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Adapting to a more global, more diverse Internet » Nieman Journalism Lab
"“Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms.”

According to Quartz’s Next Billion vertical, Internet use is projected to double — from 2.5 billion to 5 billion — between 2012 and 2016. That’s next year, and already, the global diversity of the netizenry and how they use the Internet is starting to change people’s relationship with the news. Much of this growth is expected to occur in Asia, while the fastest growth will be in Africa. These so-called “next billion” Internet users are often different from the first 2.5 billion in their background and lifestyles, representing a plethora of languages, cultures, incomes, and methods of technological access. And the implications, I think, will reach many different aspects of journalism.

The news will break on many networks, and these networks won’t be open.

After the explosions in Tianjin this year, GIFs, photos, and videos circulated on Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo. But the first person to break the news did so through a private messaging group on WeChat, posting video of fire outside the chemical plant just minutes before the explosion. For minutes afterward, the mobile-first, private platform was the primary place for sharing and discussing.

Increasingly, eyewitness media is discussed and disseminated on private networks like WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. This is already having significant effects on newsgathering. At the recent TechRaking conference at MIT, journalist Andy Carvin and others pointed out that, when media do surface on the open web, it’s incredibly difficult to find and source the originator, as the images are often stripped of metadata, compressed, and of indeterminate provenance.

Digital journalism, so accustomed to APIs and tools that aid discovery and aggregation, will likely have to adapt. Partnership and advocacy efforts are likely right — platforms can do more to facilitate journalists’ efforts, and newsrooms can build better tech for these platforms. As well, the technological approach to digital journalism will need be supplemented by the traditional relational skills of newsgathering: cultivating sources, building relationships, and fostering trust.

It won’t be enough to speak just one language, or even three.

As news and reports of the Paris attacks rippled through social media, journalists captured and reported on eyewitness media shared in both French and English. Just a day before, a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts in Arabic, French and English discussed the worst bombing in Beirut since 1990.

News reports of the Paris attacks in French were translated to English:

[tweed embeds]

To Chinese:

[tweet embed]

To Arabic:

[tweet embed]

From French to English and then to Italian:

[tweet embed]

Meanwhile, false reports of a tsunami heading for Japan triggered the trending topic #PrayForJapan. An earthquake had indeed happened, but the Japanese-language reports clearly stated it wasn’t strong enough to trigger a tsunami:

[tweed embeds]

In the hecticness of the day, Spanish newspapers picked up a selfie of a Canadian Sikh man Photoshopped to look like he was wearing a suicide bomber’s vest. In Baghdad, a real suicide bomber killed 18 people. It was a day for hashtag prayers for multiple corners of the world:

[tweet embed]

Every day, global trending topics on Twitter alone appear in multiple languages and scripts — when I glance at them at different times of the day, they frequently appear in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, and French, often outnumbering the English-language trending topics. English speakers, once the dominant group on the Internet, will soon become just one of many language speakers online.

Global communities will be talking back to media — and demanding better representation.

In recent years, we saw the transformation of #BlackLivesMatter from a hashtag and a nascent movement to a core question in the presidential primary debates. This year also saw #SomeoneTellCNN re-emerge as a satirical hashtag in Kenya in response to the network calling the country a “terror hotbed.” In the past, these tweets yielded minor changes in coverage; this year, a senior executive personally flew to Nairobi to apologize for the statements. And after Facebook turned on Safety Check for citizens of Paris, Beirutis asked why they didn’t get a Safety Check feature, even though their city had just been bombed a day before.

We can expect more of this. Geographically far from most media outlets, people in many regions of the world have historically had few avenues to attempt to improve global reportage of their issues. Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms. At its worst, call-out culture can be destructive and foster a herd mentality against the less privileged in society. But at its best, when people organize and amplify their voices to punch up rather than down, they can make real changes in media and media representation. What can we do to listen more effectively?

GIFs won’t be icing: they’ll be the cake.

[gif embed]

Let’s go back to Tianjin. Some of the most powerful images that circulated on WeChat were, in fact, GIFs. While livestreaming video tools like Periscope will push the boundaries of high-bandwidth, high-resolution video, the humble GIF is also on the rise, with built-in tools on sites like Tumblr and Instagram and autoplay features on Twitter now making it easier than ever for people to generate and share compelling moving images.

This matters for global Internet users because GIFs, in addition to being eminently shareable, consume less data — and less data charges. They also work well with smaller screens, whether that’s a low-cost smartphone or an Apple Watch. While cats and dogs will always have a special home on animated media, so will the mews, er, news."
anxiaomina  journalism  2015  messaging  internet  web  socialmedia  language  languages  news  translation  gifs  kakaotalksnapchat  viber  facebook  whatsapp  lineapp  andycarvin  digital  digitaljournalism  online  twitter  arabic  french  english  chinese  mandarin  italian  portuguese  japanese  spanish  portugués  español 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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