By: Haani Al-Ghafeeli
Hundreds and sometimes thousands of news items and posts reach our mobile phones on a daily basis via WhatsApp, and the same goes for the tweets on our Twitter accounts, the abundant e-mails, the endless video clips on Snapchat, and similar ones on Facebook and Path pages.
I can fairly say that we are living in an era of massive information overload where people are sated with information, and this was not the case a few years ago. Now, we have excessive amounts of information available to us, and most of us have no time to follow and check out all such information, let alone read it and comment on it. We are truly living in an age of data glut.
The problem is not confined to the massive quantity of information that reaches us, but also their credibility, reliability, and validity. The second factor, which is not less important than the first, is that such information is irrelevant to the recipient. Rather, most of the information that reaches us via WhatsApp and other social networking sites are, in short, a “waste of time”!
Therefore, media outlets face three important challenges in this era, and they are as follows:
First: News Credibility Assessment Mechanism
Second: Categorization and Organizing of the Newsfeed
Third: Rephrasing, summarizing, and rationing Content
The first task is related to the verification of the news credibility, and it is considered one of the most difficult tasks. Its first pillar is verifying the sources of the news, for a logical analysis is based on the processes of confirmation, negation, and doubt concentrated on the investigation of sources and the verification of information, then examining it to determine whether it should be accepted or rejected, and this depends on a journalist’s cultural, educational, cognitive, and legal knowledge.
The most detrimental factor to the credibility of media outlets is chasing after scoops, especially in a media society where people are vying for time as a factor of excellence, in addition to the sensationalism and exaggeration to capture the audience’s attention and arouse their excitement, and this is often done at the expense of credibility.
The second challenge: lies in the categorization of these materials, and this is no less important than the previous challenge. It is not normal to waste your time browsing through hundreds of posts that are not on your list of interests. We are living now in an age of speed, and it is assumed that the material that reaches you is actually of interest to you and is on your favorites list.
The news should be categorized and arranged in lists covering specific topics and news genres (such as: local news, international affairs, sports news, literature and culture, arts ... etc.), or specific countries and geographical areas, or according to specific events (Syria news, Yemen news ... etc.).
The more organized the content is and the more classified into specific categories and genres, the more it saves the viewer’s time to access the information he wants quickly, and this adds to the popularity of the news outlet and boosts its success.
By the way, if the news outlet focuses on one genre apart from all others, it would be able to achieve success. This can only be done by specialization in covering a specific genre and discarding the “jack-of-all-trades attitude”.
As for the third challenge, it is in the rephrasing, summarizing and rationing of content, because the media outlets are ever-changing and this requires choosing the appropriate wording for each context. Certainly, the wording of material posted on Twitter differs from that on Facebook and Instagram; each platform has its distinctive nature and unique target segments.
In the era of print journalism, it was normal for the news item to exceed 500 words and may even reach 1000 words, but now if it exceeds 150 words, it would be considered undue redundance. Likewise, the nature of the recipient has changed and the pace of life has become faster, and therefore brevity and rationing have become the goal.
Therefore, there are three basic requirements for the news materials now: a terse title, a to-the-point content with short sentences and no undue details, and supporting information, be it texts, pictures, or video clips.
In conclusion, overcoming these three challenges does not alone guarantee the success of the media project. Rather, it proposes a solution to the problems imposed by the current reality and people’s behavior. However, we should not forget that there are other important success factors such as: the art of covering breaking news, the skills of creating innovative news materials, and the cultivation of journalistic instincts, which are the factors that enhance the success of media projects.