5 Fresh Digital Media Trends to Watch

5 Fresh Digital Media Trends to Watch

Social tools, such as Facebook and Tumblr, are coming to play a new role in news reporting and distribution, while brands are taking on the role of the media by creating and publishing content themselves. Meanwhile, consumers are beginning to access digital content across more devices, often simultaneously, and content creators are responding by creating content for multiple platforms and selling access to them in new subscription offerings. “Facebook has dramatically transformed the way journalists do their jobs,” Shapira observes. “It’s become an essential tool, making our jobs far more efficient.” Beyond Facebook, news organizations such as The Atlantic and Newsweek are using Tumblr to tell the stories behind the ones they publish, start conversations with readers, and curate and share third-party content. Brands Become Media Platforms such as YouTube, WordPress and Twitter have made it easier and more affordable than ever for brands to create and distribute their own content, thereby becoming media companies in their own right. In addition to lifestyle content, brands are often electing to announce new products or hiring decisions via their Twitter accounts and blogs, rather than through (or in addition to) formal press releases distributed to individual editors and presswires. Following the release of the iPad in 2010, a number of news-reading apps — in particular, Flipboard, Pulse and NewsMix [iTunes link] — surfaced, aggregating news from RSS, social networks and internal, algorithm-based recommendation models, and presenting them in a magazine-style format. Now, the front page of nytimes.com shows recommendations from one's Facebook network alongside stories chosen by Times editors. In the future, we wouldn't be surprised to see the front page content of the nytimes.com divided into three sections: one for stories recommended by human editors, another with stories recommended by one's social network and a third that delivers stories chosen by the site's internal recommendations engine. And Sports Illustrated recently introduced two different subscription packages to readers: a print and digital bundle that offers print delivery plus full access to web content, as well as access to the magazine's apps for Android-powered tablets and smartphones, and a digital-only option that grants access to content on the web, and tablets and smartphones that run Android.

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Digital media, as many a Mashable reader is aware, is evolving at a rapid pace. It’s three months in to 2011, and already we’re witnessing the realization of many of our predictions for news media, digital advertising and startups this year.

Social tools, such as Facebook and Tumblr, are coming to play a new role in news reporting and distribution, while brands are taking on the role of the media by creating and publishing content themselves. Meanwhile, consumers are beginning to access digital content across more devices, often simultaneously, and content creators are responding by creating content for multiple platforms and selling access to them in new subscription offerings.

Those are just a few of the trends we’re observing across digital media, which we explore in greater depth below.

1. New Tools for Reporting and Distribution

Twitter, YouTube and RSS, among other platforms, have long been lauded for their roles in news reporting and distribution in the age of real-time and social media. Now, a new crop of tools is emerging to help journalists tell stories, engage audiences and expand their reach.

Although hardly a new player, Facebook is playing an increasingly important role for working journalists, as Mashable‘s Vadim Lavrusik pointed out in an article last week. During what has become known as the January 25th Revolution, Facebook helped journalists in North Africa and the Middle East identify planned protests, gather information and find relevant sources, among other things, notes Riyaad Minty, Al-Jazeera English‘s head of social media.

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, on the other hand, uses the platform as another distribution outlet, posting regular updates to the 200,000 fans of his page, and NPR regularly posts messages to find sources.

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In some cases, Facebook itself is part of the story. In a recent article for The Washington Post, Ian Shapira used screenshots of Facebook status updates to illustrate the heartbreaking story of a woman who died from post-pregnancy complications, showing — rather than telling — exactly how much her friends and associates valued her.

“Facebook has dramatically transformed the way journalists do their jobs,” Shapira observes. “It’s become an essential tool, making our jobs far more efficient.”

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Screen shot 2011-03-03 at 11.31.49 AM

Beyond Facebook, news organizations such as The Atlantic and Newsweek are using Tumblr to tell the stories behind the ones they publish, start conversations with readers, and curate and share third-party content.

Photo-sharing iPhone app Instagram is also proving a popular tool for distributing topical imagery, soliciting feedback and attracting new followers, while Storify, which recently received a $2 million round of funding, is helping news organizations tell stories by pulling together a variety of different sources in a single, embeddable format.

2. Brands Become Media

Platforms such as YouTube, WordPress and Twitter have made it easier and more affordable than ever for brands to create and distribute their own content, thereby becoming media companies in their own right. Brands are investing accordingly — whether they’re hiring editors, producers and social media managers, or expanding the roles of their existing teams — to create editorial, visual, audio and other kinds of content.

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Fashion label Tory Burch, for instance, hired away InStyle editor Honor Brodie to run its blog, awarding her the title of editor in chief — a first for the brand. Brodie has used the blog to transform the label, which was previously known almost solely for an iconic line of medallion-stamped ballet flats, into a full-fledged lifestyle brand. Brodie and her team post profiles of interesting people (authors, philanthropists, artists, bloggers, etc.), places and things on a daily basis.

“Several years ago, I noticed that a lot of style-conscious women were searching the web for both content and a retail fix,” Brodie says. “The laptop was competing for attention with TV and fashion magazines as a way to entertain…

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