The way people consume news has changed dramatically over the past few decades thanks to advances in technology. Where people once relied on newspapers, radio and television, the digital revolution has led to an explosion of multimedia news content available on demand. This has vastly expanded the possibilities for publishers to deliver news in innovative and engaging formats.
This article will explore the key developments that have shaped multimedia news over time. It provides an in-depth look at how technology innovations have transformed journalism and changed audience behaviors and expectations. A comparison of old and new mediums plus an FAQ covers the main questions around this topic.
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To understand the current multimedia news landscape, it helps to look at how news has historically been delivered to the public:
For centuries, print newspapers were the primary medium for journalists to deliver breaking news and in-depth reporting. Major metro papers like The New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times had huge circulations. Newspapers enabled the public to get news about local areas, national issues and global events.
In the early 20th century radio emerged, bringing an audio component that enabled journalists to deliver news and reporting instantly to widespread audiences. Iconic broadcasters like Edward R. Murrow began delivering live reports directly into people’s homes. This increased immediacy and access to news and information.
Next came television news in the mid 20th century – adding visuals and video to further enhance broadcasts. TV networks expanded rapidly across America as TV sets became commonplace in homes. Audiences could now watch events and breaking news unfold live along with analysis from news anchors and video footage from journalists in the field.
Starting in the 1990s, internet news emerged in primitive forms. Early online news sites like early versions of NYTimes.com mirrored newspaper articles. It took better connectivity and faster speeds before quality video could be delivered reliably across the internet.
So while the formats of news evolved over the past century, there was typically a separation between print, audio, visual and video news content. Each format was produced specifically for its distribution channels and audiences.
The following table summarizes the key differences in news distribution in the past:
|Daily home delivery & subscriptions
|Live hourly reports listened to at home & in vehicles
|Viewing live or scheduled broadcasts at home
|Browsing articles on desktop computers with slow modems
The multimedia news landscape today looks entirely different thanks to broadband internet, smartphones, digital production tools and content management systems.
Advances in digital technology have fused all types of media together – text, audio, video, graphics, photos, maps, animation and more. News organizations big and small have invested heavily in digital teams, tools and strategies to meet audience demand for a rich, interactive, multimedia news consumption experience across devices and platforms.
The seismic shifts over the past 20 years have led to several key developments:
The widespread adoption of smartphones and mobile devices has untethered news consumption from the home and office. Apple iOS and Google Android mobile operating systems have billions of global users who access news content via installed apps or mobile browsers.
Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also become major news discovery and distribution channels. Publishers focus heavily on optimizing content for mobile and social environments – shaping everything from creative formats to headlines that drive engagement.
The lower barriers of digital publishing triggered an explosion of digital-first news websites and startups. Buzzfeed, Vox Media, Vice and Business Insider pioneered new models that leveraged the power of platforms and optimized news for digital audiences. They focused on data-driven strategies and multimedia content that performed well on mobile and social channels.
While questions emerge about the long-term sustainability of some digital startups, this influx of new entrants expanded the landscape of news providers. Today’s audiences have exponentially more outlet options for multimedia news.
Digital tools have enabled newsrooms to develop innovative graphics, maps, charts and other visuals to enrich storytelling and explain complex topics to audiences. Interactivity allows people to engage dynamically with graphics at their own pace using sliders, clickable elements and other features. Investigative sites like ProPublica and The Pudding have pioneered new standards for interactive news graphics.
Bandwidth increases have enabled high resolution, streaming video – ushering video to the forefront of news experiences and audience demands. Publishers have built extensive video production operations with investments in equipment, studios, staff and distribution. Video storytelling formats like explainers, interviews and documentaries are expanding the depth and variety of news coverage.
Video analytics also provide detailed audience measurement to sharpen targeting and personalization. Video ads enable publishers to monetize digital video content at high rates compared to display advertising. As a result, video has taken a central role in audience development and revenue strategies.
Digital audio formats were also propelled by mobile adoption. Podcasting has become a major new category for in-depth storytelling, expert interviews and expanding niche audiences. Audio also accompanies almost every article to extend reach as approximately 50% of digital news consumption now happens on smartphones.
Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home have also raised the importance of audio experiences – providing new pathways for delivering news briefings. Digital audio overall enhances opportunities for users to engage with news reporting while multitasking.
The table below summarizes how multimedia news distribution has massively fragmented and expanded in recent years:
|Articles, video, audio
|All digital formats
|Consuming news on desktop sites and across mobile browsers/apps
|All formats optimized for mobile feeds
|Scrolling feeds and sharing news socially
|All formats designed for smartphones
|Getting alerts and streaming video in apps tailored to devices
|Podcast, audio briefings
|Voice commands requesting news updates and podcasts while doing tasks
|Text, video, graphics
|All formats embedded in email newsletters
|Reading digests and interactive graphics from publishers in inbox
This demonstrates how multimedia environments enable almost endless possibilities to deliver information across platforms. The integration of text, graphics, photos, audio, video and interactive elements provide richer storytelling and cater to diverse audience preferences.
The move towards multimedia news has fundamentally changed newsroom operations, reporting practices, workforce skills and publishing philosophies. Here are some of the notable impacts of this evolution:
New job functions – Specialists in areas like social media, analytics, video production, graphics and audience development are now core to news teams. Software developers and data scientists are also increasingly embedded within or partnering with news organizations to build digital tools.
New workflows – Optimizing news output for search engines and social media has changed everything from headline writing to story length guidelines. Planning “evergreen” explainers, building interactive graphics and producing video segments now goes hand-in-hand with daily reporting.
New metrics – Digital analytics reveal detailed audience consumption patterns – down to taps, clicks, shares, drop-off rates, completion percentages and more. This data is used widely to sharpen engagement and retention.
New mindset – Publishers have been forced to orient around serving audiences rather than producing content simply structured for internal workflows or traditional distribution channels. This audience-centric mindset pervades decision making today.
On the positive side, multimedia reporting allows journalists to convey information in more vivid, dynamic ways that cater to varied learning styles. The public gains easier access to expert insights through digital video and audio.
However, some argue this fragmentation has contributed to overwhelmed audiences that struggle to separate fact from fiction. Multimedia also taxes journalists who now churn through content at breakneck speeds while facing burnout.
Overall the scale, complexity and pacing of digital news operations today would be unrecognizable just 20 years ago. Powerful technologies have enabled more people to participate in journalism – lowering historic barriers to publication. But these tools have also facilitated the spread of misinformation at mass scale. This makes the role of professional journalists vital within the modern multimedia news ecosystem.
|Tools & Technologies
|Reporter, Editor, Photographer
|Writing, editing, photography, printing
|Notebooks, cameras, typewriters, printing presses
|Multi-platform reporters, Social media strategists, Video producers, Data scientists, Developers
|Writing, photography, videography, editing, HTML, analytics, coding, software
|Laptops, smartphones, DSLR & video cameras, analytics platforms, CMS, social media management tools
|Key Spending Areas
|Technologies & Tools
|Past: Print newspapers
|Printing machinery, paper supplies
|Present: News websites
|Digital producers, cloud hosting
|Video gear, CMS, analytics, CDNs, servers
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Key Questions (FAQ)
How has the Internet changed journalism and news reporting?
The Internet has radically changed how news is discovered, produced, distributed and consumed by providing an open, digital platform for information. This lowered historic barriers for entry enabling new types of publishers to emerge while significantly fragmenting audiences through an abundance of outlets and channels. The rapid pace of digital news also impacts journalists who now operate at unprecedented speeds.
What multimedia formats do news publishers focus on today?
Publishers today focus heavily on video, photography, graphics, animation and interactives as well as audio in the form of podcasts, music and radio segments. Text remains integral but now incorporates dynamic visuals and multimedia that cater to varied audience preferences across platforms ranging from web to mobile to smart speakers.
How has mobile technology impacted journalism?
Mobile has vastly expanded opportunities to reach audiences in real-time while enabling news consumption during small windows of downtime throughout the day. But mobile distribution also requires content optimized for smaller screens in a more condensed, scannable format. Publishers dedicate extensive resources towards tailoring coverage for mobile apps and browsers.
What are the benefits and downsides of multimedia news content?
Richer multimedia storytelling allows journalists to explain complex issues in more vivid, personal ways – bringing events directly to audiences through video and audio. But some caution multimedia contributes to information overload with too much dynamic content flooding easily distracted consumers. Others argue audience expectations for speed cuts against thoughtful analysis.
How have social platforms like Facebook changed news distribution?
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have provided publishers direct access to billions of built-in users while enabling people to share news widely within their networks. This social distribution has propelled engagement metrics like comments, likes and shares to be as valued as raw traffic numbers. But social platforms have also been criticized for allowing misinformation to spread rapidly while their algorithms weed out high quality journalism.