Social media is actively competing with practically everything that used to have people’s attention. The news media is inclusive, and it is doing so without much effort.
Have you tried to explain the reason for the increased use of the Internet? It has changed how mobile devices are used; from music to videos and games, instant messaging, and social media — content that would make resisting them hard.
Besides disrupting the ways traditional media content is consumed, habits that promote quality human interactions like watching TV and cinemagoing have been affected.
According to Statista, Nigeria’s Internet users have increased to 123.49 million. In a rather interesting twist, the average millennial spends almost 24 hours online weekly; meanwhile, African millennials see social media as their main source of news and information
And interestingly, the number of such platforms keeps increasing by the year. Most of the new ones are image-based, clearly giving people more ways to distract themselves.
Conversely, text-based platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter usually have more engaging content and cerebral discussions,
An obsession to be social and viral
Everybody — prominent or unknown — has a preferred social media platform for interaction. Though largely superficial in terms of interaction they foster, these platforms have a wider coverage.
It is widely believed that media participation often stems from the need to be accepted. And with social media presenting an equal opportunity to get this acceptance, people don’t care if they ride on waves of popularity or achieve notoriety as they strive to get noticed. And the price does not always seem too much to pay.
Given the fact that several platforms exist for these reasons and there are always people to use them, what else happens on social media?
Infiltrating news media
The continuous evolution of communication has eased the process with technology perpetually reshaping communication modes.
Social media plays an important role in information dissemination, which is the primary role of news media.
It seems the more seamlessly information passes through social media channels, the more pressure there is on digital journalism to compete and adapt.
And they are being affected in more ways than one.
The news media’s ability to get information out is contingent upon the availability of advertisements funds to run the business. Before the Internet, direct advertising was the purview of traditional print media. But this is now under threat.
The Internet brought more options causing the rise in the number of news publications, each with its style. But when it comes to which gets traffic, Google is in charge — lording over ad traffic through search engine tracking.
Most online platforms use Google AdSense to make a few dollars but the result can be limited by the frequency of site visits.
The socials seem to be taking over another level of advertisement. Looking at how much of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertisement sheds light on the situation.
Because the Alexa ranking, which shows website engagement statistics, is often considered before an online publication is considered for advertising, popular social media platforms attract more ad spendings.
While publications with paywalls may not have to worry about this, running such a model in this part of the world is sometimes discouraging as it has limitations.
Timely and objective reportage
A sensational tweet or voice note on WhatsApp, for instance, will trend even before it is authenticated. This often perpetuates mob mentality and encourages misinformation.
For the sake of competing for timely reporting, most social media sources do not feel obliged to confirm stories unlike platforms that are concerned about their brand.
Some circumstances have also led journalists to source stories off social media. In the tech community, for instance, startups are seen making launching, funding, or acquisition/merger announcements via social media, usually Twitter.
Pushing political and government conversations
Amidst the argument about the necessity to put up with the toxicity that abounds on social media, there is also an emphasis on how it provides quick access to a wider and international audience.
With public figures and government officials taking advantage of the reach social media affords them, founders of these tech giants try to censor posts with political undertones especially during elections.
This explains why highly-positioned political personalities have active social accounts with large followings. For some, it appears their identities are tied to their online persona. In other cases, social media account handlers are in charge.
One common recent trend is how gubernatorial/presidential press statements, confabs, or political announcements are replaced with Twitter threads or posts.
A few days ago in Nigeria, the NIPOST licensing regulations generated outrage on the Internet. Soon, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, debunked his involvement via a tweet, leading to the suspension of the order.
While events like this may give the perception of close interaction with people in power, it subtly undermines the role of mainstream media and direct public interaction, since only a fraction of the population is represented online.
Still, the impact of social media cannot be disregarded. Some movements started with a hashtag and had offline impacts.
Ultimately, quality content suffers
Due to this pressure to survive amidst current economic realities, media platforms inadvertently conform to the ways of socials. Consequently, lowering the overall quality of journalistic output.
Since the Internet is going nowhere and nothing is likely to change, the onus is on news media to remain ethical in content delivery while trying to keep the balance with their revenue model.
If possible, running a subscription model would help push for consistent qualitative reporting. But the question is can this be achieved on a large scale?
Jan. 18: Bonus Built in Africa episode: Town Hall meeting with Peter Salovey, President of Yale University
On March 25, 2021, Techpoint Africa will be hosting the brightest minds in decentralised finance/crypto at the Digital Currency Summit tagged “Building the money of the future” Click here for more details, registration and sponsorship. Location: Fourpoint by Sheraton, V.I. Lagos.