Online News: Journalism and the Internet

Online News: Journalism and the Internet

Online News: Journalism and the Internet

Online News: Journalism and the Internet

Excerpt

There are times when a seemingly minor, insignificant change can suddenly generate profound consequences. The term 'tipping point' is often used to characterize the precise instance when this occurs, when the rate of a process increases so dramatically that it creates surprising results. Various inflections of the term have been taken up in a diverse number of fields, such as sociology, engineering and mathematics, but it found its place in the popular lexicon with the publication of Malcolm Gladwell's (2000) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Without doubt the book's influence – as well as its status on the bestseller charts – was enhanced by former US President Bill Clinton, who evidently mentioned it at a press conference as that 'now-famous book that everybody is reading'. For Gladwell, tipping points help to explain the social dynamics underlying the 'mysterious changes that mark everyday life', that is, the 'magic moment' when ideas, messages or behaviours 'cross a threshold, tip and spread like wildfire'. Despite the reservations expressed by some critics (in an otherwise approving review, Publishers Weekly calls the book a 'facile piece of pop sociology'), the term itself seems to have tipped, becoming something of what Gladwell himself would describe as a 'word-of-mouth epidemic' spreading 'just like viruses do'.

It is certainly striking to observe how frequently the notion of a 'tipping point' (together with variations such as 'milestone', 'watershed' or 'breakthrough') informs current debates about online news. Indeed, I shall begin this book's discussion by examining two such points which have been heralded for their impact in transforming the way we regard journalism in a digital environment. In the first instance, our attention turns to a speech delivered in the Spring of 2005 by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, chair and chief executive officer of News Corporation, to an audience of newspaper editors. In the view of some who were there, his comments signalled the moment when time was effectively called on the newspaper, at least in its familiar paper and ink format, thereby ushering in a radical rethink of its very future. Murdoch's intervention, the Economist magazine predicted, 'may go down in history as the day that the stodgy newspaper business officially woke up to the new realities of the internet age' (The Economist, 21 April 2005).

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