Viral News Content, Instantaneity, and Newsworthiness Criteria

Viral News Content, Instantaneity, and Newsworthiness Criteria

Lila Luchessi (Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3781-6.ch003
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Social networks have modified the activities of the press, the actions of audiences, and the perceptions of societies. The strategies displayed to avoid losing consumers aim at fulfilling the audience's needs and the gap between the producers' and the consumers' interests tends to widen. This leads to a crisis point in news financing, affecting the traditional logic of the media industry; while advertisers are now able to reach their audiences without its mediation, viralization and instantaneity force the media to publish information incompatible with the public interest as considered by the press. In this way, traditional newsworthiness criteria are replaced by other criteria that redefine the concept of information. The aim of this chapter is to analyze the way in which instantaneity and viralization have affected not only the journalistic activity but also the information selection criteria and the audiences' input on the web.
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Digital tools have been used for the production of news since the eighties (Canavilhas, 2009). In the beginning, the editing of texts and images simplified the journalistic tasks and accelerated the speed of the construction of news. While technology progressed, the press began to publish news online. At first, they only posted the information that had been published on their print editions. In only twenty years, the possibility of combining print editions with information search and narrative experimentation tools grew in such a way that the digital media became independent of their print origins, while audiences gained ground through collaboration and participation. In the beginning of the 21st century, the gap between the producers of news and their audiences—that had relied on asymmetric knowledge, interests and information sources—started to narrow. At the same time, the thematic choices, coverages and information preferences began to diverge more and more (Boczkowski & Michelstein, 2013). The reduction in the price of digital devices, the widespread use of mobile phones, and the lower costs of Internet brought about a rapid increase in the number of users and opened new business opportunities for the media and the press. And although the news companies insisted on thinking the business with the same logic of before, the new consumers' habits made that situation change.

In 1995, Randy Conrad created “Classmates,” a social network to find old classmates. It is considered to be the main precursor of Facebook, since it was created with the same purpose (Ponce, 2012). With this project, the idea of “digital network” took root. However, it was not until the first decade of the 21st century—with the massive inclusion of users and the incorporation of networks based on general issues—that the ideas of participation, discussion, collaboration and agenda-setting became possible. In this scenario, the press is faced with two problems. On the one hand, the digital tools have become inputs for the construction of news. On the other hand, these very same tools have been used as platforms for the media to post material and interact with their audiences. Interactivity, which is inherent to the digital platforms, subverts the languages and structures of journalistic communication. Although news companies are present in all these platforms, they end up using them as ad-blackboards, coverage channels and transmission bands that almost in no case enable vertical interactions. While the news consumers throw themselves into the digital platforms, interaction between peers becomes more frequent: Discussion, collaboration, conversation and participation among users take place on a horizontal level. However, an analysis monitoring national, regional, local and Latin American press companies, which includes in-depth interviews with the editors of such companies (Luchessi, 2016a), shows that the news companies and the journalists working for them do not give answers, correct, acknowledge or argue with the public, and keep a distance from their audiences.

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