Any new and captivating trend that lands up on our laps, we Indians leave no stone unturned in immediately latching on to the creation. And so when a phenomenon known as Social Media landed on the Indian shores a few years ago, there is no telling the kind of rage it managed to create within the user circles. Led by its most potent users – the youth – social networking sites today provide stickiness that is miles ahead of other mainstream websites.
The afternoon session of the opening day of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and WAN-IFRA 2009 was devoted to ‘The Internet – A Maturing Medium’. The panellists at the session included Martha Stone, Director, Shaping the Future of Newspaper Project, USA; Prof Stephen Quinn, Australia; Are Stokstad, EVP, A-Pressen, Norway; Valerie Levechenko, Director, Ria Novosti, Russia; and Dietmar Schantin, Director, WAN-IFRA. The session was moderated by Eamonn Byrne, Director, WAN-IFRA.
A journalist for 20 years, Prof Stephen Quinn had moved on to essaying the role of a consultant. Quinn began by taking the audience back in time around the early 80s when much of the work was done manually and at turtle speed. “From manual typewriters that were the norm in the early 80s to the latest technological innovations that just about gets any job done, publishing houses have come a long way today. We can only imagine what the future will hold for many of us,” he noted.
Putting forth a host of survival measures, Prof Quinn suggested that the future would be about a combination of business models. According to him, “The era of single models will be a thing of the past.” He further said that the future would also be about how well one understood one’s consumer and how well one attended to his needs. “This will mean that firms will have to keep on innovating, experimenting, collaborating and even increase their creativity if they had to compete in the digital world of tomorrow. All these attributes are missing in the firms of today,” he pointed out.
Are Stokstad of A-Pressen next shared his learnings from the highly volatile press market in Norway. Stokstad cited the example of Romerikes Blad, the fastest growing daily in Norway today. However, it wasn’t always this rosy for the paper as a few months back it was struggling to keep its readership intact as also its revenues. The magical turnaround came when the newspaper leapfrogged and sought the intercession of social media. “eOrigo, a social media tool that we created for the lay public, has done marvelous things for us,” Stockstad said, adding, “As against the 800 journos who used to generate roughly 5,000 stories per week, the users from eOrigo generate nearly seven times more content. In the ensuing days, we plan to recruit at least 1,000 new recruits and hope to generate countless pictures, stories and other media tools with their help.”
Valerie Levechenko of Ria Novosti had the audiences in rapt attention when he presented an almost five-minute video highlighting the need of seamless integration of media. The video highlighted the need of appointing a multimedia reporter/ correspondent who would work on providing news simultaneously across all mediums. “It is important today for firms to have a dedicated reporter covering multimedia. Our experience in the same has resulted in us occupying an almost 20 per cent share of the Russian Internet market – 7 million users,” he noted. While photography and videography were changing the way events were captured, according to Levechenko, the future belonged to the field of Infographics, a rage that is fast catching on. He stressed that it was important that companies invested in training their journos in getting familiar with the new technologies.
Martha Stone, too, highlighted the need for including digital in the workplace and said that “any strategy surrounding social media is very vital today. It helps us get across to a varying audience and makes the interaction as local as possible”. Stone also highlighted the importance that mobile played in a user’s life. According to studies carried out the world over, users today want the mobile to keep feeding them information. “While many users rated the use of photography and video aspects of the mobile very highly, almost 90 per cent said that they would want mobile companies to keep feeding news and messages without getting annoyed by it. That speaks of the potential of the medium in the time to come,” she added.
Dietmar Schantin summed up the session by providing four impressive models that organisations could put to personal use. These include Newsroom 1.0 – Multimedia newsroom; Newsroom 2.0 – Cross media newsroom; Newsroom 3.0 – Media integrated newsroom and Newsroom 4.0 – Audience targeted newsroom. “From the stage of packaging to production to content distribution to even the role of being an editor, the above concepts can help media companies strategise, and take appropriate decisions,” he concluded.