Online and Mass Media

Dr. Saswati Gangopadhyay*
Ms. Debarati Dhar**

Abstract

In India, the involvement of internet has posed a big question whether it has disrupted the traditional news media in anyway. The internet is making news available for the audience round the clock. However, the audio-visual media provide the same advantage by breaking news at all hours of the day. However, the newspaper is denied this advantage. Internet has largely become a blooming media industry, though it is not entirely correct to state that it has taken over the space enjoyed by the traditional news media. This paper tries to find out the differences, and whether there has been any change in the concept of news in the traditional news media with the advancement of internet and the online news media with the help of some case-studies.

Introduction

Internet or the online medium is fast growing with a vast base of users that is increasing every second worldwide. It took nearly half a century for the radio to cross the five million listener mark and for television it has taken about thirty years to garner five million viewers. It has taken the digital medium less than five years to cross the five million user threshold. The 361 million Internet users in 2000 seem a tiny number compared to almost two billion in the 2010’s (almost). (http://royal.pingdom.com/2010/10/22/incredible-growth-of-the-internet-since-2000/).

In India, newspapers have been around for more than two hundred years. Radio and television are about a century and half a century old respectively. In a multi-lingual country like India which is plagued with illiteracy, the growth of newspapers has been very positive in comparison to other countries. Reach and access of radio and television have been phenomenal in comparison to newspapers. However, newspapers have not experienced a major depletion of readership; rather new readers have been able to offset the loss of erstwhile readers, due to growth of literacy. Yet the users of internet are still small in comparison to other mediums like radio and television. This is due to the lack of proper infrastructure and computer literacy which is needed for using the internet. The print media, especially newspapers, have been the major source of news for the people since inception. In recent times, audio-visual medium like television do give breaking news and is extremely popular. Despite the infrastructural problems over the past decade, the online version of the traditional mass media like newspapers and television has witnessed growth with both acceptability and accessibility, though mostly in urban areas.  Internet has helped in enhancing the reach of the news. Web edition of the news gives a combination of the latest breaking news as well as the archival news. In the online version, news is getting updated every minute and the audiences have the liberty to get any news more instantly as compared to the traditional media. Hence, the public are conveniently opting for the online version. With this comes a change in the news consumption habits of the audiences. It is quite convenient to have access to the latest updates at any time of the day even when on the move. It has carved a strong niche for itself without invading into the area of traditional mass media. With the advent of online media, audience are getting to experience a virtual version of the newspapers, the e-paper, and logging onto websites of radio and television channels to get latest updates which are in both audio and video format. The online news is getting updated every minute along with visual data and it gives the readers the flexibility to get the breaking news at any point of the day. Thus, the web edition of a newspaper is becoming a major source of news in this digital age. Increasing number of people becomes updated about the happening news via the online media or though social networking sites and micro-blogging sites popularly termed social media. The social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be termed as another factor that adds to the popularity of the online version of the traditional mass media. The audience can come to know about any unread news even while surfing the social media as most of the online editions of traditional mass media directly or indirectly promote the news stories through this new social media. This changing nature of the media is widely accepted by the audience.

Literature Review

A number of books, journals, online blogs and websites have presented the difference between online media and traditional media and how the former is being accepted in the present era equipped with modern communication technologies.  Today it is the age of information that is required for the proper functioning of the society. The main sources of information have made their online presence with the dawn of the World Wide Web, which has helped in surmounting all geographical boundaries in terms of news dissemination. With the advent of internet, the readers can access newspapers of other countries too.  The internet edition of the media gives the users more options in terms of control over the content and sharing of the same. Needless to mention that information distribution has become a speedy affair because of the advanced internet technology, hence contributing to the surfacing of online media. (Mathur, 2009)  “For centuries newspapers have been people’s main source of news and opinion, even the advent of radio and television couldn’t depose the printed media. However, that is all changing. The number of people who only become aware of the news via social networks and other online sources is rising rapidly. Things are starting to look worrying for the old fashioned broadsheet.”  (Hansen, 2012) Social media add to the popularity of the online edition of newspapers and news channels. With time, the social media has transformed from just a place of posting pictures and giving status updates to a platform for information distribution and consumption. Over the years, this trend of information sharing has grown tremendously. If some of the traditional news media are concerned about their uncertain future then surprisingly some of them are adding new features to their online outlets. For instance, they are adding opinion forums such as blogs to the news sites that give the users the scope to give their feedbacks instantly. Some of the websites posts pictures of the readers who have sent feedbacks. With the online media, the users get the liberty of giving their opinions and feedbacks instantly. (Raude, 2013)

News media: traditional and online

In the online news media, the news stories are presented in an organised way under different categories that make it easier for the users to search any particular news. Any user can get details right from the background to the latest update of any news item all in one page. All the news articles are inter-connected, making it easier for the user to search and get the full news. Timeliness is one factor that adds to the merits of online news media. Any breaking news is available as soon as it takes place. Television news channels also enjoy this liberty of providing the audience with the breaking news stories. It can be said that the online versions are an extended form of the traditional media and that the news stories are made available at the websites all the time. Hence, news can be obtained even at odd hours if someone has missed the story in the audio-visual or the print media.

 It has to be understood that even though traditional mass media and new online media are vying for the attention of the information seeker, yet both the mediums have some positive and negative sides as has already been briefly discussed earlier. To clearly understand the difference in news presentation amongst new online and traditional print and audio-visual mediums some news stories have been selected as case studies.

Case Studies

The Times of India – Print v/s Online version

  1. Jiah Khan Suicide Case

The suicide case of Bollywood actress Jiah Khan was breaking news for all the news media. The print version of the report after the first day had follow-up stories about the entire incident and the life and career of the late actress. It also carried interviews of the victim’s mother and other close associates. However, the online version carried, beside the main news, a number of additional stories about the life of the late actress. Online version of the news provided more insight than its traditional counterpart. Like, for instance, the news that a facebook page has been created demanding justice for the late actress was not carried in the print version. The online version also carried the story where it was said that the late actress was in a volatile relationship that actually led her to depression and similar other stories of popular actresses who had gone through depression and abusive relationships. Moreover, a story containing the opinions and comments of experts and others from the glamour industry was also found online, unlike its print counterpart. News in the online media is supported by videos. The online edition of the Times of India gives the readers the scope of giving instant feedbacks after every story which is unavailable in the newspapers.

  1. Uttarakhand Floods

The news of the terrible Uttarakhand floods has been carried in two different ways in the two different mediums. Images and latest updates are provided in both. However, the online version gives more detailed information with more pictures and videos on the current situation and the relief works. One major difference between the traditional and the online version is that the latter carries the maximum number of news items because it does not have the space constraint faced by the print media. Moreover, updates of every minute development in the Uttarakhand situation is available in the website, whereas the readers of the print version have to wait for an entire day to get the news updates. The factor of updating every second makes the online media popular among the people, besides its full time accessibility and the scope of interaction. Interestingly, the users can interact among themselves without even knowing each other by answering or commenting on the ideas expressed.

An online edition reader can get the updates from the previous day if he has missed them. All that the reader needs to do is put the name of the story he wishes to get, like for example Jiah Khan or Uttarakhand floods, in the search option and press ‘Enter’. He will get access to all the related news stories.

BBC Online v/s BBC TV News

  1. US Offers Security Talks with Taliban

The news on the developments about the proposal to talk with the Taliban was presented on the BBC television channel by the special correspondent. The US Secretary of State talked with the Afghan President for resolving the security issues. However, the President of Afghanistan has showed his unwillingness over the matter by stating that no talk is possible with the US in the present situation. The online version of the BBC carried a detailed news story as well as a video about the news story. A viewer keen to know the background of this news item after viewing it on the television, can go to the website which provides every related detail of the story. The features offered to the users on the website are plenty. Like, the site gives the option of sharing the particular news page on twitter or the Facebook. At the end of the television report the news presenter signs out by stating that more information is available on the Facebook page and also gives the link of the news story on the website.

  1. Syria Conflict

The news of the military strike on Syria has been making headlines since August, 2013. On one hand, the chief correspondents have been giving updates about the issue round the clock. On the other, the website is giving complete package of the news to the readers. The television news coverage showed the US President’s opinion about the strike. According to President Barack Obama, the limited strike on Syria was much needed and it was in response to the chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime. The President won the support of the key personalities in US politics. The chief correspondents of the BBC global news updated the viewers about the story. The opinions of the common people of Syria were shown on TV, what they feel about the aftermath of the attack. Interestingly, at the end of the television report, the news presenter gave the website link to the viewers to check more details and minute updates of the story. In the online edition of the BBC news, users can find videos, background to the military intervention, images and detailed analysis of the news. Moreover, profiles of the key personnel of Syria including the President have also been given on the website. The details of the Syrian turmoil are presented systematically under different categories with proper headings. All that the user has to do is just click on a particular story and read.

The online edition of the BBC gives the users several services for getting connected and updated all the time. There are options to get email and sms alerts that help the users to check the latest news through their mobile phones instantly. In brief, the online versions of the television news channels and newspapers have become portable news media for the people, who enjoy the liberty of getting news updates even on the move.

NDTV 24/7 – Online v/s Television

  1. Controversy About Zubin Mehta’s Musical Concert in Kashmir

The much-hyped musical concert of renowned orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta in Srinagar created a stir in the political circles of the country. The grand musical concert was organised by the German ambassador to India with the hope of winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. Though on the day of the concert there were several protests and unrest in the city, the concert went off peacefully amid tight security. The television news channel NDTV covered every nuances of the story and even a debate (Zubin Mehta’s ‘concert-ed’ peace effort) was organised the day following the concert that was attended by many renowned personalities, including actors, politicians, party spokespersons, social activists, banker, filmmakers etc. Opinions were expressed in the debate whether the concert was really able to reach the hearts of the people of Kashmir when it was attended only by the A-list invitees, bureaucrats and other guests who were flown in. Another interesting point noticed during the debate was that the tweet posts updated by the home audiences were featured live. The online version of this news story carried a number of additional news stories. Those who missed the debate on the news channel could access the online version and watch the video conveniently on the website. Viewers are encouraged to give their feedbacks and comments on the particular news. It is up to them whether they wish to disclose their identity or not. Other news stories and videos related to the Zubin Mehta concert could also be found on the same page. The viewers are given the option to share the news page on their social networking site pages such as Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Coal-gate Files Controversy: Stolen or Missing

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has alleged that the coal-gate files are not missing, rather they have been stolen and they are demanding a CBI probe. The BJP is demanding that the PM should volunteer himself for CBI questioning. This news is making headlines in both the television news channel and the online media. Apart from the chief correspondents covering the news and giving live updates from the parliament, the news channel has also roped in the spokespersons of various parties to debate and discuss the matter. These debates and discussions were quite interesting as they gave an insight into the views held by the various parties. The online media gives minute-by-minute developments of the news story. The users are given the liberty to comment and give feedback. The online media has become more of an interactive media, giving scope to two-way communication. Moreover, one can share any news item on Facebook or re-Tweet them on Twitter, allowing maximum reach.

Analysis and Inference

The case studies show that the options and scopes available on the online media for getting news are far more vivid. With the advent of the internet technology, the online media has evolved as a medium of delivering high-end services. In this information and communication age, there is an increased interest for accurate, timely and more credible information among the people. Hence, online versions of the news media come with a number of features and options providing people with reliable and timely news. With this type of information revolution, the newscaster-audience relations have changed, where the audience are given a forum to give their feedback, opinions, discuss and debate certain issues. The interactive platform provided by the online edition of the news media adds to its credibility. This new online media has been embraced by the people all over. The younger generation is comparatively attracted more towards the online mode of obtaining information. In online media, there is no need to wait for any particular time to get news as compared to the traditional media where there is a set schedule. However, it is important to mention that with the beginning of 24-hour news channels, this set schedule norm is slightly breaking. The option of giving feedback and opinions available on the online edition of news media is very popular as at the end the news stories audiences pour out their opinions and it reflects a more awakened society devoid of any discrimination. In fact, so popular have the online media become that all forms of traditional media (be it audio-visual or print) give an end note stating the web address to the audiences to remain connected all the time.

The digital age where people find the online version of any mass media more compatible, does not imply that the demand for the traditional mass media has lessened. In terms of content, the e-version of the Times of India is same as that of the print version. There is no change at all; the only difference is that the readers need an internet connection to access it. However, the online news website differs completely from the print version in terms of appearance. In terms of interactivity the online news website remain ahead of the traditional edition. The readers can instantly post a feedback/comment or hit a ‘like’ or can even share the news article through the social media like Facebook and Twitter. Further, it is for the readers do decide whether they want their identity to be disclosed while posting a comment to remain anonymous. This interactivity option is less in the traditional print version where one can share his feedback and opinion through the ‘letter to the editor’ column only. Space is also a matter of concern, so obviously all the letters cannot be published. The news website also gives the option of watching some specific news videos. The online news websites do not have to deal with the severe space constraint faced by their print version thus the readers are offered more news with greater details under various sections and sub-sections. Breaking news can also be obtained though the online versions instantly, which is not possible in the print version.

The traditional audio-visual form of the BBC and the online version differ in several aspects. In both the versions people can get the news round the clock. In the online website of the BBC people are offered news from across the globe under heads like Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and conventional regular sections like sports, entertainment, business etc. It makes it easier for the audience to surf better. What makes the site more interesting is that the audience can watch the BBC World news (television) through the website using video streaming. In terms of content, there is not much difference as the audience is given detailed reports in both the versions accompanied by visuals. Thus, it is observed that in terms of interactivity and giving feedbacks, the online versions offer more compared to the traditional mass media form.

Conclusion

The traditional mass media is the base and has a strong foundation and online media has grown out of it as an extended form. It is interesting to note that many of the traditional mass media outlets are venturing into the online versions for wider reach. And at the end it is the credibility factor, if they are reliable as the news source then irrespective of the medium the audience would come to them, and reliability is the strong point of most of the established mass media houses.

References

  1. A conductor’s concert strikes a sour note in Kashmir. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ndtv.com/
  2. Coal-gate: PM must volunteer himself for CBI questioning, says BJP. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ndtv.com/
  3. Hansen, J. (2012, August 16). Digital Media v Traditional Media: How and Why Online Media Will Always Trump the Traditional Media. Retrieved from Soshable: http://soshable.com/digital-media-v-traditional-media-how-and-why-online-media-will-always-trump-the-traditional-media/
  4. Jiah Khan’s letter released to media by her mother. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/news-interviews/Jiah-Khans-letter-released-to-media-by-her-mother/articleshow/20517254.cms
  5. Kerry calls Karzai to defuse tension over Taliban . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22980002
  6. Mathur, P. K. (2009). 21st Century Media Environment. AUTHORSPRESS.
  7. Raude, K.-P. (2013, April 11). Social media vs. traditional media – who’s the winner. Retrieved from WSI: http://www.wsionline.ee/social-media-vs-traditional-media
  8. Syria Conflict. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17258397
  9. Uttarakhand floods: Nightmare in the hills. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Uttarakhand-floods-Nightmare-in-the-hills/articleshow/20691532.cms

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