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This Digital Life: News just in, you are now your own editor

Published 13/06/2015

Star reporter: what you read can now be tailored to suit your interests
Star reporter: what you read can now be tailored to suit your interests

Research shows readers are adapting to online stories, tuning in and out of digital channels as they see fit. But is this self-editing a concern for mainstream media, asks Katie Wright as she sifts through the facts.

How many news stories have you read today? Did you pick up a paper on your way to the supermarket, or click on a link in your Facebook feed? Did you scroll through the headlines on an iPad news app? Or all of the above?

It's most likely the latter, as new research has found that 95% of people use several devices to consume media with smartphones proving most popular (62%).

The survey - by PR firm 72Point - revealed that, of the 7,500 adults questioned, the average person consumed 5.9 stories a day, with nearly half mixing digital, print, radio and TV channels. Social media has become increasingly important for keeping up with current affairs, with 70% of respondents saying it has made accessing the news easier.

But as serious stories encroach on our "social" time, are we feeling more bombarded than ever?

Apparently not, says Jack Peat, head of digital at 72Point: "The perception that consumers can't cope with a wealth of content needs to be challenged - this research suggests we have adapted to cope with it."

He calls it "citizen editorship", the way we chop and change the way we receive our news, following journalists on Twitter, or "friending" magazines on Facebook.

"When our interests change, or we're disappointed by our supplier, we reshape who we follow to minimise the amount of superfluous content heading our way," Peat explains.

We're pretty ruthless editors at that, with 18% of those surveyed saying they'll "unfriend", or unfollow, a new source within a week if it doesn't impress and 11% saying they'd ditch it after just a day.

So what does this mean for news outlets? It means that, as well as worrying about the decline of print media and how to diversify their revenue streams, newsgatherers also need to make sure they're enticing followers, but not overdoing it to the point where they risk being edited out of the frame.

It's a tough balance to strike and goes some way to explaining the prevalence of "clickbait" articles with hyperbolic headlines on social media platforms.

On the other hand, it's great news for readers, because we now have the power to tailor our news by topic, town, or political persuasion without having to sift through pages and pages, be they paper, or pixellated.

Feeling depressed by all the war, death and disease in the news? No problem. Ignorance - and bliss - are just an "unfollow" away.

Belfast Telegraph

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