18 May 2013

Technology: What it means for Journalism

technology journalism digital multimedia wordcloud
Multimedia. Social media. Visual journalism. Anyone slightly invested in journalism or the media will have had these terms are drilled - quite rightly - into them from all possible outlets. The message is clear: journalism is changing; utilise innovation or perish.

Whilst some more conservative individuals may see this as a threat to the traditional media, it would be sensible to rather view technology as a gift. It gives people the opportunity to visualise their thoughts and ideas in ways that they may not even deem comprehensible.

Digital journalism is fundamentally about visualising data. Online articles offer much more than paper: you cannot put an interactive map to explain a story on paper; you cannot embed a video; in a music review, you cannot put a song with the article (unless, of course, you fancy sticking CDs to every single paper copy of your publication).

News organisations are now covering the same news stories, more or less, competing to break the headlines first by a matter of seconds. The way in which they differ and can compete, they are learning, is through the distinctiveness of their designs. This creates an increasing dependence on digital and visual journalism. Through the use of multimedia, one can increase the interactivity and aesthetics of an article, ensuring that readers read and learn about the story on their website, rather than another organisation's website.

A perfect example of harnessing the creative opportunities digital journalism provides is the BBC's use of the online calculator (such as the popular 'class calculator'), whereby the reader can input their own information, get a result, and share it with their networks. This personalises the article, and once again provides opportunities to engage with the reader.

Another significant - perhaps the most important - function of digital journalism is to help the audience understand a story better. Even a simple map in print immediately allows the reader a sense of perspective and understanding. An interactive map, then, with pop-out text-boxes and images, allows greater, easier and neater understanding.

Put simply: the media cannot afford not to utilise technology. Media organisations are learning this, and some are better than others at putting it into practice. The result, if done correctly, is insightful, personal and shareable visual enhancements to all forms - be it news, comment or feature - articles.

The possibilities of digital journalism really are endless. One cannot expect that we have even begun to explore what these possibilities are: the face of media is changing, and it gives us new opportunities to visualise our articles and enhance the audience's engagement and understanding.

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