Why digital media matters to you—even if you don't realize it

By Kara Tabor

Courtesy of Flickr user Japanexperterna.se
Throughout the month of September, ONA Mizzou will be sharing our best journalism school tips with you. ONA Mizzou is dedicated to bringing together all journalism students, and connecting them to skills and job opportunities in digital media. We already have some exciting digital media workshops planned, but, first, let’s get through the first month of school together. 

Join us on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. in RJI 100A (aka the Fishbowl), for ONA Mizzou’s first event, Journalism 101: Ask Me Anything. A panel of upperclassmen journalism students will be on hand to answer any questions you have about the J school. Submit your questions on Twitter using the hashtag #ONAAMA.

What kind of news do you consume?

Now, before you start thinking of the different organizations and outlets that you follow on a regular basis, I want you to think past the content to the way you take in your information—the medium.

More likely than not, it's digital. It's through channels like websites, social media, apps and streaming services. And you're probably not doing the bulk of that consumption through a computer—your smartphone or tablet is most realistically your device of choice.

When I entered the Missouri School of Journalism in 2012 (wow, I'm feeling old), I expected to become a television producer. In my career, I thought, maybe I'd have to pay more attention to the web and only use social media as a channel to promote segments or shows. Three years later (and a totally different emphasis area), I've experienced changes in the way that journalism is produced and consumed that have obliterated those initial expectations.

The reality is not that the media is going to change, but that it already has.

Here are some reasons why digital media should matter to you too:

A taste for on-demand:

Millennials (and even their parents) are cutting the cord and taking advantage of online streaming services like Netflix and HBO Go and accessing news networks like CNN and Fox News through online cable sign-ins. This means that news organizations are having to adapt. In addition, podcasts are gaining momentum as an easy way to consume the news and entertainment without the need for the listener's undivided attention.

Why does this apply to you? Because the transition from choosing a network to choosing the exact programming, how you want it and when you want it, changes the way that news organizations decide how to package content. This means that becoming comfortable with making news shows designed for tablets or audio stories written to attract choosy on-demand listeners is quickly becoming a must.

Bite-sized appetites:

Think about your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Are they neatly organized streams of pure information that fits your interests, or unrestrained jungles of breaking news updates from CNN, think-pieces from "The New York Times" or "The Atlantic," and BuzzFeed listicles. For your sanity, I hope it's the former—but let's be real, most of the time you probably have too much content on your hands.

All news consumers are increasingly faced with having to sift through massive amounts of information coming to them through social media, apps, web searches, RSS feeds and the like. In order to have your content stick out, you will have to learn how to make it appealing by being conscious of how it appears on social media and how to hook fickle consumers with the first glance, first sentence, or first few seconds of your work.

Smaller screens, bigger expectations:

Ever since I got my iPhone this May, I've been astounded by how much reading and general media consumption that I use it for. Gone are the days of popping open my laptop as my go-to gateway for the news. And I know I'm not alone—according to the Pew Research Center's State of the News Media 2015 report, 39 of the 50 top news sites reported getting more users via mobile devices than desktops.

But with this dominance of mobile comes the emergence of content and sites that are easier to access on tiny screens. Articles that are written shorter and tighter are increasingly attractive, as well as shorter web videos that deliver the news in info-packed snippets that won't eat up consumers' monthly data packages.

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