#TTOutlook17| Smartphones now ‘making journalists irrelevant’, The Guardian Editor-in-Chief says

#TTOutlook17| Smartphones now ‘making journalists irrelevant’, The Guardian Editor-in-Chief says

#TTOutlook17| Smartphones now ‘making journalists irrelevant’, The Guardian Editor-in-Chief says

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Smartphones now threaten the existence of journalism profession by making journalists irrelevant in the society, Mr Debo Adesina, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian Newspaper, the most influential group of newspapers in Nigeria, has told #TTOutlook17 summit in Lagos.

Smartphones like most other technologies, now pose threat to the journalism profession across the world today, Adesina says noting that though smartphone are less than 10 years old, but every year, humanity becomes more addicted and dependent on it for information.

He said this while making a presentation on the theme, “Nigerian Media in a Digital Age” at the Technology Times Outlook 2017, #TTOutlook17, held Friday at The MUSON Centre, Lagos.

The veteran journalist and frontline newspaper manager highlighted how smartphone technology is disrupting the journalism profession, which he says is already attempting to take journalists out of business.

“The smartphone has become not just a private access point to the digital world, but the remote control of life itself. From statistics, smartphones alone are already offsetting personal computers in the rate of five to one. And by the year 2020, about 80% of the population of the world would be using smartphones,” the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian says.

“In the U.K, Nigeria and the U.S., people look at their screens more than a billion times a day, while almost 60% of the people check their mobile phones within 15 minutes of getting out of bed. So, when they get out of the bed, they are already saturated with a lot of information, and they are already wondering what to do with the huge information in their handsets.

“Now The Guardian is still on the road and the vendor is set to distribute. Meanwhile, the man who is going to buy it is already saturated with information, leaving me almost out of business. So, because of this, the newspaper man or the journalist, whether broadcast or print, is getting more and more threatened by the day,” Adesina tells the #TTOutlook17 summit.

Mr Debo Adesina, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian Newspapers, seen in photo, while making a presentation on the theme, “Nigerian Media in a Digital Age” at the Technology Times Outlook 2017, #TTOutlook17, held Friday at The MUSON Centre, Lagos.
Mr Debo Adesina, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian Newspapers, seen in photo, while making a presentation on the theme, “Nigerian Media in a Digital Age” at the Technology Times Outlook 2017, #TTOutlook17, held Friday at The MUSON Centre, Lagos.

“Now The Guardian is still on the road and the vendor is set to distribute. Meanwhile, the man who is going to buy it is already saturated with information, leaving me almost out of business. So, because of this, the newspaper man or the journalist, whether broadcast or print, is getting more and more threatened by the day,” Adesina tells the #TTOutlook17 summit.

According to Adesina, “almost everybody in Nigeria or in the world today is a journalist. All you need is just a simple gadget like a smartphone, and then you become a journalist, and then you generate content.”

He also explains that the content generated is not even shared vertically alone, it is also shared horizontally. “So the idea of a journalist or a writer or an information disseminator thinking of himself as a defined source of information to which people knew, is almost dead by now.”

The newspaper executive however expressed hope that this is not the end of the profession for journalist in the traditional media. He believes that this disruption is spurring the need to redefine the role of the journalist and also follow the change by taking advantage of the new technology.

“In all of this, we need to find out exactly what the role of a journalist or a newspaper person should be. We have ceased to be the masters of the universe to whom people look for information. So what technology, the digital life and the social media have done to the average traditional journalist is to turn him into somebody who is merely looking for relevance. And in order for him to get the relevance, it is very important for us to know what the audience is, or what the character of the audience is and how we can be relevant to them, or to him or her,” Adesina says.

He also explains that the content generated is not even shared vertically alone, it is also shared horizontally. “So the idea of a journalist or a writer or an information disseminator thinking of himself as a defined source of information to which people knew, is almost dead by now.”

Mobile phone users seen at a tech event in Abuja
Mobile phone users seen at a tech event in Abuja

According to him, “all we need is to make change our hope. If we can adapt, we can calibrate our operations in such a way that will make it possible for us to take advantage of some of those things and aggregate them. We see all these bloggers and Internet publications aggregating contents of all kinds. I think it is about time newspapers and TV stations get the audience involved in the production of content for the consumers. That way, they might be able to find some relevance, and at the end of the day still remain in business.”

He wants journalists to programme their minds to the changing world of information technology, emphasising that no one can run away from the disruption underway.

The Guardian Editor-in-Chief also points that content is the major thing that will keep journalist in business and make them relevant. He says that when the traditional media ensure that they have unique content and a unique way to disseminate their content, their relevance will continue to be felt in the society.

“Content is the king. The only way you can remain relevant, the only way you can make your information and news relevant to your audience, is you uniqueness. If what you are going to send out is what people already know among themselves, then it’s only a matter of time before you go out of business. So content is king.

“There is always a need for skills. What happens when things are commoditized is that people who don’t have skills are made to go by the way side, and the people who have the skill survive. It doesn’t matter what industry you are talking about, change is constant. Newspapers may not be called newspapers in the future, but journalist would exist. Newspapers are not going anywhere, only the distribution mechanism would change,” Atobatele says.

Mr. Ade Atobatele, Chief Gboza at Gboza Gbosa Technology
Mr. Ade Atobatele, Chief Gboza at Gboza Gbosa Technology

“Whether you are in a newspaper business, TV or radio, or an online newspaper or blogger, if your content is not unique, you are not likely to retain your audience for too long. Recycling information, telling people what they already know or pressing ordinary information in a fine prose is not going to help. You need to generate unique content and disseminate it uniquely on whatever platform you are using,” Adesina advises.

Also speaking at the session, Mr. Ade Atobatele, Chief Gboza at Gboza Gbosa Technology, believes that people will continue to buy newspapers irrespective of the changes we see in technology.

Mr. Atobatele says as far as the journalists continue to use their professional skills in their work, newspapers would continue to exist, people would continue to buy and the other unskilled information channels would be forced to leave the business.

“There is always a need for skills. What happens when things are commoditized is that people who don’t have skills are made to go by the way side, and the people who have the skill survive. It doesn’t matter what industry you are talking about, change is constant. Newspapers may not be called newspapers in the future, but journalist would exist. Newspapers are not going anywhere, only the distribution mechanism would change,” Atobatele says.

“There is always change as change is a thing that is constant. Charles Dickens is a very famous author; he made books and now after two centuries people still read them. And people still read James Hardley Chase. Books have not died. The language inside the books changed, and books continue. We can now buy books digitally,” he says.

He said there is no need for the fear that exist among journalists today as a result of technological development, and urged them never to give in to fear, but pick up the challenge to change their distribution mechanism as the need arises.

He illustrated that one of the most amazing fear created in the Catholic Church was when a printing press created by Guttenberg, which enabled people to read the Bible without a priest. He said the formation of the Protestant Church as a result of the printing press caused so much fear that the Catholic Church would die. “Today, the Catholic Church is one of the largest growing churches in the world,” Atobatele adds.

According to Gboza Gbosa Technology chief, “things survive. They modify themselves and they adjust to the environment around them,” Atobatele says. “Newspapers are not newspapers; they are papers on which news is written. And that’s where the newspaper people get it wrong. The newspaper is just a distribution mechanism. It is the content that we read that is actually interesting. This continues to be the thing that people would pay or not pay for. If there is value, it doesn’t matter if it is written on toilet paper materials. We shall still read it. If it is injected into our brains, we would read it. Whatever mechanism that distributes the news, we would read the news.”

Atobatele reckons that if the current newspapers get online and serve their audience with what they want, as opposed to what they tell them that they need, they will be read. “After all, what everybody is looking for is information.”

He thus advised newspaper journalists to give attention to distributing news in video form and emphasized that majority of the audience today seem to prefer to read or watch the news on platforms like YouTube, which makes it easier for them to understand.

“I think the newspaper has a major problem on videos. What they should be worried about is people generating news purely on videos, because many people don’t want to read,” Atobatele adds.

Success Kafoi Journalist at Technology Times Media. Mobile: 08077671673 email: success.kafoi@technologytimes.ng

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