Faster internet means faster information exchange, which is undeniably of value to journalists and other media producers. And from the perspective of journalists, better networks tend to produce – or distribute – different types of content.
For example, the first iPhone allowed only 2G data which was roughly the equivalent of passing along a single manila folder with a couple of sheets of A4 inside so publishers stuck to mostly basic webpages, especially as they were still mostly serving dial-up customers on home computers.
Then 3G came along, enabling the boom in podcasts, followed by 4G, which finally made video streaming (and downloading) via mobile networks pretty much tolerable as well as the first glimpses of pretty ropey but decent augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps.
You’ve probably heard that 5G is looming on the horizon (it’s about a year away from widespread mainstream use) and is expected to be around twenty times the speed of 4G, so it should make sense that news media publishers are already looking ahead to start planning for what it might bring.
For example, the New York Times recently said in a Medium post that it was launching a “5G Journalism Lab” to explore the kind of storytelling opportunities that the faster network speeds might enable, and has partnered with network provider Verizon for early access to the network and equipment with which to experiment.We believe 5G’s speed and lack of latency could spark a revolution in digital journalism in two key areas: how we gather the news and how we deliver it,” the newspaper said. “In the short term, having access to 5G will help The Times enhance our ability to capture and produce rich media in breaking news situations.
“Over time, as our readers start to use 5G devices, we will be able to further optimize the way our journalism is delivered and experienced,” it added.
Their stated plans already include better and more reliable data connections for journalists in the field streaming footage back to the newsroom in real-time, and more and better AR and VR immersive experience embedded within stories to allow readers to explore “new environments captured in 3D”. These are by no means the only opportunities that faster network speeds might provide for enterprising journalists, many of which publishers are probably unable to anticipate – see below for a few ideas for the directions this could go…
Reporters will be able to livestream high quality content via a newspaper’s website or on social media, maybe even becoming “livestreamers” almost by default as this is exactly the kind of content that 5G will incentivise. After all, we’re basically talking about digital-age live television news sent straight to your phone or computer. This could be a premium subscription service or even just a part of everyday news gathering and dissemination.
There are obvious flaws in this concept, notably the inherent lack of editorial decision-making, that would need to be worked out but there’s definitely an opportunity here for increased transparency in newsmaking as audiences would be able to follow along as a journalist investigates and reports an entire story from start to finish.
Re-writing the re-write
It’s highly likely that traditional media outlets will be a fan of livestreaming straight to their audiences, preferring to serve more highly curated, edited content but what about livestreaming straight to the newsroom?
In the past, re-writes involved multiple reporters working on a story sending feeds back to a single individual back at the office who was charged with assembling those raw components into a coherent, publishable story.
Except these aren’t really raw material: those reporters out in the field have already cherry picked which facts and stories to send back to the newsroom and may very well have left out some key piece of information that needs to be included or just outright missed something important.
But what if reporters could just livestream the whole of their day back to the re-write reporter in real time? This would represent a truly raw feed that could be searched using computer-vision or video search technology to directly pull specific quotes or interactions word-for-word.
There would need to be some kind of oversight of the process, certainly. It all sounds a bit authoritarian and reporters simply aren’t used to constant surveillance by their employer – unlike some delivery drivers – but advances in AI and the aforementioned machine learning technology will make mining this kind of content for data incredibly easy over time, creating a rich archive of material.
Detaching news from reporters
If livestreams become the currency of newsmaking, does every single bit of it need to be attached to a reporter? While journalists have experimented with so-called sensor journalism in the past and found that connecting a ton of small devices to a single network is just unmanageable, this shouldn’t be an issue with 5G, at least in the long-term.
Instead of actively reporting on every aspect of a story, journalists would be able to set-up sensors to monitor certain activity – such as traffic flow on certain sections of road or gameplay for gaming stories – and livestream that data to their readers. Journalists could even set up livestreams in important meetings and other spaces in which important decisions to capture those rare newsworthy moments as they happen – C-SPAN for the internet-age, basically.