What does it mean to consume media in the 21st century? With the combination of Baby Boomers, who still prefer that hard-copy black and white newspaper, and the Millennials — or the “microwave generation” — who prefer to receive content as quickly as possible through various social media and mobile applications, media companies are developing new and innovative ways to target all types of consumers.
On Saturday, Sept. 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. some Fairfield University students of the School of Communication, Arts and Media awoke to a bright, sunny day, and headed to the Dogwood Room for the University’s first “Converging and Emerging Media Conference,” organized by the School of Communication, Arts and Media in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The conference consisted of four different sessions where students from Fairfield, Southern Connecticut State University and Manhattanville College were able to present different research projects they conducted that focused on media and the digital realm.
During the conference, co-host of NBC’s Snapchat channel “Stay Tuned,” Lawrence K. Jackson, delivered a keynote address, which discussed what it means to be a media consumer and provider in the modern era. Jackson explained that media is currently evolving and expanding. These different forms of media are overlapping, and the goal is to make sure they don’t clash in a way where social and digital media harm the effects of print or linear media – non-linear media (digital) is media that can be interacted with by the consumer, comparatively, linear media is non-interactive. He stressed that digital and linear media are not competitors as the overall goal of both is to spread information to as many people as possible.
During an interview with Jackson, he said, “There’s a fine line between including what kids want to know about and what they need to know about. We try to mix it in, and one thing I pride myself on is bringing my personal taste to it [Stay Tuned].”
Jackson discussed an example of how his personal experiences contributed to the show. One time he wanted to cover the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. These are two neighboring countries that were a singular state until Eritrea achieved independence in 1991, and were at war with each other from 1998 until July 2018. Jackson has friends who are Ethiopian and Eritrean, who spoke with him about this war, and he described the intense separation of families caused as a result. Jackson explained that when this war ended in summer 2018, his friends were so happy, and he wanted to bring this story to light, as many U.S. platforms weren’t giving it much attention.
Making content relatable to the Millennial generation is exactly what “Stay Tuned” hopes to accomplish. NBC’s partnership with Snapchat was created in part because NBC is dedicated to generating news and they wanted a way to reach the Millennial generation with their content. Jackson is the newest host to the series – he joined Savannah Sellers and Gadi Schwartz – and explained that his belief in what they were doing, and his ability to bring a new scale or new point of view, was what drove him to be a part of “Stay Tuned.”
Jackson explained that “Stay Tuned” is powerful because it crosses over platforms. He enjoys seeing kids engage with the news, and the engagement with the series is high as people will constantly message or tweet Jackson about different segments. According to Jackson, “Stay Tuned” receives 35 million unique visitors and 75 percent of the audience is under the age of 25. This snapchat series is focused on getting people to watch and learn about what’s important to them.
“The goal is not for digital to wipe out linear … this is about bringing digital in as well and having both [digital and linear] live. Some content lives better on digital, some content lives better on TV, so if you just want to recycle more evergreen content, digital is the place,” said Jackson.
One characteristic that was inherently obvious when observing Jackson in an interview, during lunch and while he presented a speech, is that his personality, witty humor and relatability does not change from setting to setting. Rather, Jackson likes to speak the same way while he’s delivering a speech or hosting “Stay Tuned” as he would when talking with a friend.
During his address, Jackson said, “This generation right now is all about transparency and honesty. No one is perfect, and the generation below us likes to see that more. People have to feel comfortable in this space.”
Jackson also delivered advice for creative people who aspire to deliver their own content. He explained that, in this digital world, it’s important to publish one’s content on an individual basis rather than just give it away. He gave the example – this story coincidentally aired the 22nd at 2:00 p.m. – of Spotify allowing independent artists to upload their own music. He explained that people’s own values and life experiences are valuable.
“Own who you are, and you will see that it brings you further,” said Jackson.
The linear age of media is here – Facebook and Twitter are platforms. Jackson stated that it’s imperative that people embrace what’s coming. “There are few spaces that are not intimidated by what’s coming next, and some companies are going to keep going with what they know until their numbers go down.”
He explained that NBC was the first company to go color on TV and their success is largely because they embrace what’s to come. “Stay Tuned” is the first news station of its kind. It directly allows young adults and teenagers to be immersed into the world’s happenings, has made sure that followers can view past episodes in a library and recently launched a YouTube channel and an Instagram page. Jackson also hopes that “Stay Tuned” will continue on to include Twitter so that everything can be kept uniform.
“To see kids engaging with the news, what is essentially the news, is pretty unique and pretty cool,” said Jackson.
He concluded his speech by touching upon all departments and majors, and why every person’s talents are needed in society. He explained that the world needs musicians to share their music, artists to create valuable works, scientists to teach people about climate change and writers to tell the truth.
Jackson encouraged students to, “Use digital space to be a truth teller. Use social media to tell the truth and to motivate. You are your own business, network and TV station.”