Information hierarchy: The news pyramid in the social media age

Credibility and trust are the key issues in today’s information(overload) age where news emanates from multiple sources, including sources other than journalists. More so than ever, news is also real-time and unrelenting: there’s lots of it.

Here, below, I created this pyramid which helps demonstrate news hierarchy and flow in the social media age. It proposes that journalists have an important role to play as interpreters, fact checkers and guardians of accuracy in this new paradigm of  fast, unrelenting, real-time information. It suggests that media’s value lies decreasingly in being first with a story, because for breaking news stories they’ll mostly be beaten every time by their own readers: the millions of users out there.* These are users plugged into social networks, blogs and social media sites. These are users armed with cellphone cameras, laptops or computers.

Journalists are increasingly relying on social networks, blogs and myriad other web-based user-generated content sites as sources.  While using these new real-time sources to enrich the reporting process, journalists should never forget their important role: the value of media, it seems, could lie in providing interpretation, context, analysis and understanding around a story — being that further stamp of credibility and mark of accuracy on raw, real-time news and information that often originates from untested or unknown sources.

Is this media’s role in the social media age?

[ Printable high-res image ]

With credit to: Mashable and Read Write Web.

Comments (5)

  1. Martin wrote::

    I don’t have the source with me now; but I remember reading somewhere last week that 5 French journalists have holed themselves up for a week and are going to use the internet as their only source of primary information. An example of your pyramid in action.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 1:40 pm #
  2. BJ wrote::

    I agree with the concept. But it remains to be seen whether traditional mass media (old media) will be willing to be mere editors to the frontliners who are the social media users. Another issue could be copyrights if bloggers’ content will be carried by old media. But I like the idea that social media and old media can compliment each other.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 5:50 am #
  3. Rian wrote::

    Your pyramid is the reason why I am (what appears to be) one of the few people who would be willing to pay for New York Times access. Because they create real value at the top of the pyramid, and I think we shouldn’t expect to get that for free.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 11:02 am #
  4. matt wrote::

    @rian — i agree with you that we need to pay for value. the fact that you acknowledge however that you are “one of the few” willing to pay is a problem. My feeling is that online newspapers are killing themselves by charging. I think they haven’t adequately explored the online advertising model, possibly because there often is a institutional bias to protect the traditional publication.

    Monday, February 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm #
  5. Chris wrote::

    Sadly, I think a lot of journalists and publications are sacrificing fact checking and interpretation in order to be first to break and sensationalise the news. That is, they are doing the exact opposite of what you suggest. As a result, I am increasingly inclined to trust the blogosphere as much, if not more, than traditional media. I think that traditional media would do well to consider your analysis and stop competing with social media in a battle they can never win, and instead focus on differentiating themselves. Thanks for your great analysis.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 7:29 am #