The Gigabit War: The Rise of Digital Journalism

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In the world today, online networking and Internet sources are increasingly used by consumers to find what they want to know instantly. As analysts begin to see a trend in the decline of print media sales and revenue, it is pertinent to assess the impact of internet-based news sources on more conventional medias, particularly in America where the digital is fast taking over from other ‘legacy media’ and electronic devices are a mass-market. This background report will utilise primary source data to investigate how and where contemporary consumers get their news online, the growing amalgamation between social networks and news outlets, and the ramifications for the future of online journalism.

Digital Media: A Contemporary Comparison
In 2012, Pew Research Centre ( published a research project entitled ‘The State of the News Media 2013’. This report was the result of collated data from various well-known data mining companies such as Nielson and eMarketer, with a significant amount of research and data visualisations compiled by Pew themselves. The following graph taken from the Pew report illustrates the state of the news media as a whole in the year 2012. It is clear that the online category is the only news source demonstrating any growth, while print media is shown to be gradually declining as a source for news. When all forms of online and digital news sources are included, the percentage of people who got their news in a digital format on an average day increases to 50%, ahead of newspapers (29%) and radio broadcasting (33%). Of consumers receiving their news digitally, 19% got theirs from social networks.

Corroborating with the above graph is the data visualisation below, showing that the use of social media and networking sites is increasing precipitously. It is apparent that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are branching out to wider demographics and building deeper engagements with their current users.

News corporations are realising the potential market in embedding themselves in and engaging with users on Facebook, as evidenced by this bar graph from NewsWhip, which shows the top 50 news sites with the strongest user engagement on Facebook.

It is obvious that news providers view social networking sites such as Facebook as an important way of reaching out to consumers, but are people actually visiting news sites or simply relying on their Facebook subscription to Huffington Post? The infographic below uses data gathered from online measurement firm comScore to provide a visualisation of where Americans are going for their news online.

According to comScore, the top 25 U.S. news sites “tallied 625 million average unique monthly visitors in 2012 – a 7% gain from the prior year”. The findings from Pew suggest that the United States is slowly progressing towards an all-digital medium of news communications. This is reflective of other research conducted around the globe in the same year, such as the Australian Business Outlook report, presented by Roy Morgan Research in 2012. 54% of all Australians, the report states, purchased items over the Internet in that year, and “In an average week… 57% visited a community messaging site – some 47% of all Australians visited Facebook”. While this rise in social network prevalence is certainly commensurate with the findings of American research groups such as Pew, Roy Morgan specifies that in Australia “Traditional Media such as TV and print dominate, [but] there has been a rapid rise in the use of the internet, putting pressure on all other media”. Although print media in Australia was still a powerful force of news distribution in 2012, social media as a source of news was more prevalent in the United States.

The gradual takeover of digital news media continues today in America, with Pew’s latest findings for 2014 showing an unsurprising trend in the use of social media and the development of online news sources. Digital news outlets such as BuzzFeed, Mashable and Vox Media are taking on increasing numbers of dedicated news staff and these successful digital brands are challenging professional newspaper websites, with many well-known journalists from respected newspapers joining their ranks. This is most likely due to the increased job security that working online offers as opposed to working in print, due to significant cuts to staff in the print media sector over the last 5 years.

The use of mobile devices and social media is ever expanding in 2014, with half of Facebook users getting their news there “even though they did not go there looking for it”. The jump from paper to screen is not just happening in America. Pew Research was able to account for around 5,000 jobs in the digital news sector worldwide, over 3,000 of which resided with the ‘Big 30’ major digital outlets.

News Without Borders
As news companies branch out to larger audiences, analysts have observed a globalisation of news that could only have happened with the advent of the Internet. The Huffington Post is perhaps the definitive example of a truly global news corporation, digitally native since its inception as a content aggregation site in 2005.

Today, the company is reported to have a total of 575 international and domestic editorial jobs and Jimmy Soni, The Huffington Post Media Group’s managing editor, expects the company’s 11 international editions to grow to as many as 15 by the end of this year.

Another American company committed to the globalisation of the news sector is online startup, whose mission statement reads: “The GlobalPost Mission is to provide original international reporting rooted in integrity, accuracy, independence and powerful storytelling that informs, entertains and fills the void created by diminished foreign coverage by American media.” Focused exclusively on coverage of international events, the digital outlet employs 28 full-time staff, 8 part-timers and a stable of approximately 50 freelance journalists.

Business Insider launched an Australian website last year and plans to open a London newsroom in 2014. Its editorial staff speak a combined 19 languages and some are based in Bangkok and Hong Kong. The site is published by Allure Media, a top 20 publisher in Australia that also manages Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, ShopStyle and POPSUGAR. Allure Media’s monthly readership accounts for approximately 3 million Australians, according to the sites about page.

Buzzfeed is another company expanding their enterprises globally, hiring a foreign editor in 2013 and opening offices in London, Sydney, São Paulo and Paris. CEO Jonah Peretti says that BuzzFeed intends to open offices in Mexico, Mumbai, Berlin and Tokyo in the near future. The inference from this research is that journalism is becoming more about globalisation and less about localisation.

It can be deduced that news corporations are slowly moving towards an all-online presence in the media due to significantly lower costs when compared to printing, a more global presence, the ability to embed content within popular websites and the opportunity to increase their readership. Digital news providers are reaching out to audiences in new and exiting ways and the medium of the Internet has given journalists tools to make stories engaging and interactive. Indeed, this blog is just an amateur example of what can be done using the limitless potential of the World Wide Web. Consumers can now take their news with them thanks to the advent of the ‘always-online’ smartphone, and news website pages never become outdated due to the ability to continuously update online content. This report concludes that the future of journalism will almost certainly be a digital one, with print media eventually being delegated to advertising and niche topics. The online, digital world is fast becoming the swiftest and simplest way to communicate, and it is only a matter of time before news businesses utilise it to its fullest potential.

By Isaac Harding


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