On the morning of October 6th, Twitter announced its newest update: Moments. Twitter Moments is a feature that allows users to view the most popular content on the app all in one place. Users can scroll through the information quickly or choose to follow the subject so that related tweets are added directly into their timeline.
While Twitter’s latest feature is exciting, it’s only the most recent example of social media platforms transitioning into news sources. Facebook began this trend in 2014 when it launched Trending Topics to inform users of the most talked-about news stories. Snapchat jumped on the bandwagon less than a year later, introducing its narrative take on reporting the news with Discover.
One thing all of these social media platforms have in common is that they acquire their information from a very unusual source: average citizens. This concept completely breaks away from traditional news reporting in which a small group of individuals broadcast a specific viewpoint or chosen story to a wide audience. The use of social media to report the news is changing the game because it gives the people the power to decide which stories are important enough to talk about. The ability to showcase multiple viewpoints is crucial in an era when people are often brainwashed by the media. Young people are incredibly malleable and likely to blindly agree with whatever perspective is proposed by a news anchor. Social media platforms are now gaining information from a variety of sources with diverse opinions, which will allow users to form their own unique views on these important topics.
Since social media platforms are constantly updating their news stories, they act as a more dynamic source than traditional media channels. When a mistake is made in a newspaper, it can take time to correct. However, conversations on social media are always changing and adapting, which allows for the most up-to-date information. Some of these platforms are also dynamic in the way that they shift based on personal preference. Twitter Moments will eventually provide personalized content, tailored to the interests of each individual user. Again, this makes this news source more appealing because it allows users to focus on information they truly care about.
The final important difference between social media and traditional news sources is engagement. In 2012, 43% of millennials used the internet as a news source while only 14% read the newspaper. Younger generations of Americans value participation and community, and these things cannot be provided by traditional, one-way news sources. Millennials are looking to actively involve themselves in finding and sharing news information, so they see value in the model provided by social media platforms. Engagement in social media news is increased even more due to its instantaneous nature and ability to travel everywhere via smartphones.
It is clear that social media platforms are giving traditional news sources a run for their money. A 2015 study illustrates that over 60% of users on both Twitter and Facebook get news from those platforms. This number will continue to grow as more millennials enter adulthood. As we have seen time and time again, online business is decreasing and sometimes eliminating the need for print. Ebooks have replaced paperbacks, email has triumphed over direct mail, and now social media is diminishing the need for printed news. The question has ceased to be if social media will take over and has become how will traditional media fight back?
I don’t believe there is a simple solution for traditional news sources to combat the rise of social media. The best method is a multi-channel approach that incorporates these platforms into their traditional business model. For example, the New York Times has a strong digital and social presence which allows them to stay relevant on new channels. Yet, the company maintains the appeal of their traditional newspaper by using these channels to encourage readers to subscribe to their paper. Traditional news companies can no longer run from social media; they must embrace the change and devise an integration strategy before they become obsolete.
Do you agree that the shift towards social media as a news source is a positive one? Comment below with your thoughts and suggestions for traditional media sources.