July 25, 2022

News to me

In ‘hold the front page’ news, the pundits on BBC Radio 4 offered that the race to choose this country’s next leader might well be decided by an electorate whose primary source of news – and so opinion – is still newspapers.

That Fleet Street’s finest should be holding such sway will come as news to Tik-Tok viewers, which was the fastest growing go to for grown-ups here since 2020. But while the numbers are small (give it a chance! It’s only been measured for a year) so at a glance an unlikely threat to the tub-thumping broadsheets and redtops, below the media-usage-article fold was the bare facts that for the adults-in-waiting 12 to 15 year olds), Insta is now where they get the facts.

The reason? That while they recognise the sources might be less reliable than the mainstream channels, it’s the opinion and topicality that appeal more. So they’re not likely to pick up a paper, so mastheads near and dear to older people simply never get a look in, however groovy their social media strategy might be. Cringe.

When asked, ‘young adults’ head to one of the six in the top ten of social channels – with the other four in that mix being three BBC and just one commercial.

I’d hazard a guess that snap-judgements and instant-opinions burped on constant feeds and timelines means ‘the news’ can be whatever we want it to be. Which does have an appeal. The story no longer belongs to a few institutions, but all of us. ’News’ with the portentous Capital N used to belong to a clique and its influencers, set and distributed for reading and reflection; news is now the view that just flashed on the screen.

Is this a bad thing, if we are all ‘the news’? We can all do opinion-forming but is that the same as opinion-shaping? And what does news need to look like anyway? it’s certainly not paper-shaped any more but how is it effecting critical longer-term thinking?

What used to be dismissed as ‘flash in the pan’ interest, eye-catching but quickly submerging fads and rumour sure looks like the newsfeeds now. The ‘editorial’? TL:DR

Are we moving towards non-fungible news? News that we create, that’s unique (or special) to us; or even where we are our own news. Non-fungible ads are already here. And as most newspapers started life as vehicles for advertising, with arresting or alluring news to snag attention, we could all be our own publication.

If you’ve read this far, and hoped for something profound and only found it profoundly useless, it’s news to me. I really enjoyed it.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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