7 Billion Reasons Why the Future of News Is On Social Media

There are 7 billion people on the planet. As connectivity improves and more and more rely on smartphones, our news network will grow and grow.

It has been a long hard break up, but millennials have finally washed their hands of the giant news corporations. The information age has blown away the cobwebs, and unprecedented access to data, facts, and disparate points of view have instilled a more investigatory approach to news gathering in young people. As a consequence, 88 percent of this generation “sometimes or never” trust the news, according to the Washington Post.

The British Royal Wedding, the death of Osama Bin Laden and Newt Gingrich running for president are some of the many mainstream news items that broke on social media. This goes to show that social media platforms are facilitating the trend towards the production and mass consumption of user-generated content (UGC). Major networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are trying to break into the news vertical to add value to their user base.

What’s behind this dramatic shift? And what does the future hold for news media?

Bias, inaccuracy and deliberate misinformation

It seems that young people around the world have less faith in the mainstream media as time goes on, and it comes as no surprise. In a damning report from the Ethical Journalism Network, the media all around the world was roundly criticized for its coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe.

The transparent use and spin of global events by politicians for political advantage is affecting the quality and—more importantly—the objectivity of reporting. In the U.S. media, the Watchdog said:

In the United States, media has helped make the migrant and refugee issue an explosive topic in debates between Republican Party candidates for the presidency. Media time has focused on heated and often racist exchanges. This has obscured much of the good reporting in some media that provides much-needed context.

Speaking on the topic of accuracy in the media, the BBC’s John Darvall went as far as to say, “I am ashamed to be a journalist.” This came in a blog post after an inaccurate report about the death of his daughter was published, understandably causing a lot of pain and anguish to his family.

He went on to write:

This week TV and newspapers have proven to me why they are not the future of news. If they can’t even get their facts right, be trusted with clear information and then report it accurately, is it any wonder that we are all turning to Facebook, Twitter and other internet sources for our news and information?

It’s not just inaccuracy and political bias that are damaging the reputation of mainstream news networks, however. It’s the deliberate misinformation from supposedly trustworthy outlets. Fox News recently came under fire from the public and media in the U.K. after a so-called expert claimed that Birmingham, the country’s second largest city, was under Sharia law and effectively a no-go area for non-Muslims. Of course, this caused outrage among British muslims, residents of the city, and people across the U.K., forcing an apology from the network.

As individual incidents, they mean very little, but they are just a fraction of the big picture. Collectively they engender huge amounts of mistrust and skepticism — and now 50 percent of this generation trust user generated content over traditional media.

The dramatic shift towards crowdsourced news sources and UGC

Facebook’s Safety Check, which came in the wake of the 2011 Tsunami and Nuclear disaster in Japan, recognizes the fact that people turn first to social media when they need news of their friends and to make sure they are safe.

However, it’s not simply personal information sharing that is driving this new paradigm. Although television remains the number one source of news across the world, online channels (social media and news sites) have a large share of the market. In the United States, 74 percent of people use online sources, in the U.K. 73 percent, in Brazil 91 percent and in Finland and Denmark, 90 and 85 percent respectively, according to a Digital News Report Survey.