On November 18, The Bold Italic, General Assembly, and Getty Images co-hosted Tech Panel: Digital Media, a discussion about the future of journalism, reporting, and media consumption in the digital age. Being an online magazine ourselves, we were especially interested to hear about how other publications are dealing with the challenges of creating and sharing content online.
We invited three experts on the topic to join us, with moderator (and our boss!) Laura Ramos: Evan Hansen, Editor at Medium and former Editor-in-Chief at Wired.com; Justine Sharrock, West Coast Editor at BuzzFeed; and Matt Galligan, Co-founder and CEO at Circa.
Here were the three takeaways we thought were most fascinating from the panel:
Longform, investigative reporting still matters. You might mostly know BuzzFeed for its listicles of dogs that just can’t handle it, but you might’ve noticed that the site has invested in hiring journalists to research and report news, rather than just aggregate news content. Justine Sharrock, who’s reported on NSA whistleblowers, the government’s lacking cybersecurity, and other original content for BuzzFeed, explained that they’re able to do this by being a combo media site. Those funny lists and sponsored content pieces fund the serious content that takes more time and money to produce. But Sharrock admits, it can be confusing sometimes for the people she’s interviewing. She’s talked to people who’ve wondered, “Why does the Funny Cat Lady care about cyber security?” BuzzFeed’s investigative reporters aren’t the ones who write the funny lists or sponsored content – they have a whole other team to do that stuff.
Metrics can’t really be determined by hits. Traffic numbers don’t show engagement or bounce rate. Reader behavior is more important than straight numbers. Evan Hansen explained that Medium tracks how people engage with the content they’re reading on the site, including how far into a story they’ve read and the total time they’ve spent on the page. As Circa’s Matt Galligan explains that hits are “mostly bunk.”
Today’s online reporters and audience are better at checking and balancing the content. All three panelists agreed that no amount of citation reporting can do the job of professional journalists, copy editors, and fact checkers, but they also agree that in an online world, the bullshit detectors on the internet are on top of their game. Bad facts get ousted fast and the crowd serves to do “real time fact checking.” Print media doesn’t have the ability to correct itself within the same document and as quickly. Circa breaks down a story into parts and allows anyone to participate at any point to contributing to the story. Galligan explains that this allows for more objective content; there are no biases from one author.
Stay tuned for the video broadcast of the event that we'll embed on this blog post as soon as it's available!