As much as I rant and rave about why digital media should be our main source of information, the fact is, it’s not. HP’s Social Computing Research Group (even HP’s wanting a piece of the growing social pie) recently found that 72% of trending retweets come from traditional outlets such as @cnnbrk or @nytimes. HP reported that most trending topics didn’t even come from influencers. As much as we’d love to believe Ashton Kutcher has the power to throw a trend into motion, it’s really the reporters combing the streets and press conferences publishing the scoop on the press.
An exception is exclusive digital news releases, like when Shaquille O’Neil announced his retirement on Tout. I will say proudly, I was there for that charismatic, unique, 20-second act of Shaqness and was included among the 500k viewers pulled to Tout in three hours; that’s 500k viewers that weren’t pulled to ESPN. Research currently shows that trending social news begins primarily with traditional media, but Shaq’s example of starting a national story with digital is itself a rapidly growing trend. According to a study by PR Network Oriella, over half of journalists report they fear shutdown of their publication, with one in six lost little journalists reporting it’s already happened to theirs.
Let’s say I’m a New Yorker, why would I walk two streets over to pick up a NY Times paper when I can have all the content on my phone? If I can have all the content on my phone, why would I pay $9 a week for all digital access when I can gather my news from other, free sources that have found a way to survive with online advertising? Let’s say I live in suburban northern Utah, which I do, and my costly subscription arrives at my door with content that is days old? Not only is the content old, but a majority of it is probably irrelevant to my interests, whereas my Twitter, Google, StumbleUpon and Scoop.it know my career interests better than my friends do.
Then there’s the local news bust. Not everyone in my local community is connected online like I am, actually, a majority of them aren’t. When the national news story of a motorcyclist saved by bystanders happened down the street from me, I saw the video from a friend on facebook before I saw it on MSNBC…online. However, I ingest media dramatically differently than most citizens in Logan. Without local newspapers the majority of residents here would have learned about their neighborhood heroes a week later on Ellen Degeneres. Even though 69% of adults in a Pew Internet study say the death of their local newspaper wouldn’t change their ability to get news, there are still specific information categories that are statistically second to none on papers such as crime, taxes (woof), housing, and jobs… those are some pretty important categories!
For now, I must admit trending is generated by traditional media, but who knows? My millennials and I have the last laugh when we have jobs and media dinosaurs are stumbling through confusing career change.