Social media partnerships transforming journalism

By Britt Mikkelsen

Stanford University

The latest focus in the digital media revolution is on social media, from Facebook’s instant articles to Twitter’s “Moments,” panelists said on Saturday at the ASNE conference.

The future of journalism will be defined by partnerships between social media companies and journalists, said speakers on two panels — “next generation news habits” and “news partnership in the social media era.” The challenge journalists now face is how to take advantage of all that social media platforms can offer them, while ensuring that they don’t lose all their readers to social media.

Social media platforms are a “great tool for us to engage with,” and create “this circular relationship with the user,” said Nancy Barnes, editor and executive vice president of The Houston Chronicle. However, Barnes emphasizes that there is a fine line between having a symbiotic and parasitic relationship with social media companies.

“There’s a conundrum with Facebook,” said Barnes. Facebook wants all of the content on their site, but that could lead the publications to lose their readers. As social media platforms and journalists continue to partner, publications need to identify how to get the most value of the partnership, Barnes said.

Social media partnerships have benefits for the consumer, the publisher, and the social media platform, Barnes said. Consumers, receive access to a large amount of content, usually for free. Journalists gain access to more tools, which allows them to better engage with the audience.

But, technology companies seem to have the most control over partnerships and reap the most benefits, Barnes said. Not only do social media platforms get the most revenue, partnerships also enable them to increase the number of users they have by providing new content.

This transition to digital news begs the question: what is in store for newspapers?

“Their business model has been turned upside down, and they face challenges on the generational front with younger audiences turning elsewhere for their news,” said Jesse Holcomb, associate director of journalism research at Pew Research Center. “What [happens] to the newspaper as a concept, a source of community news and public information, will live on in some form. The printed page as a source of information is a thing of the past.”

The newspaper is the past, social media is the future. Facebook is the largest source of traffic for the Houston Chronicle said Barnes, who measures how much traffic comes from social media platforms.

Twitter is another source of traffic and is transforming storytelling even more, said Adam Sharp, head of news, government and elections for Twitter. He cited the recently launched “Moments” which compiles the day’s most talked about stories and allows publications to cultivate the content.

“With the massive growth of mobile news readers, highly engaged audiences, and willing subscribers, there’s reason to be excited about the now and the future of news,” wrote Cory Haik in a 2015 Nieman Lab article.

Panelists echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that disruptions are rapidly changing the field of journalism to continually innovate.

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