Trends 29 May 2014

Modern technology has undeniably brought about a shift in the way people get their news, but it’s not just the content’s consumers who have changed their ways. In addition, there’s a notable transition happening behind the curtain, as the producers of the world’s media content have adjusted their strategies, both with regard to their hiring practices and the way they tell stories.

A shifting job landscape

One of the fundamental changes afoot in the media industry today lies in where the jobs are. Employment seekers, whether they’re recent graduates just entering the workforce or veterans transitioning between jobs, aren’t finding the same opportunities at newspapers that they once did. Instead, they’re finding openings at native digital news organizations, according to a March 2014 report from the Pew Research Journalism Report.

While The New York Times and its ilk have plenty of online content, job growth lies less at those companies and more at outlets like The Huffington Post, which has only existed online, and small news outlets, most of which have a staff of five or fewer people and focus on local coverage.
The growth is substantial. For example, BuzzFeed, which recently started producing more original news coverage, has increased its staff by 2733% — increasing from six employees to 170 — in just three years. Vice Media hired 48 reporters in the first quarter of 2014 and shows no sign of slowing down. And Gawker has 132 full-time editorial employees — an increase of 169% from seven years ago.

At the 438 small news outlets surveyed, Pew Research estimates there is a total of about 1,900 editorial jobs. Of these, 414 had information available about when they started, and 29% were less than four years old.

A new approach to storytelling

As media companies have adjusted their hiring practices, they’ve begun to go after candidates with a range of different skills, and are taking advantage of these skills to tell stories in different ways. An increased demand for digital content means that outlets are able to use more innovative methods, including videos, interactive infographics and crowdsourced content.

New media skills aren’t the only ones that modern media companies value, though. Pew’s research shows that digital news organizations are hiring fora mix of legacy and non-legacy journalism skills. The Investigative News Network estimated that at least 80 percent of the journalists working at its 92 outlets come from legacy jobs, and at ProPublica, 25 of 41 staffers are legacy transfers.

On the whole, though, the numbers reveal that digital media companies are skewing younger. Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney explained to Pew that this shift came about in response to a disconnect between legacy skills and the demands of today’s consumers.

“The training of traditional journalism is not perfectly suited to what digital audiences are looking to read,” he said.

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