Journalism in a Digital World

With the expansion of digital communication tools and technologies, news organizations have discovered a multitude of new information management opportunities, as well as the challenge of interconnecting data security and privacy with innovation.

Journalism came into existence as a reportage of current events, particularly in printed form, that is, newspapers. Driven by the significant expansion of technology and electronic information exchange over the past decade, however, its scope has widened and its definition has evolved into an all-encompassing information domain. The current stage on this evolutionary ladder — print, radio, and television is digital media, the world’s most widely used and influential news consumption medium.

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As of now, as many as 80 per cent of Indians are consuming news on the Internet, primarily through social media and instant messaging services. The wide-ranging use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube has allowed news outlets to give readers constant updates on recent issues, bypassing time and accessibility barriers. In fact, significant advancements in chat-bots have also enabled WhatsApp and Messenger to deliver catalogued news, stock market updates and other important information specifically tailored to the specific consumer.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) played a key role in addressing the technology’s emerging potential to automate the shipping of news on digital media. As evidence to this, China’s state news agency Xinhua recently unveiled a virtual news anchor running on AI that can deliver news on its website and social media platforms 24 hours a day. Equipped to understand from live stream videos, the AI anchor can simulate person’s speech, gestures and facial expressions, and read texts as instinctively as a professional news anchor. Using News-bots and Stock-bots to provide users with economic alerts and updates, and relevant corporate and market news has helped to increase subscriptions as a revenue model, marking a shift from conventions.

Customizability is also handy for content-creators. For example, The Washington Post’s Bandito, a custom-built content-testing tool in real-time, allows experimentation on how narratives are presented on its website. It allows news organization editors to create multiple story experiences, with different headlines, blurbs, and thumbnail pictures. Once the stories are live, the best-performing version is automatically detected, displaying it to end users more routinely, whilst making appropriate enhancements to the rest.

The proliferation of live video networks like Facebook, Periscope, Instagram and the like has also demonstrated to be a boon for news coverage, opening up a variety of high-traffic avenues for providing customer information. On the other hand, innovative graphic representation, such as that used by The Weather Channel to recognize the impact of the storm surge on the Carolina coast caused by Hurricane Florence, has also helped to make audiences aware by giving them a near-realistic perspective on the situation.

The period of accelerated digital transformation has made data one of today’s most important resources, leading to a renewed emphasis on the collection, processing and use of information to curate relevant content that is unique to each and every user. As a result, the ability to strike a careful balance between openness, privacy, and security, while making use of the immense potential of data and technology, supported by smart innovation, is what will set a news organization apart in this brilliant new era of opportunities.