if you use it professionally, social media will grow your career

Thursday September 14 2017

Nic Newman is a digital media strategist and

Nic Newman is a digital media strategist and author at Reuters Institute. PHOTO| SALATON NJAU 

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Nic Newman is a digital media strategist and author at Reuters Institute

You are one of the founders of the BBC News website, which has been a hugely successful project. What does this accomplishment mean to you?

Working for the BBC was a hugely rewarding experience for me. The 10 years that I spent there was an exciting period in my career, where I was involved in the development of websites, mobile and interactive TV applications for news, sports and weather. As Head of Product Development for BBC News, I helped to introduce innovations such as blogs, podcasting and on-demand videos. At the time of starting, however, most thought that life on the Internet would be a flash in the pan, but life online has so far been sustainable. It is amazing to be part of this immense success.

What key lessons have you learnt as a social media strategist, and how can young people make the most of social media?

The social media is a fantastic resource for connecting people. It helps to build and perpetuate relationships. Social media also helps to start and fan important conversations. It is also a great tool to gather news, to check facts and to distribute content. It is also important in reaching out to new audiences. Using this amazing resource to the fullest, professionally, is a great way for young people to anchor their careers on a successful course.

It is projected that in about 10 years, newspapers and magazines will be phased out. What is the future of print journalism and print journalists?

Print media will be here longer than many imagine. In 20 to 30 years, the digital content will still not have entirely replaced them, but it will then be regarded as a luxury to consume content in that format. Most people love the physicality of newspapers and magazines; print journalists should not feel so much threatened. It is, however, critical to adjust to new trends in technology and to position themselves accordingly. The best way to start is by sharing across the various social media platforms the content that you write on the newspaper to reach a wider audience.

Having worked in radio, TV and digital media, would you advise a trainee journalist to diversify or to specialise in one area?

I began on radio because I loved radio. Later, I went into other areas. The most important lesson is to be very clear on what you want to do. In the old media world, you could do whatever you wanted to do, but everything is changing now. Be flexible. Specialise only when you are clear on what you want to do. Focus on that and do it to the best of your ability. This could be business, technology or lifestyle news or features. See what works best for you and channel your energy there.

Drawing from your experience, how can young people generate attractive content?

First, you must have content that people love to consume. Be always on and always right. Always provide fresh content to your audience and in a credible fashion. Secondly, encourage conversations on the subject you are addressing as opposed to just posting content. Thirdly, package your content in various formats – text, audio, videos and photographs. Videos are very effective especially to a young audience, so use these extensively. By emphasising on these areas, the content by BBC News has become very popular among news consumers worldwide with their over 34 million followers on Twitter receiving frequent news updates.

Is it possible for young media content producers to tailor their content to cater for all demographics?

It is hard to appeal to all audiences anymore. This is because different demographics exhibit different digital content consumption habits. This scenario explains the rise of more niche-media, also called portfolio media. These entities are more concerned with, and address smaller focussed markets providing technology, sports or business news. It is easier to target and serve a single market with a certain product in a more exhaustive manner than it would be to try to serve a larger market with a variety of products.

In what ways does the Kenyan media landscape compare with the British media space?

Kenya is a more social and more mobile country. You are far ahead in terms of media revolution, a phenomenon that is common in most developing countries. While Kenyans and Britons use the same social media platforms, Kenyans are more active on the scene. Social media is the primary source of news content for most Kenyans, which perhaps explains the sharp fall in newspaper sales over the last couple of years for instance. In the UK, however, radio is still the leading source of news. People in the UK trust traditional media more than new media.