As someone with both education and experience in journalism, it has been fascinating to watch the world of media consumption change so drastically, dramatically and quickly as it has in the last decade. We’ve gone from long-form editorial essays published with actual ink, printed on actual paper and delivered to actual doorsteps to sending out our thoughts, opinions and breaking news announcements in 144 characters from the phone in our pocket.
A Modern-Day Wild West
To many, it can seem that the need for content must be disappearing. Just point them to the hundreds of newspapers and other media outlets who have shuddered reporters and writers or shut down completely because of lack of readership (and rapidly decreasing advertising dollars.) However, this need from the public to have quality, accurate and intelligent content about matters important to them didn’t go away just because people changed how they wanted to consume this content. This need just went to the modern-day Wild West, otherwise known as the internet. The shift to allowing news and information to be served up free of charge through a host of websites was not only the biggest mistake media made in the early days of offering content on the internet, but it also allowed an almost unlimited number of competitors – both legitimate and illegitimate – to sprout up overnight as there was no barrier to entry to get started.
Before mass media could pivot and create a plan to save itself, the internet was full of self-proclaimed experts spouting off advice on everything from raising kids to world politics. And, to the average-Joe-internet-browser, it was hard to tell the difference between the truth-sayers and the buck-makers. To the untrained eye, anyone can become a news source. Content produced and published is searchable and available worldwide, instantaneously, and it can be used, quoted or referenced without knowledge.
A Direct Link to the Source
The good news is that the dust is settling, and media is finally getting some good footholds on how to remain relevant and digestible in the digital age. And, maybe even more importantly, reputable companies and industry experts are finding their voice and sharing their knowledge, insight and expertise on their digital platforms and social media outlets. The best part? The barriers for people to obtain knowledge and to share knowledge is less than it has ever been – people can go directly to the source.
That’s where you come in: In this SEO-driven world, creating specific, targeted and relevant content is integral to reaching specific customers with unique needs. The customers are closer now to the sources of their needs than ever before, which is a win for everyone.
A Great Responsibility
Keep in mind: The responsibility for the content that is created now by us is great. We’ve removed the barriers for content creation and publication and replaced it with the ability to publish anything at any time. In the past, mass media also acted as a gatekeeper that kept a lot of false information from being spread and shared. Thus, as content creators, our role to stay true to facts and present thoughtful information is more important than ever before.
It’s not just important; it is our duty.
We are living in an incredibly exciting time. Those working in professional communications right now are the ones writing the rulebook for how communications will be delivered and absorbed for the next generation. The books written today are about issues that didn’t even exist when I was studying journalism and communications just a few (ok, more than a few years now) years ago. I’m confident we’ll tame this Wild West and leave a communications system that is more open, more accessible and maybe even more accurate and useful than we’ve ever had before.