There is a phrase saying that “The tail wags the dog.” It usually refers to a situation that something important or powerful is controlled by something less so. It efficiently summarizes what has been occurring in the news industry for the past decade. The press is an institution which produces news. During the era of newspaper, each press delivered newspapers by using its own distribution networks. However, as the digital era emerged, the subscription rate of newspaper has dropped to a single digit. According to a Media Users research in Korea conducted by Korea Press Foundation annually, newspaper subscription, which rated 87.8% in 1993, fell to 52.6% in 2010 and dropped to 6.3% last year. It showed that the news makers had lost their existing distribution network. In the meantime, newspaper distribution network has changed to digital. The greatest news distributor in a digital world is the portal site. There is no need to mention the figures since the majority of people are consuming news through Naver and Daum.
Due to the changes, how to convey news to consumers has become the critical problem to the press. Over the past decade, most of the discussion on news innovation was about innovation in the distribution network, not in the newsroom. A representative example is a card news, which was a trend in several years ago. All discussions on news innovation were boiled down to card news as the mobile news consumption increased at that time. Card news was spotlighted as the mobile customization content since it was highly readable due to the organized pictures and texts, and it was also good to deliver information through Social Networking Services (SNS) such as Facebook and Instagram. Currently, the press is making news that is suitable for YouTube as video platforms are becoming the new trend. The press institutions are now striving to be first to make a subchannel, which considers YouTube subscribers, and to produce entertaining news that combines showy thumbnail screens, jokes and flirtatiousness.
An algorithm that recommends news to subscribers also made a change in news production. Until nowadays, “real-time search trend” in Naver and Daum, which is now abolished, had played an important role in people’s news usage. Most of the portal site users were reading news by clicking the keywords in the search trend. The press produced news appropriate to the keywords as well. The press could not spend more than 10 minutes on writing news about an issue which was on the search trend. It was an inevitable choice for the press despite the blame that the press is doing a click bargaining relying on real-time search trend. Currently, a news editing based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) is strangling the press. As arbitrary news editing in portal sites became the social problems continuously, Daum has entrusted the news editing to an artificial intelligence algorithm called “Rubics,” since June 2015, and Naver has assigned the editing rights to the “AiRS,” an AI system, since April 2017. Now, the press is concentrating in producing news that the artificial intelligence on portal site might pick. They are adding “exclusive,” “comprehensive,” on titles and writing articles centered on popular issues on SNS or real-time keywords.
All these phenomena are talking about one thing. There is no future for journalism if the press only follows the tail. The press cannot make news of good quality by just waiting the newly emerged digital distribution platforms and AI systems to accept the articles written by the press. It is a more priority issue for the press to produce high-quality news through the revolution in the newsroom, not following the distribution innovation.
Chung Yong-kuk email@example.com
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