How realtime technology changed the face of news journalism

The rise of social media and adoption of realtime technology has led to broadcasters and media agencies losing their role as the gatekeepers of the news and left them scrambling to find a new place in the industry. Nearly half of adults in the UK now get their news from social media, and nearly two thirds in the US.

No longer do we read the paper or turn on the TV in the morning. Instead we tap into Twitter and scroll through our feed for news in real time. Our senses are currently heightened to the frequency of news stories and updates surrounding the global pandemic. So how can traditional broadcasters and publishers use advances in realtime tech to keep up with the barrage of information and, more importantly, the mis-information which is so easily accessible to the media consumers of today?

Content is king, but trust is treasure

If journalists are no longer first on the scene, and eyewitness accounts are already available online, what can media organisations add? The answer is the same as it has always been; trust, structure and accuracy.

Anyone can tweet that they’ve seen a rhino escape from the zoo. (Or that their friend told them a rhino escaped. Or that they saw something rhino-shaped near the zoo…) But casual amateurs are much less likely to confirm it actually happened, find out why and explore what that means with authority and integrity.

While there is a great deal to be said for the democratization of the news, the huge rise in concern about fake news over the last few years has left many questioning how the challenges presented by public-generated news content can be tackled.

Media organizations have a responsibility to act as true curators of truth. Organising eyewitness accounts into a structured narrative, verifying every piece of information with follow-up and adding additional context and colour is something few members of the public have time for, or any interest in doing.

The power of the individual is greater than the power of the institution

Traditionally a media organization would own the main distribution channel for a journalist’s reporting. This could have been a TV channel, a newspaper or a website.

As social media platforms took over as the largest content sharing platforms of the day, with the largest audiences, this changed. Media organizations, publishers and broadcasters created their own accounts and began to share their stories there too.

The problem is that these platforms were built for individuals to communicate, not brands. So as companies see steady social audience growth, some more opinionated and tech savvy journalists have ended up with more fans than the publication they write for.

This shift in power means that journalists can be the key distribution channel for their work, the publication plays a different role in hosting and presenting this work.

Technology and talent transformation

Almost every media organization has a dedicated digital team to help them gather, present and distribute news in the most appropriate manner for their readers.

For news gathering, journalists must work with their tech team to create a sense of omniscience over an event. Now, thanks to increasingly open APIs, data gathered by email, SMS, voice, RSS feeds and a multitude of sources can be fed into notification systems and live dashboards can be constructed to provide an automated real-time pulse of information to an agency.

For reporting back out to the world, web developers can craft engaging ways for reporters to tell their story and consumers to stay up to date and respond. Developers can use tools like Curator or Meltwater to curate social commentary and tools like Pusher to power realtime comments, send notifications or update graphs and results.

The newsroom no longer exists

Journalists don’t have to work in the same place to work on the same story anymore. The newsroom was once a bustling office full of shouting editors, ringing phones and whirring printers. That’s less the case these days. Now they can share and discuss breaking topics using realtime messages apps like Slack, and authors and editors can collaborate on content using apps like Google Docs. Considering the huge rise in remote working we have recently seen on a global scale in the recent months, it’s possible we could be moving even further toward a revolution in collaborative technology for teams who are working apart from each other.

There are also other tools built on real-time technology that can help improve day to day operations – project management tools like monday.com and Asana can be used to streamline and organise a coherent workflow, and accounting platforms like Expensify make expenses a doddle.

By replacing physical locations and tools with digital ones, media organizations can spread their reporters across the globe, cut down on overheads for office space and ensure they are ready to adapt quickly when the next wave of change comes.

There is an opportunity to build more news-focused solutions with realtime technologies such as Pusher; integrating live data and offering real-time functionality to address the workflow required to validate news production, curate and deliver the news as it happens, and do this in a way which appeals to and engages the modern news consumer. Staying on top of these trends and developments could help traditional media to once again dominate the landscape of our news.

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