The dynamic of synergy and competition between traditional and new media was on display at the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday, when two representatives of each side discussed the evolution of a platform that is seeing a paradigm shift in the delivery of information.
Katie Jacob Stanton, a senior official from Twitter – a service at the forefront of news delivery online – and Sarah Sands, the editor of daily London Evening Standard, broke down their respective perspectives while discussing impact of social media on big media in conversation with Nic Dawes, chief content officer of HT.
Stanton hailed traditional media’s ability to curate news, a praise Sands reciprocated by admiring the ability of new media for being a remarkable source of news and conversations.
There was a consensus that Twitter and the social platform were game-changers for the media ecosystem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Friday tweet, that broke the news of American President Barack Obama being invited on what would be a historic visit during the January 26 Republic Day celebration in 2015, was the latest instance of social media crossing onto the realm of journalism.
But Stanton, calling Twitter the eyewitness network of news, said the service was not around to put media organisations out of business. The theme – is social media killing big media – is conservatively put since journalists have been some of the first users to break and consume news, she said.
Sands, whose newspaper recovered from an existential crisis after readership plummeted a few years back, said her organisation was now on multiple platforms. “But the paper is the mothership", she said, subtly pointing to conversations on social media platforms that were largely about what people had read in the papers or watched on TV.
Sands also flagged other pitfalls and concerns of social media, invoking instances such as inappropriate tweeting; lines between fact and fiction being blurred and privacy threats.
“Newspapers may not be there 20 years from now, but journalism will remain. Think of it more on the lines of the steam engine (which has been replaced by modern locomotives),” she said.
Reportage, the panellists recognised, was one of the most prominent of roles social media had undertaken – recalling cases when news was broken by eyewitnesses before any media organisation could confirm.
From among the audience, veteran editor Vinod Mehta – who recently opened his Twitter account -- spoke about being a victim of relentless abuse on the platform.
Stanton responded by saying they wanted Twitter to be a safe place, and had tools to block abuse. But, slightly defensively, she pointed out that abuse existed in the physical world as well.
If there was a running theme, it was — for the panellists and audience — the recognition that Twitter has changed the way in which we use and consume information. How the big media responds will determine its future.