Thursday July 25, 2013

Below is a presentation I prepared for "Digital media and the Effect on the News Industry," a panel discussion I was asked to join on Wednesday evening. It was sponsored by East Dorset-based Green Mountain Academy or Lifelong Learning and hosted by Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. Panelists in addition to me included Timothy McQuiston, editor of Vermont Business Magazine; Anne Galloway, editor of VTDigger.org; and Bill Densmore, consulting fellow for Reynolds Journalism Institute. The discussion was filmed and televised by GNAT-TV. Print isn’t dead. But the way newspapers like the Bennington Banner deliver the news to the reader is changing and adapting to new technology.

Sure, you can buy the Banner in print. But you can also read it on our website, in our E-edition, or by accessing our iPhone and iPad apps. You have several options.

While newspapers’ revenue from the print side of things is on the decline -- and that is the case for all traditional print media companies -- the sky’s the limit for our digital products. In the next year or two, our parent company, Digital First Media, whose stable of newspapers includes the New Haven Register, the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News, projects revenue from the digital side to best the print revenue.

On the Digital First Media website, the company boasts more than 800 multi-platform products reach 61 million Americans each month across 18 states.


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Notice the absence of the word "newspapers" from that statement. Newspapers are a big part of it, I’m happy to say, but the traditional print products are only part of the big picture.

So how does that change the way we present the news to you, our reader?

Banner reporters cover news stories in roughly the same way as has always been done, via penned notes on paper, quotes recorded by tape recorder or iPhone voice recording app. But today a reporter -- or, better yet, let’s call this person a multimedia journalist -- will likely also take a short video to enhance that story online, and perhaps a still photo or two to add to the print and online versions of it. These photos and video are put up on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter to reach a (possibly) global audience before the story has even been filed. The Banner and all DFM properties are now using a 45-second video platform called Tout to produce easy-to-make instantly-posted short video clips of most every story or as standalone media (these can be viewed on our Tout widget on Benningtonbanner.com). We also produce longer-form, edited videos to add to the website or social media. These measures weren’t being done five years ago. Now they are the norm.

Additionally, a reporter might "crowd-source" a story idea or tip using social media as well. Readers’ answers to Facebook polls such as "What do you do think about" whatever the national story of the day is may be included in our stories. Twitter can be used much the same way, though its reach is far shorter than Facebook’s -- at least in the Bennington area.

The bottom line is we do not think about a news story as just a story for the next day’s newspaper anymore. We think about how it can be presented visually to our readers, and how our video or photo or article might appeal to a much larger audience. We seek reaction to it immediately from a theoretically global audience.

In the words of John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, in an April 2013 interview about the future of the company, the name Digital First Media "originally was to say very loudly -- in a headline kind of way -- that what we thought we did in newspapers, we had to change dramatically. And that, of course, meant digital first. And actually "digital first, print last." I wanted to hammer home that this idea about the Web as something else we do was ridiculous. The Web was and it should be what we do. Print is something else that we do, which happens -- at this moment in time -- to have almost all the revenue. But that’s not going to be our future."

It’s part of our future.

So, please keep reading -- in whatever format you prefer.

~Michelle Karas