‘Destructive innovation’ is threatening the future of Irish news media, says leading data scientist
“Effective use of data will be a big part of future journalism. Whether news organisations manage to be a part of that future will depend on how they react now,” Professor Mark Keane of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics has warned.
Speaking ahead of the launch of FuJo (The Institute of Future Media and Journalism) in DCU, Prof Keane said that a “radical response” is needed from traditional news organisations but few seem prepared to meet the challenge.
The use of data research, to gain a further perspective on publishing policies, issues or to promote news stories, holds enormous potential for organisations if they can harness it. According to Prof Keane most are ill-equipped to do so.
“Many news outlets think that it is sufficient to sort out their policy for Facebook or GoogleNews or Twitter, but this is not enough. You need to sort out your policy for all of these and then return to that policy every month, in a data-driven way,” he said. “You need to know what to tweak and improve to keep pace with the changes of the platform. Then you also need to be looking over the hill to the next thing; your policy for Instagram or WhatsApp or whatever the next delivery mechanism is going to be.”
Prof Keane and his colleagues in Insight Ireland have worked with a number of major Irish news organisations in their efforts to understand and rise to these challenges. Insight’s data-analyses of news has shown that neither new nor traditional Irish news organisations are using social media in an effective and impactful way. “Few news organisations seem to know how to optimise their social media interactions for information, impact and shareability,” he says.
“Traditional news may have a future if it provides deep knowledge and excellent commentary and analysis, but quality does not necessarily guarantee survival”, Keane adds.
“Insight has several large projects at present, with the Irish Times, RTE and the Irish Farmers Journal. For example, in our work with the Irish Times we are developing tools to support journalists in a range of new tasks such as improving tracking of twitter, enhancing headlines for searching, speeding the process of picture preparation and the formation of micro-sites on specialist topics. I would view these projects as instances of the continuous innovation that is required for news outlets to survive.”
Insight Ireland is one of the Europe’s largest data analytics research centres, and the largest SFI funded research body in Ireland. With over 350 researchers and 40 industry partners, Insight Ireland is an increasingly dominant voice in the development of data policy in Europe.
Prof Mark Keane will be part of a discussion panel at the launch of FuJo (DCU's Institute of Future Media and Journalism) on the 23rd of June 2015.
It is intended that FuJo, in partnership with Insight Ireland will provide space for innovation and experimentation in journalism research.