Is social media the new print?

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat have changed the Fourth Estate.

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In light of the ongoing U.S. presidential race, social media giant Facebook was recently accused of political bias for how its management of user newsfeeds.

Right-wing activists spoke out against the network’s editing policy, following claims from former editorial staff members who allegedly pruned conservative topics and articles from its ‘trending’ section. Facebook has officially denied the allegations, and has maintained that it works “to ensure consistency and neutrality.”

Setting politics aside, the incident highlights an important truth of our daily life: social media does indeed influence the information we receive. From Twitter to Snapchat, each of these platforms have changed the face of journalism with their massive repositories of data, vast audiences and unique methods of delivery.

Here’s how things are different today:

1. Access to a larger, broader audience

With the emergence of new media platforms and mobile devices, there are now more avenues through which we can gain access to news. Social media like Twitter and YouTube serve as alternatives to traditional hardcopy newspapers, while smartphones provide a convenient physical interface to access online content.

The primary benefit of this change is a wider circle of distribution that corresponds with an expansion in audience reach. By publishing on multiple Internet-based channels, news organisations and/or journalists now have access to a larger, heterogeneous audience. Take for example, Facebook, which has over 1.65 billion active users alone! This says much about the capability and essentiality of social media platforms in disseminating news on an international scale.

2. New ways of telling stories

Unlocking access to unprecedented global distribution is not the sole advantage that social media technologies has brought forth for news publication businesses. By taking advantage of platform-specific features, journalists are now able to weave a narrative in a variety of creative ways.

Visual presentation is one such aspect of social media that has revolutionised the news industry.  Snapchat’s Discover feature categorises and gives users access to interesting stories, presented through concise video clips accompanied by articles. All that is required for viewing is a simple tap to select your channel of choice and a left/right swipe to switch between stories.

3. A more diverse informational landscape

While it is true that social media platforms have granted news organisations fresh and flexible ways to engage with their audiences, the same can also be said for the proverbial man-on-the-street. Put differently, the traditional news industry is no longer the same with the emergence of citizen participation and journalism.

With the Internet, private individuals can now collect and publish information online for the eyes of an international audience. But far from replacing professional reporters, citizen journalists oftentimes represent a boon as they can help bring about a more efficient news environment by using social media. One well-known instance would be the Boston Marathon Bombings where independent real time updates through Twitter and Reddit helped enhance news reporting.

Written by: ( Edited & Illustrated by: Script Consultants Pte Ltd.

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