This is a great guest post by Markham Nolan, Managing Editor at Storyful, the first news agency created specifically for the social media age. Twitter is a living, breathing pulse for breaking news, ceaselessly changing and spreading, in this post, Markham explains the power and impact of Twitter on news media.
News is in a crisis
But it’s unlike the financial crisis affecting the world at present, where money is in short supply. This crisis is an overabundance of information in the real-time world, and news agencies are struggling to deal with the overflow. But what do we mean by that? Of course, it doesn’t mean that speed is no longer of the essence – early warning is still key, and every agency has to accelerate the pace at which they gather news to be ahead of their competitors.
The Consumer craves relevancy – right now
Quick, digestible context around the headlines they already know is key. They know the ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ – and they want to know the ‘how’ and why’. They know that the world is talking about protests in Syria, or Sarah Silverman, or Gangnam style, again, because their social graph is telling them so. Their phone is buzzing. They want to know why – they want detail extracted from the noise. They still want the news, but they want to drill deeper into it at a greater pace than has ever been done before.
When your customers are beating you to the product, it changes the game
With the vastness of the information at hand, and ever-greater access to that information, news agencies have to cope with a reality that their readers may never come to them for a headline again. The headlines are already out there, via Twitter, via Facebook, via whatever medium that is your particular preference. In 140 characters, the news is being broken before news agencies even realize it’s news. Being first to the news is clearly old hat. The scoop is dead. The sift is what it’s all about. And for news agencies, this becomes a huge data-management task. We’ve seen the rise of slow-form data journalism, where tech-savvy journalists digest vast quantities of traditional ‘data’ – be it in excel spreadsheets or databases of information scraped from government agencies, or obtained by freedom of information requests. They turn this into navigable facts, or infographics – basically sifting out the information and digesting it into a form that makes sense to everybody.
Data isn’t just cells in a spreadsheet anymore
Social media provides a non-stop, surging firehose of data which can be similarly mined, albeit more clumsily. It’s not clean, interrogable data like numbers in a spreadsheet – it’s opinion mixed with fact mixed with rumor. It’s on-scene witness reporting mixed with context from external observers with an intelligent smattering of professional journalism, and all of it is being spat out relentlessly at breakneck speed. The news agencies that will win the new information wars will be the ones that develop the capacity to intelligently sift that data for tasty news morsels, get to the nub of the most pertinent global conversations promptly, and deliver neatly digested context to their readers ahead of the pack. That’s not too much to ask, right?