How we may end up with too much in­for­ma­tion

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Analysis & Company Report - with John Simp­son @bel­tel_busi­ness

Big brother is watch­ing us all. The of­fi­cial ev­i­dence avail­able from the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Mar­ket­ing Re­port from Of­com re­veals that we spend a lot of time watch­ing the small (and some­times not so small) screen and lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio.

The ‘spies’ watch­ing our habits know that in North­ern Ire­land we watch live TV for an av­er­age of three hours and 36 min­utes each day. We also lis­ten, on av­er­age, to nearly three hours of ra­dio each day.

With an av­er­age of over six hours view­ing or lis­ten­ing, that must be the big­gest sin­gle cho­sen ac­tiv­ity for most peo­ple, ex­clud­ing work and sleep­ing. That opens the temp­ta­tion to de­bate the mer­its of that choice. How­ever, aside from tak­ing the usual at­ti­tude that we spend too much time watch­ing TV or lis­ten­ing to ra­dio, th­ese fig­ures do un­der­line the con­tin­u­ing in­flu­ence of the broad­cast­ing me­dia.

Then add the time taken to keep up with the writ­ten word of news­pa­pers and cur­rent af­fairs mag­a­zines and it is dif­fi­cult to avoid the con­clu­sion that to­day’s gen­er­a­tion are sub­ject to (and will­ing to ac­cept) an im­pos­si­bly large in­for­ma­tion flow. The avail­abil­ity of an al­most in­fi­nite flow of in­for­ma­tion cre­ates other prob­lems.

First, how well trained and dis­ci­plined are the in­for­ma­tion users in se­lect­ing a choice of sources? The short an­swer is that choice in us­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions sources is of­ten far from sci­en­tific or pur­pose­ful. In turn, that choice con­tains a very com­plex mix­ture of de­cid­ing what I need to know, de­cid­ing what I am gen­er­ally in­ter­ested in and sub­con­sciously learn­ing what ad­ver­tis­ers want me to learn.

In the words of a prom­i­nent Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal fig­ure, the flow of in­for­ma­tion can con­tain large amounts of ‘fake news’, but what is fake and what is gen­uine takes us into the realm of a mix­ture of per­sonal judg­ments.

Liv­ing in North­ern Ire­land brings its own se­ries of lo­cal di­men­sions to cop­ing with in­for­ma­tion over­load. Me­dia providers try to be com­pre­hen­sive and ac­cu­rate. But, what is com­pre­hen­sive and ac­cu­rate to one per­son can be bi­ased in the ears and eyes of oth­ers. As a reg­u­lar viewer and user of BBC, ITV, RTE and France 24 (English lan­guage) the un­der­stand­ing of ‘ the facts’ day by day, points to the in­flu­ence of edi­to­rial de­ci­sions, some of them not even con­sis­tent be­tween pro­grammes from one source.

Stand­ing back, this di­ver­sity opens the way to ask whether the width and range of in­for­ma­tion and en­ter­tain­ment is, in some forms, dan­ger­ous. Multi-chan­nel TV opens the way to po­lit­i­cal rhetoric which can be seen as trea­son­able or se­ri­ously ob­jec­tion­able. In this cor­ner of western Europe, there is an ac­cep­tance of very con­tro­ver­sial broad­cast­ing ma­te­rial usu­ally em­a­nat­ing from non-do­mes­tic sources. We like to con­sider that in the UK and Ire­land we have a lib­eral tol­er­ant di­ver­sity of com­mu­ni­ca­tions ma­te­rial where we rely on view­ers to use their own dis­cre­tion. Long may that re­main!

The risks from por­trayal of vi­o­lence, trea­son­able ideas and un­wel­come pornog­ra­phy be­come part of a spec­trum of com­mu­ni­ca­tions where we rely on the not too rig­or­ous men­tor­ing of var­i­ous stan­dard set­ting bod­ies.

Into the range of com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels, in­creased in­ter­ac­tion with the in­ter­net must be added. Some 98% of homes have ac­cess to TV, slightly more than the UK av­er­age of 94%. Ra­dio is avail­able in 89% of homes, com­pared to a UK av­er­age of 90%. The chang­ing scene lies in the ex­tended use of the in­ter­net: 88% of UK homes have in­ter­net ac­cess. NI is slightly be­hind with 83% now con­nected.

North­ern Ire­land’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nels are now multi-sourced and com­pa­ra­ble with the over­all UK in­vest­ment. As to whether th­ese mod­ern de­vices be­ing used to best ef­fect, can we set­tle for ‘not yet’?

Whether we like it or not, so­cial me­dia is an in­te­gral part of ev­ery­day life, and char­i­ties, like all other or­gan­i­sa­tions, should be con­sid­er­ing the im­pact it can have and in­cor­po­rat­ing it into their ob­jec­tives and longer-term strate­gies.

Con­sid­ered by some as ‘slack­tivism’ — an ex­er­cise that ap­pears to do good while achiev­ing very lit­tle — there is lit­tle doubt that so­cial me­dia can be a pow­er­ful tool in the third sec­tor.

In 2014, £8m was raised for Can­cer Re­search UK in six days, thanks to the No Make-up Selfie Cam­paign, and in the same year, the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge raised more than $115m (£89m) for the ALS (Amy­otrophic Lat­eral Scle­ro­sis) As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ul­ti­mately, the out­come of the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge was the dis- cov­ery of a gene variant as­so­ci­ated with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease, by a sci­en­tist funded with the pro­ceeds of the ini­tia­tive.

Twit­ter’s mis­sion state­ment is, “To give ev­ery­one the power to cre­ate and share ideas and in­for­ma­tion in­stantly, without bar­ri­ers”, while Face­book UK says it wants to “give peo­ple the power to build com­mu­nity and bring the world closer to­gether”.

The po­ten­tial im­pact that so­cial me­dia can have is huge for char­i­ties, al­low­ing them to share snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion, en­gage in a short ex­change of views and gauge whether a par­tic­u­lar is­sue is im­por­tant to au­di­ences.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by Grant Thorn­ton last year, 72% of the top 100 char­i­ties in Eng­land and Wales are ac­tive on all three of the main so­cial me­dia plat­forms (Face­book, Twit­ter and Linkedin). Only 6% do not use any.

Their Twit­ter ac­counts av­er­age 196,000 fol­low­ers, more than twice that in 2015, when the fig­ure was 94,000. The trend con­tin­ues with char­ity CEOS; 43% of the top 100 char­i­ties’ CEOS have a Twit­ter ac­count, with an av­er­age fol­low­ing of 2,400.

From a gov­er­nance per­spec­tive, it is vi­tal that char­i­ties and their boards con­sider the risks and op­por­tu­ni­ties in­volved with so­cial me­dia. Trustees should con­sider the fol­low­ing; what part does so­cial me­dia play in our strate­gic plan; who re­ports to the board about so­cial me­dia strat­egy and out­comes, and what is their level of ex­pe­ri­ence; do we have guide­lines for those staff and vol­un­teers us­ing so­cial me­dia and how do we en­cour­age use while mit­i­gat­ing risk; what re­sources have we al­lo­cated to so­cial me­dia projects and how do we mea­sure our re­turn on in­vest­ment; and can we use so­cial me­dia to reach new ben­e­fi­cia­ries?

Whether it is seiz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties as part of the next vi­ral cam­paign, or tweet­ing a new press re­lease, so­cial me­dia is one of the most cru­cial and vis­i­ble chan­nels for char­i­ties, and it can be a cost-ef­fec­tive way of self-pro­mo­tion and at­tract­ing of new stake­hold­ers and ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Char­i­ties should en­sure that so­cial me­dia is high on their agenda, iden­ti­fy­ing ben­e­fits and po­ten­tial risks, to help sup­port the char­ity achieve its ob­jec­tives.

Of­com says we spend an av­er­age of three hours 36 min­utes watch­ing TV ev­ery day

Don­ald Trump takes the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge in 2014

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.