GREAT OPPORTUNITY

Digital transformation heralds new dawn for media

Demand for instant content anywhere, anytime opens new vistas for innovation.

In Summary

• The digital age demands excellence more than ever before. 

• More than ever before, journalists must be great storytellers and excellent writers. These are immutable, timeless and must-have qualities of a great journalist.

Workers use social media in the office
Workers use social media in the office

The Industrial Revolution made possible the emergence of giant presses capable of printing tens of thousands of papers per hour. This contributed to the dramatic growth of the news business between 1850 and 1880.

The press, alongside the rise in levels of literacy, again made possible by expanded access to books, presents an interesting example of the early influence of technology on the business of media and the craft of journalism. In India, where one in every five daily newspapers in the world is published, readership is rising because of increased levels of literacy.

Is India bucking global trends? Here in Kenya newspapers are struggling. Circulation is in decline. The problem is that we don’t know exactly why.

 

But there seems to be general consensus on the impact of digitisation of media on old business models; from advertising to news. The rapid changes in technology, especially the rise of online content, is viewed as a threat to legacy media business, with what seems to be a precipitous decline in newspaper circulation. This also poses an existential threat to journalism. Are we reading these trends correctly?

It is becoming increasingly clear that something is shifting and dramatically so. From picking up your favourite newspaper to touching your finger on a news app on your phone, from streaming your news and favourite television series on your laptop or smart TV, from receiving recipe or movie suggestions on your phone, it is hard to deny that the digital transformation is here.

Moreover, the rise of insular, nationalist populists of the kind of US President Donald Trump and UK’s Boris Johnson demands more than ever before, a vibrant and free media, and competent, dispassionate journalists who are committed to the fundamental ideals of the liberal order, as flawed as it is.

I have never been more optimistic about the place and future of the media, especially because of the digital transformation. The digital transformation heralds a new dawn for media business and the profession of journalism. Moreover, changing demographics, and consumer behaviour and expectations, especially among the youth who demand instant content anywhere, anytime opens new vistas for innovation.

The future of the media in the era of digital transformation is strong. Strong especially because the digital age demands excellence more than ever before. Changing consumer demands for content anywhere in the world and anytime they need it, will demand that such content is also engaging, contextualised and personalised. Hence, more than ever before, journalists must be great storytellers and excellent writers. These are immutable, timeless and must-have qualities of a great journalist.

Just like the printing press and the rise of literacy, digitisation of media presents another consequential juncture for media businesses and journalism. Digital transformation is not just about producing marginal efficiency gains in operation it is an enabler of fundamental innovation, and even massive game-changing disruption.

Moreover, the rise of insular, nationalist populists of the kind of US President Donald Trump and UK’s Boris Johnson demands more than ever before, a vibrant and free media, and competent, dispassionate journalists who are committed to the fundamental ideals of the liberal order, as flawed as it is.

We have through digital transformation a chance to bank the raging fires of bigotry and narrow nationalism through new ways of telling stories.

 

Vice Provost and Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Media and Communications at Aga Khan University