Experts in the media industry said that the rising trend of practitioners moving from traditional media to start digital news platforms reinforces the power of technology to extend the retirement for journalists.
They also noted that the Nigerian digital media space is now taking a new shape with the incursion of media experts with traditional media backgrounds.
According to them, top editors of major traditional media, who usually retire into other professions, now have the digital space to explore and continue their practice after exiting the traditional stage.
They said this is driving a new revolution that will also help the country tackle the menace of fake news.
While noting that digital media is no longer the future but the present, they said the line between online and traditional media is already getting blurry as all newspapers and broadcast stations in Nigeria are now prioritising a strong online presence.
Experts’ perspectives: Speaking to Nairametrics on the impacts of the trend, a former Editor at New Telegraph Newspaper and Publisher of The Star Online Newspaper, Mr Ayodele Ojo, said that technology has made it easy for editors to switch to online.
“To start a newspaper in the past, you needed a lot of money. You would be thinking about printing, distribution, human resources, and all that. And that was why most editors retired to other things in the past. But with the digital era, the switch is easy for journalists, maybe when the newspapers close down or they exit for another reason. There’s no way you won’t exit an organization as an editor, and when you do, what happens to all the knowledge and experience you have gained over the years?” he said.
He noted that editors and journalists from traditional media switching to digital media space are bringing their professionalism to bear in the online media space. According to the publisher, this means that online media is no longer for people without media discipline.
“We now have seasoned editors, who have edited different titles of Newspapers in the digital media space. They are different from somebody who just finished journalism school and started an online platform or somebody who did not even have any journalism background that is practising digital journalism.
“Somebody who has passed through all the stages of the traditional media is more experienced, more exposed, and knows more about the norms and ethics of journalism. They don’t just throw anything out as news. When you talk about the authenticity of a report, somebody that has been an editor of traditional media for years that now has an online platform will be very much concerned about his reputation. The greatest impact of this is that there are no more early retirements for editors or journalists from the traditional media,” Ojo added.
The Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Cable Mr Simon Kolawole, who was also a former Editor at ThisDay Newspaper, shared a similar sentiment. According to him, professionals from traditional media going online are giving digital media more credibility.
“I see two positive outcomes. One, online journalism should become more credible as professionals begin to come to the space. For a long, it’s been an all-comers affair and this is affecting the respect for online media. Two, online should be able to attract more skills. Currently, good and experienced reporters still prefer the traditional media and this has made it difficult to attract them. But if they see that more professionals are going online, they may begin to have a change of perception,” he said.
A digital world: According to the CEO/Lead Consultant at Leap Communications Limited, Mr Muyiwa Akintunde, the world has gone digital and journalism has to go digital also, which is why journalists are moving online.
This development, he believes will bring sanity to the digital media space in Nigeria.
“One challenge with the media is that anybody can be a journalist. And that is why even in the traditional media, you have people coming from fields other than journalism and they are doing very well in journalism. The trend now is that those who do not even have any grounding are now practising journalism online. Once you have your phone and internet, you can be a media person. That is why we are having a lot of problems with fake news and news that are not authentic.
“Those guys don’t know that there is a process to the news. They don’t know that there is what you can publish and what you can’t publish. And even for some, when they know what is right because they are looking for traffic, they just create fake stories. It is a good development that we are now having people who have practised in the traditional, structured media system going into the online space. That is the way the world is moving. They will bring their professionalism to bear on the online space and sanitise it,” he added.
Following the audience: A former Editor at Guardian Newspaper and Publisher of Prime Business Africa, Mr Marcel Mbamalu, also believes that journalists must move to where their audience is.
According to him, professionals are leaving the traditional media to start online because that is today, not the future.
“Print is no longer lucrative as it used to be. The online space is where the consumption of news is, that is where the people are. Almost everybody has a phone and access to information. Citizen journalism is on the rise and it is taking over from the conventional media. Don’t forget that non-journalists are the first to move into this space. So, professional journalists moving into the space is a good development as they are bringing some form of sanity into the system,” he said.
Digital vs traditional: While traditional media platforms are also strengthening their digital presence, a comparative analysis of some of their websites with the online platforms of their former editors shows that the former is doing better, except for a few.
For instance, on the global web ranking platform, Similarweb, the website of ThisDay Newspaper ranks 152 in Nigeria and 14 in the news and media category, whereas Simon Kolawol’e the Cable ranks 105 in Nigeria and number 11 in the news and media category.
However, some are still behind where they are coming from in terms of web ranking. According to Similarweb, The Star ranks 802,161 globally and 108,905 in Nigeria, whereas New Telegraph’s ranking stood at 390,592 globally and 2,774 in Nigeria.
Prime Business Africa, though not in the same category of general news platform as The Guardian where its publisher came from, ranks 330,635 globally, while the Guardian ranks 19,790.
Prime Business Africa was ranked on Similarweb as a website from the United States, hence it is difficult to compare country ranking with the Guardian which is number 10 in Nigeria.
Shift in media consumption: According to the publisher of BusinessDay, Mr Frank Aigbogun, the daily circulation of newspapers in Nigeria has plummeted. Daily Times alone went from selling 500,000 copies a day in the 1980s to all newspapers in Nigeria having a daily circulation of 150,000 in 2020.
He said newspaper circulation will continue to go down because the audience is now online.
While noting that media growth can only come from the internet, Mr Aigbogun said the Nigerian government’s plan to roll out 18,000 kilometres of fibre to rural communities to further improve access, especially in remote provinces will further drive this growth.
“There are several other major drivers behind the growth in Internet access: significant uptake in rural areas due to the rise in cheap smartphones, improved affordability, competitive data packages, and high demand for digital services, particularly around the major urban areas. All these are taking news consumers online,” he said.