The Challenge We Face in the Media Industry

When I was first asked to record every piece of news I read in 48 hours, my reaction was: “Uh, but I didn’t read any news at all.” Then I started my media diary, and I found that I did read news, but the way I consumed it made me feel that I was doing nothing.

I did the experiment on Tuesday, January 20th and on Monday, January 26th. As soon as I woke up, I turned to my cell phone for social media updates. I scrolled down quickly and didn’t really look at the content carefully. Sometimes, when there were breaking news or news topics that interested me (mostly entertainment news), I opened the link which led me directly to the news website. In these instances, I spent a longer time reading it, although, because of my impatience, I usually quit halfway through. But under most circumstances, I just read those fragmented news within 140 words or less on social media platforms. The average time I spent with it, not surprisingly, was less than 30 seconds. Although I checked social media feeds frequently, especially during the night, I didn’t share or leave any comment under any content.

My own behavior really reminds of Tony Haile’s findings: clicking is not equal to reading, and attention matters more than page views. As the first generation of digital natives, we access news articles mainly through social media platforms. And because of the massive amount of content social media provides us with, it is impossible for us to read every piece of information word for word. So in order to keep balance between quality and quantity, we choose to consume the information in a much faster way. We simply just have a glance at it, and then keep on going with the next one. And because I consume information like that, I have the feeling that I am not learning anything. How could someone get to know about a story within 30 seconds?

Another thing I am worrying about is the singularity of content we consume. Although we have more choices nowadays than before in consuming media, the categories of news content we consume are actually becoming narrower. Because of the unbundling of media content, we are able to choose the topic we like and ignore the others. I am sure young people care more about entertainment news than political news. Especially when we access the news content through social media where we only follow the type of media we like, it is very possible that the content one person reads becomes less and less diverse.

Also, I am wondering if digital advertisement strategy will be affected by the way that people consume media. If people spend less and less time on a webpage, will the company be willing to invest money on a digital website? I think some news corporations have already encountered this problem, for example, New York Times’ digital ads revenue keeps declining for years. Some other mainstream media are also facing the same problem.

Although I always heard people say that the media landscape is changing dramatically nowadays, it wasn’t until this time that I realized how dramatic it is that I hardly use my laptop to read news articles. I feel there’s a lot to discover with people’s media consumption behaviors, and hope the remaining classes could give me the answer.