Every day the digital world continues to move towards facilitating the way we do almost anything. The same applies to accessing the media. Today less people have the time to sit down and read a paper, however, media still exists and news continues to happen. The question then becomes, how is media still accessed and whose voice should you listen to?
In the past 5-10 years the era of the Internet-enabled smart phone has exploded, which I believe is one of the biggest contributing factors in the approaching death of newspaper media. The point is simple: it is more convenient for many people who have to sit on a cramped bus or train to sit there, Blackberry in hand, and surf any news feeds or blogs they happen to be interested in. This modern reality can be compared to the traditional image of someone sitting down over breakfast with a newspaper. In this day and age, it is almost impossible to find time to do that.
Software like RSS feed readers allows people to subscribe and follow the many websites and online news agencies that supply an RSS feed. What subscribing to a website’s RSS feed does is simply push the media headlines to your mobile phone or to your email. The advantages of this RSS method are that you can quickly access the feed from anywhere, and you receive a feed of only the media headlines that interest you. This offers the convenience and portability that no new print outlet can offer.
Tools like this are steadily causing a decline in the numbers of subscribers to mainstream media newspapers. In September, 2004 The Washington Post held focus groups in an effort to discover why readers were being lost and why they were having such a difficult time attracting readers. At the time of the study, they had approximately 770,000 subscribers, but by June the following year that number fell by six per cent
More recently, changes in the world of online media have caused The New York Times to push to begin charging readers to view their site online. In fact, recently the paper announced that it would begin to charge frequent visitors to the site a flat fee with those not paying subject to a page view limit. The New York Times is just one of the many paper publishers suffering from a decline in print newspaper subscribers. Nytimes.com has an average of 20 million daily readers, so if this flat fee method works, perhaps an online profit is possible.
This is more evidence that print media is moving online and of the public need to adapt. As I mentioned earlier, RSS feeds are swell, but it is up to the reader to ultimately decide what gets pushed to your desktop or your phone. So how do you distinguish between the good and the bad of online media?
As much as I love the comical reads The Onion can provide, the articles or videos they produce are often eyebrow-raisers and not really for serious news. When I am surfing the net and reading news stories, I tend to stick to the same group of sources. The only way the average consumer can develop his or her collection of media subscriptions is with slow and careful reading. I suggest you read plenty of what the web has to offer, but then take it all in with a grain of salt. Don’t hesitate to feel skeptical if you come across something that doesn’t seem completely solid; chances are it isn’t. If it’s posted on a small blog or a relatively new website, the probability of the information being inaccurate is much greater. Anyone can publish anything when it comes to online media, so feel free to be wary.
I also like to look at the date the website was established. From my experience, smaller news sites that have been around longer have more credibility, due to the fact that they have more readers — readers who can offer up criticism when retractions are needed and mistakes are made.
Reputation is always an important factor when picking a media source. A reader can’t go wrong with selections from the BBC, for instance. However, I do not recommend the “breaking news” sources, because often these outlets rush stories out before all the facts are properly established. By the next day there may be an entirely different twist to the story.
Print media is fading. It’s impossible to estimate when it will be gone, but it is best for you, the reader, to adapt to the online media world before you too get left behind.