10 Online Journalism Challenges

What is one major challenge that faces online journalism?

To help online journalists with overcoming major challenges, we asked successful online news publications and journalists this question for their best insights. From understanding the language around disability to overcoming social media weaponization, there are several major challenges one must face in order to become a successful online journalist.

Here are 10 challenges online journalists must overcome:

  • Understand The Language Around Disability
  • Compete With Social Media
  • Produce Timely Articles to Compete With Citizen Journalism
  • Keep Readers Engaged 
  • Stand Out From the Competition 
  • Maintain Financial Solvency
  • Find a Way to Receive Financial Compensation
  • Overcome a Lack of Trust in the Media
  • Maintain Integrity as a Journalist
  • Overcome Social Media Weaponization

Understand The Language Around Disability

It is very difficult for journalists who don’t have experience when writing about disability issues and/or people with disabilities to use the appropriate language and not be offensive or just out of touch. However there are a number of style guides and training materials on what is the appropriate language to use when writing about these topics.
Journalists also need to bear in mind that the appropriate language can differ from country to country.

Dale Reardon, All Accessibility Matters

Compete With Social Media

As social media becomes more and more popular, so does the spread of misinformation between people. Online journalism faces a similar struggle because journalists need to ensure that the news they’re hearing is true, fact-based information. It’s challenging to compete with rumors spread around social media that ignite conversations and draw a lot of traffic. Online journalists need to keep news interesting while maintaining the truth in order to draw in readers and help educate society on current events.

Tom Mumford, Undergrads

Produce Timely Articles to Compete With Citizen Journalism

As the war in Ukraine unfolds, we are seeing the traditional online news outlets lag hours or even days behind citizens documenting every aspect of the war. Hashtags on social media and increasingly sophisticated forums organize and speculate on information in nearly real time. Online journalism is competing with a hive mind with the tools once monopolized by major news organizations. In order to remain relevant, online journalists need to produce online content that provides detailed, contextual, and timely analysis that goes beyond what is simply happening.

Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel

Keep Readers Engaged

Due to the overwhelming amount of information we receive every day, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Therefore, most people choose media formats that are easy to digest, such as videos, animations, and pictures. Long articles require readers to pay attention longer, making them less appealing. So online journalism’s primary challenge is how to keep readers engaged without sacrificing text quality.

Karolina Zajac, Passport Photo Online

Stand Out From The Competition

Over the last few years online journalism has experienced a new challenge: Everyone is a journalist in a way. Everyone with a blog can publish a story with their findings and perspective. There are influencers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and countless other platforms – these influences can hijack the attention of an audience, reducing the amount of time readers spend on traditional journalism sites. When everyone is a journalist, it creates a massive amount of competition and online journalists have to work extremely hard to stand out.

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Maintain Financial Solvency

It was during the mid- to late aughts that newspapers were waking up to what was happening in their industry – and they’ve nearly been powerless to stop it. The print product could no longer be the “A product” for a news outlet because so many people, mostly young adults, were switching to digital media. News was free and immediate and now that’s what they’ve come to expect. It’s been difficult for all local newspaper outlets to stay afloat based on a digital subscription/online advertising model. The high-profile outlets (Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) have billionaires owning them. Others have sought out non-profit status. There is still hope for a way that local news outlets (many of which are floundering) can create a money-making formula that keeps their heart rate going. Local governments can’t afford to lose their most trusted watch dogs. Online journalists are needed — but they need to get paid.

Joel Jackson, Lifeforce

Find a Way to Receive Financial Compensation

Many online readers want to receive their news for free, but news outlets can’t make an income with free articles. While the firewall fees may be effective to an extent, readers will turn to free publications or social media to receive their news. Instagram accounts and Twitter Explore can offer breaking news in one headline. Financial compensation is essential for online communication to survive, however, very few people want to pay for it.

Lillie Sun, Three Ships Beauty

Overcome a Lack of Trust in the Media

Journalists have traditionally been regarded as gatekeepers. They convey the news honestly to the public, leaving their personal thoughts and opinions at the door. However, in today’s society, the notion that journalists serve as gatekeepers has been called into doubt. Journalists, I believe, perceive a lack of trust in the news as the most difficult obstacle in modern media. This poses a serious threat to the value of media. It maintains the door open for bias in news coverage and the “fake news” narrative to feed on the journalism industry’s confidence issue.

Jamie Opalchuk, HostPapa

Maintain Integrity as a Journalist

One major challenge that faces online journalism today is that there are some who don’t maintain their integrity as writers. This leads to lazy, ineffective content, little research, and even straight up plagiarism. These people don’t take pride in their words. They don’t take pride in their process. Thus, misinformation is spread like wildfire and consumers are fed unreliable, uninspired words.

Datha Santomieri, Steadily

Overcome Social Media Weaponization

Misinformation and disinformation can spread unintentionally, such as when people post articles from satirical websites like The Onion but believe them to be factual. Sharing this knowledge, however, is not necessarily an accident. I also see state actors and opportunists weaponizing social media in order to influence what we see and our perception of the world around us. This form of online activity will only grow in popularity, driven by both financial and ideological motivations. As a result, news consumers — and creators — must be more media educated than ever before. As journalists, you must be able to question sources in novel and nuanced ways. These standards will only become more stringent as deep fakes and other manipulation tactics become more sophisticated.

Kenny Kline, BarBend

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