or submit content for publication in your traditional media outlets. Those seeking to stoke conversation and make positive changes in their community should look no further.