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Journalists urged to go digital or perish

By David Ohito in Washington DC | Published Mon, June 1st 2015 at 13:26, Updated June 1st 2015 at 13:29 GMT +3

WASHINGTON DC: Editors are discussing ways in which to position news products away from traditional formats of TV, newspapers and radios.

The  on-going World News Congress in Washington DC, convened by World Association of Newspapers is urging for a radical shift in the presentation of news arguing consumer habits is changing faster than anticipated and newsrooms must conform or perish.

The media profession was accused of traditionally being slow to evolve and to adapt to new technologies.

"The smartphone is changing the way people consume news content, and media organisations globally are realigning their strategies to adapt to those changes. People increasingly want to consume news on their phones," said Emily Banks, editor of the mobile edition of The Wall Street Journal.

She said journalists must be freed from chasing and regurgitating commodified news and embrace new trends in technology and evolve along instead of avoiding change.

Kenya was singled out as a fast changing environment with mobile phone penetration going beyond 80 percent mark and which means products must focus to deliver content on smartphones and other new innovations.

While Kenyan newsrooms battle to avail content on mobile phones, US counterparts are discussing publishing news on wearable devices like smart watches.

Banks said wearables will impact the future of journalism by being useful in delivering alerts, customisation and geo-location. "We are moving into customisation of news alerts, as publishers try not to bombard audiences with irrelevant information. Content must be relevant to the user based on preferences and location," said Banks.

"Modern day journalists must learn to write and publish news on mobile and wearable devices while maintaining authority, integrity and accuracy," said Dr Mario Garcia the CEO and founder of Garcia Media of the US.

The Financial Times (FT), one of the leading business news organisations said mobile is an increasingly important channel for FT, driving almost 50 percent of total traffic. The media house is diversifying its stables and now producing FT education products that serve more than 50 percent of top business schools other than news.

Presenters advised newsrooms to shift from offering traditional news to include tailored products that deliver health information, in several languages in video, text, photos, multimedia and graphics to a wide range of customers.

"Publishers and editors have a common responsibility to face the challenges posed by tech companies and cooperate in order to compete with engineered news and algorithms," said Emily Bell, the director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism, Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.


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