Debunking Myths About the New Media Panic

Dr Sunny Goh, Media and Policy Consultant, addresses common misconceptions about media disruption.

14 Nov 2019

5 mins read

As readers turn to digital platforms for news consumption, how can newspapers evolve to cater to the reading experience?

The collapse of mainstream newspapers. The cannibalisation of digital media. Almost every day (of every click-through, bounce rate and other key metrics), editors and reporters cringe at the very thought of the End of the Word.  The new media panic is perhaps the result of some of the following Myths of Media.

Myth 1: Declining readership means readers are not reading
Quite the contrary, people are reading more – just not via the traditional broadsheet. The convenience of ‘read on the go’ has simply replaced the newsprint in the news stand. The readers still want to be served, just differently.

Myth 2:  Hard news is bad news
Wrong again. It is just that fake news is crashing the party, making it harder to read the real stuff from the reel stuff.  It is only when newsworthiness exists without trustworthiness that reading gets hit.

Myth 3: No money, no media
Since whenever is readership linked to advertising dollars? Get it straight, ad revenue is tied to business priorities, not editorial content. If a media company shutters, it is because its owners are behaving as businessmen, not newsmen.  If a news platform is able to plug other sources of income such as event collaboration, sponsorship or grants, the news will need to get bigger even if the ad placements grow smaller. Editors do not pull the plug on their newspapers – it’s their ka-ching owners who do so.

Myth 4:  Compete or collapse
Fierce but blind competition to out-scoop each other will end in news repetition and replication, inaccuracies and libels. Let the media moguls corner the major news events of the world. Competing with them is hitting your head against a Great Wall. Instead, niche news reporting is the way to go. No one else, not even the best foreign correspondents, will be able to spin a better story without the mastery of a local network. Go parochial, go municipal. Writing what you know best is knowing what best to write.

Myth 5: The media is king
The days when the media play the antagonistic role of fourth estate are long over. New media players like vloggers, influencers and even scammers are jostling for a share of the kingdom. Columnists and commentators must quickly come off their high horses and pen meaningful stuff that connects with everyday people in their ordinary stories. News freshness is like a hot cuppa for breakfast that will never run out of flavour.

The media industry is in need of a shake-up and not a shake-out. Publishers must compete smarter by producing better news skeds, without being either excessively saccharine or sensational. There will always be a place for solid news reporting. What editors must not do is to panic and resort to straw-clutching remedies like offering non-news related services that dilute editorial space. They must not throw out the baby with the bathwater of digital disruption. Be creative in new media platforms but be even more creative in news generation. Only then can new revenues be generated. The traditional media may be dying or dead. Long live the new media, then.

By Dr Sunny Goh, Media and Policy Consultant, Managing Director, Academy Communication Pte Ltd

Posted online, 14 Nov 2019