Probably less than a week into the month, you unknowingly click the headline of your 20th article and an online popup halts you, insisting that “to keep reading, sign up today.” Alas, the time has come that The New York Times will no longer allow free riders of the Internet to mooch off their professional paper.
It’s been long theorized that online articles will stimulate the demise of paper journalism, so it’s no surprise that nytimes.com has implemented a fee for online subscriptions. But the truth is, even professional online news carriers aren’t necessarily society’s top informer anymore.
Instead, word of mouth—or word of fingertips, rather—has become the first source of top news: through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Status updates and tweets infiltrate news feeds (in which you can even select if you want to see the most popular posts or the most recent) and inform virtual friends and followers of top news—usually including the writer’s personal feelings on the subject. It almost becomes a competition to have the wittiest one-line comment on the matter, instead of the most intellectual, well-developed news report.
Take Osama Bin Laden’s death, for example. Late that Sunday evening, Facebook was flooded with the subject from patriotic exclamations to mobile-uploads from rallies to the simple “Bin Laden is dead.”
Site users worldwide were updated with this information simply by being “social.” Many people who would otherwise not be watching the news or reading an online paper at that time, but do frequently check their social networking sites or receive notifications to their phones, received and spread the news quite quickly. And the same holds true for even smaller scale news like sport event turnouts and television show finales.
Evidently, credible and prestigious news carriers aren’t necessarily needed for the simple informative part of news spreading. There’s no denying that people still follow up with real stories after encountering news off a social network, but there’s also no denying that many people don’t.
And aside from relying on peers, the New York Times itself can even be followed on Facebook and Twitter. So instead of connecting users to news reports, social networking sites may be nudging their way into being the news for many people.