The “news” in new media

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If there was ever a year when consumers became aware of their collective online power, 2014 would have been it.

From our ability to send content viral, to raising funds for charity using only a hashtag and bucket of ice, we as facilitators of new media are now coincidentally charged with determining the worth in news stories and the true value in social engagement.

With Australians hungrier than ever for information and entertainment, online content is increasingly being crafted to satisfy our cravings. Ever wondered why for a solid month you couldn’t escape articles on The Bachelor’s latest scandal? Well I’d wager it might have had something to do with the articles you (and countless others) secretly click on, tweeted, shared and liked in the privacy of your own home, away from the judgmental eyes of office colleagues and friends.

Another disturbing trend we’ve seen is the rise in overly sensationalised human-interest stories; such as ‘You won’t believe which Hollywood celebrity has [insert trivial, everyday activity here].’ Breaking the Internet has become an almost realistic concept, and not just a valid concern of mine whenever my parents jump online to try and send an email.

So with this knowledge, one can only infer that traditional tabloid savvy consumers are yet to catch on the techniques now being used online, drawn in by the false premise of engaging content.

This in part explains why I am so frequently confounded upon seeing statements such as “why is this even considered news?” on social media. The answer, is simple - because you clicked it. As in any supply and demand situation, the more you click and consume, the more you’ll see supplied. It’s basic commerce.

Choices made at a newsagent on whether to purchase one magazine over another should be equally applicable online. Don’t like buying into celebrity gossip? Then don’t click. Not a fan of supporting hackers who leak nude photos? Don’t click (I think you’re probably starting to see the theme here).

As a majority, Australians (and most humans across the board) should proceed with caution when choosing the information they wish to share and digest online, if not for their own sake then at least for the many who’d enjoy seeing actual news on their news sites. Consumers power is at play here and the sooner we stop giving credence to a topic, theme or person who’s truly not that deserving, the sooner we’ll start seeing relevant and important news stories pushed up the editorial ladder.

Written by Beth Bolt.