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What will the news media of the future look like?

By Theodore Terpstra
On March 27, 2014

For the past two weeks, CNN has been covering the downed Malaysian airlines flight almost non-stop. If you are not already annoyed, you either have a very strong tolerance for the mundane repetition or you do not watch cable news. The heavy coverage of the missing flight is not only a product of the slow 24-hour news days but it is also another reminder that cable news is dying.
That seems like a bold statement. How can cable news be dying if there are still millions of Americans who tune in everyday? The answer lies in the realization that younger generations do not watch news on the T.V. According to Pew Research Center, 50 percent of the American public depends on the Internet to get their news and 71 percent of those ages 18-29 listed the Internet as their main source of news. T.V. is still the number one source of news only for Americans over age 50. This bodes poorly for CNN, MSNBC and FOX, and they know it. Yet there have been no effective attempts by the news networks to attract young views back to the T.V. That leaves us with another question, what news organizations have succeeded in capturing America's youngest viewers?

Not surprisingly, these companies do not air their shows on the T.V. Instead they disseminate them through the Internet. One of the most successful emerging news organizations is VICE News, which posts segments on both the VICE website and YouTube. They publish a daily overview of the day's events, condensing all pertinent information into a 2-3 minute video. In addition to the daily overview VICE News also creates specialized stories which are filmed in a documentary format. Recently a VICE News correspondent went to Crimea to report on the crisis, publishing short video updates on YouTube as events unfolded in the region. These updates were never more than 5-10 minutes, perfect for young people with more limited attention spans and busy schedules. Concise and short, these internet reports are a far cry from the 24-hour news day where two pundits would argue over some issue as the news ticker at the bottom of the screen crawls along. VICE's business model works, and it is attracting attention from figures such as media columnist David Carr and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But VICE is not without criticism. Some of the video reports for VICE News lack depth, while the VICE website is toxic with amateurish articles and trivial content, a nightmare for people trying to navigate to the salient news stories. Critics accuse VICE correspondents of behaving more like tourists than reporters by failing to properly frame issues with background information. The omission of such facts is intentional; VICE relies on younger people to do what younger people love to do: Google things. From the Bedouin tribes of Israel to the affairs of the Central African Republic, background information is only seconds away. Context remains important, but there is no longer a need to expound on a subject so thoroughly, especially when aiming to keep videos between 5-10 minutes long. With 4.4 million YouTube subscribers and a weekly show on HBO, VICE News is an emerging power in a world where the youngest generations prefer to watch news on their phone rather than the T.V.
The future is crazy. Some say it's too unpredictable. Others insist they can forecast events like you and I can read a book. Statisticians call elections before they have even taken place, astronomers predict the behaviors of celestial bodies' light-years away, economists tell us what the market will look like next month. Yet no one foresaw Facebook purchasing Oculus Rift. So here's my attempt at fortune telling.
Will VICE become a titan in news media? Probably not. Will VICE's unique way of reporting current events shape the news of the future? The answer is yes.  


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