Digital journalism is in a state of upheaval to say the least. Last summer, the New York Daily News let go of about half of the people staffing its newsroom. In the last few weeks, thousands of journalists have lost their jobs at well-known media outlets such as Yahoo, Vice, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, to name a few. It’s amazing how an entire industry could be upended just a few decades after the public debut of the internet.
Lots of factors have led to the changes and challenges faced by news outlets and traditional media today, although the arrival of web-based technologies was a major catalyst.
Is digital journalism dead? No. But it is evolving. Let’s look at three specific lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the turbulence that’s confronting both traditional and digital publishing.
1. Evolve with the market, like some of the best in digital journalism have.
We know what happened to most traditional news outlets. They stayed the old-fashioned course, instead of coming to grips with changing realities. Some went about their business, not realizing their business was at risk of dying. They took too long to adapt to new formats that better suited the way people were now consuming their content.
And that consumption is still changing. The amount of content available to consumers via streaming platforms on the internet has exploded. It’s still doing so. These days people simply pay less attention to digital journalism.
Many people now scan headlines instead of actually reading blog posts and articles that interest them. Digital outlets were almost always free in the beginning. We became used to that. Not anymore. Now companies want subscription money if you want access to articles that can’t be found anywhere else. That’s seemingly the model to follow going forward, although it’s not always popular.
The Lesson: In order to survive and thrive in the modern marketplace, you have to keep on top of how your specific slice of that market is changing. Think of how baseball has changed. Almost every team has an analytics department now that plays a part in deciding which players actually take the field. No matter which industry you’re in, read trade publications, listen to the trend analysts, and pay attention to your own metrics. When your consumers begin to exhibit signs of interacting with your product or service in a new way, listen to them. Conduct market research to make sure your offerings are up to date and, most importantly, to catch the new wave before it flattens your business.
2. Keep up with technology, like some of the best in digital journalism have.
The lightning speed with which consumers embraced the web and all its new associated technologies must have seemed surreal to traditional publishers. No sooner had websites become even an embryonic form than it seemed every business and even every individual had one.
And it wasn’t long after that before people were conducting actual business on the web. Initially, of course, this was mostly ecommerce related. However, given the format’s building blocks, including HTML (the markup language that constructs the basics, including the content in its raw form), it seemed only a matter of time before publishing would have to figure out this new technology, too.
The technology goalpost keeps shifting. New programming languages yield new functionality, while social media and other, faster forms of communication are continually debuting and evolving. No one has a crystal ball, of course, but it’s vital to stay current.
The Lesson: Technology affects virtually every industry and business model. There’s no longer anything optional about staying up to date with trends and developments in your field, particularly when it comes to new and evolving technologies. Monitor relevant trade publications. Set up news alerts via Google to stay up to date with news from a variety of sources to catch new trends as they first begin to develop. Finally, hire technology directors and employees who are steeped in these developments as well.
3. Adapt and pivot quickly.
Millions of blog posts, articles and other pages get published on the webevery single day. As digital content continues to expand exponentially, it’s crucial for digital and traditional publishing firms alike to find new ways to grab the attention of an audience that’s already stretched thin.
How many new sites, viral links, hilarious videos and can’t-miss podcasts confront your users every day? To put it mildly, it’s getting harder to grab their attention, let alone earn their engagement and their business.
Monitoring the right metrics is also mandatory. Unique viewers are wonderful, but what are those viewers doing? Your website analytics that report healthy page views might mislead you into thinking everything is fine. However, views don’t necessarily equate to revenue.
The Lesson: If your customers no longer engage with your products and services, figure out quickly why that is and then pivot towards new offerings that will meet their needs. If your company isn’t financially stable or large enough to withstand market changes, it may be time to consider merging and consolidating your company’s assets with another, more secure firm. The best mergers take place between two companies with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. That way, the resulting entity brings the best of each to the shifting marketplace.