Debbie exposes massive media shift

|| April 3, 2017

Cyclone Debbie came to Queensland and blew down trees, blew off rooves and starkly exposed the changing world of mainstream media.

The blanket coverage on television generated plenty of debate about reporters standing out in the cyclone, drenched and barely able to stay upright.

It was six years between major cyclones in Queensland - Yasi arrived at the tail end of the disastrous 2011 summer. And haven't times changed.

Since 2011, social media has become the best way to follow a breaking news story. Television has tried to keep up but it can't match the pace.

This is the era of the two-screeners - people with the TV in the background and their smartphones in their hands.

Their phones showcase natural disasters from so many inputs - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others were full of videos of the cyclone's wrath. 

And they enable users to localise information quickly - you can drill down into events in your surrounding area in a way that TV struggles to match because of its diverse audience.

Social media also starts conversation hubs that enable people to exchange information quickly.

It was almost as though TV knew times had changed. That may be why reporters were standing out in the cyclone. And it may be why we saw a countdown clock ticking down to the moment the eye of the storm would hit the coastline.

It was a stretch too far and audiences picked it immediately. The social media chatter on the cyclone grew to include commentary about the TV coverage.

Audiences are smart - they know when mainstream media is overcooking something. That's not a new thing - audiences have always been smart. Only now, their voices are raised through social media.

That's not to say that television did not cover Cyclone Debbie well. But this is a new era of comparison.

It's a changing world and some established institutions are learning that more than most.