Mindfulness of the Complexities of the Journalist and the Reader

The central thesis in my research is to create a strategy for “branding” a journalist, using new media and business models.  My analysis will assess the changing landscape of communications, such as the Internet and social websites, and see how to bring clear, reliable voices to news consumers.

During my examination of the ever-shifting forms of communication, I noticed a common theme of “convergence.”   Convergence has become a buzzword representing the current push to provide information through several channels.  A working definition can be (1.) to come together or towards the same point and (2.) to approach from different directions.  To apply the term to the media suggests the classic inverted pyramid, a broad funnel of information on top with the point resting firmly on the consumer. Instead of solitary strands of information leading to an interested individual, converged news becomes a blend of formats co-existing to create a service, not a product.

My focus rests on the feeling that it would be incomplete to discuss the rise of new methods of expression without examining how professionals can develop skillsets that embrace these opportunities. 

Working within a converged media, it is important for the journalist devise a strategy to market their talent through more than one avenue.  The journalist cannot rest on just one foundation, such as print alone.  A fluency of online and broadcast methods can only improve a reporter’s viability.  In the desire to develop a brand, it is necessary to develop traits such as credibility in many platforms. It helps to understand how methods such as branding are essential for success in the ever-changing structure of today’s media. 

It is with this in mind we discuss the concept of convergence.

In the book “Convergence Culture,” Henry Jenkins discussed the pioneering theories of MIT political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool: “‘Once upon a time,’ Pool explained, ‘companies that published newspapers, magazines, and books did very little else; their involvement with other media was slight.’ Each medium had its own distinctive functions and markets, and each was regulated under different regimes.”  A broad vision is needed in the new business of journalism.

Historically, it had always been the main task of business to market products (or services like news information) to an audience.  Success rested on the ability to gauge interest and predict trends—an elusive goal for many.  In addition, the media of the past itself had limitations.  Dominating the media were niches with limited crossover.  Any particular medium, even though having a loose relation to other forms of communication, for the most part did not infringe on the territory of the other.  Television was separate from radio, and both were distinct from print, which itself was split into magazines and newspapers.  There was little coherence across platforms.

The rise of the participatory culture of the Internet changed all that. Convergence puts providers of content, as well as consumers, in a turbulent climate of information.  The Internet succeeds in binding traditional forms of communications, becoming a sort of convergence glue. It is hard to imagine any form of news or entertainment that is not now embracing the Internet as a way to connect and expand its core audience.  
The Internet is only the most visible catalyst of convergence. Newspapers and television have become increasingly cooperative, where stations are “partnering” with papers to offer more in-depth product.  Of course, such consolidations also stem from a struggling economy, where cutbacks are commonplace.
The struggle to keep up with reader preferences reflects not only an age-old need for business to predict flowing trends, but also to keep up with a now-raging torrent of tastes, set about in a hyper-drive.  Blink and you will miss your next customer.

Convergence represents a movement of information through channels that are constantly broadening, as opposed to the centralized models of the past.  In our participatory culture, new technologies give consumers a great degree of freedom.  They have the power to change preferences, and do not hesitate to exercise that power.  Media organizations are competing for readers and viewers with a frenzy unlike any time in history.  

In addition, the ability for consumers to offer immediate feedback and insight makes them more a valuable resource.  We are able to instantaneously know what is important to the reader, and tailor services to fit their needs. 

However, reader feedback in journalism creates a fine line.  Instead of giving the audience what they only want to hear, offering a product narrowly constructed and manufactured, the new converged journalist must seize the opportunity to broaden the knowledge and education of the reader.  Knowledge of audience tastes poses a challenge: to give them what they want, while getting them to see something new.

Author Bill Tancer sees convergence culture as something more: “search and Internet behavioral data can go beyond simply providing the strength of a candidate or a computer’s brand; it can provide insight into the decision process itself, and unlike with traditional surveys, this observed behavior isn’t skewed by any participant bias.”

Competition for viewers is not a new challenge. It has always been the “hard sell.”  But today the forums have changed, now with a new twist. 

In researching business models, I have found several methods of marketing and consultation that offer strategies applicable to journalists.  As a business model, consulting offers several tips the writer can use to get his message to a wider audience.

The most important rule in consultancy is to understand the client—to see problems from the client’s standpoint.  This is equivalent to a writer knowing their audience.  This important lesson of consultancy is in the ability for the journalist to embrace fully the reader’s point of view, translating complex issues to a larger audience.  Being able to identify topics that affect people, understand universal themes, as well as clearly tell a story is the best opportunity to show readers you have what it takes to earn their trust.

This increased dialogue between journalist and reader is the mark of an age of transition, full of competing interests and unintended consequences.  Convergence of media only heightens the multifaceted nature of modern communication.   Mindfulness of these complexities will determine success in branding voices in journalism.

Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: FloridaPolitics.com Email: phil@floridapolitics.com Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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