Making your words matter is more crucial than ever

As communicators and storytellers, we need to understand and cut through the information overload of digital news sources.

As communicators and storytellers, we need to understand and cut through the information overload of digital news sources.

The way we receive our news has changed drastically in the last two decades. I remember coming down the stairs for breakfast to see my parents bleary-eyed and sipping coffee, passing sections of the local paper back and forth. Today, you’ll find my mom absorbing her news via The Skimm newsletter, and my dad has almost gotten the hang of the news app on his iPhone. We’re working on it.

A million different ways to consume news

Nowadays, twitter feeds are tailored to deliver the information you want; mobile apps with customizable notification alerts (I love the BBC News app); Apple Newstand; national email newsletters and local ‘insider’s alerts’ (BostInno is a favorite) all bombard us with information. We click trending stories on Facebook and absorb these short summaries on our commutes, or over a quick lunch.

This shifting landscape has a number of implications for communicators and people who work with the media.

It is more important than ever to make your words matter.

What does that mean? We need to adjust our writing styles to fit the “new” news. Media outlets are also sensing the change and adjusting accordingly. Fast Company now has a time estimate for reading each article (so you know whether you’re looking at a quick two-minute read or settling down for a longer feature article).

The Boston Globe is a perfect example of a news organization that is changing to keep up with the times. The Globe recently announced a restructured newsroom to promote its ongoing digital initiatives. The initiatives include an ‘audience engagement team’ who will focus on sending out news alerts, ‘spot what’s trending’ and ‘quickly work across the enterprise to deploy resources’.

The basic goals are familiar as well: to be more nimble, more innovative and more inclined to take worthwhile risk; to get our best journalism in front of readers when and where they want to read it,” Globe editor, Brian McGrory wrote in a memo on the publication’s website.

Need for change

The New York Times also dug deep into its own newsroom to identify the need for change and shared findings as Journalism That Stands Apart. Their goals for 2020 are a great model for any media outlet that wants to be seen as an innovator: Encouraging more graphics, video and other visual elements added to stories.

A shorter, digital version is growing in popularity as readers absorb the news during their day. The “daily briefings” are among their most successful launches in recent years.

One anonymous editor predicted the end of the traditional article. “The 800-word news story is the bread and butter of the print product, but time and again… those stories struggle to perform well online. Everyone in the room seems to know this, but we continue to produce… a product that fewer and fewer people read.”

The news it is a-changing

As the way we digest news changes, traditional media channels need to become more brief and visual in their presentation. Ultimately, as communicators, we have a responsibility to stay current and adjust to what works for our audience. In this digital era people want visual, concise nuggets of information, meaning it’s more important than ever to make words matter.

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