How do mainstream media enhance the soft power of media network?
At the current stage of “hot media convergence”, the soft power of network has caught the attention of mainstream media. On the latest online seminar, researchers from Zijin Media Think Tank focus on the “the depth of media convergence” and “the construction of media network in Jiangsu Province”.
At present, the construction of new mainstream media in Jiangsu meets some difficulty in strengthening the “soft power of network”. What has caused this phenomenon? And how to enhance the “soft power of Jiangsu media network” as soon as possible? In the evening of June 5, researchers from the ZMT conducted an online seminar on “the depth of media convergence” and “the construction of media network in Jiangsu Province”. The seminar was chaired by Wang Ning, ZMT researcher, and Prof. Min Xueqin, senior researcher of ZMT, and postdoctor Zhang Hengshan , Pei Lei, Zheng Anguang, Song Yahui, Kang Lele, Wang Chengjun, Yan Zhihua, Shi Aichun, Kong Zhaowei also participated.
Jiangsu mainstream media have strong hard power, yet weak network soft power
With the current popularity of "media convergence ", the development of Jiangsu media convergence is still at the groping stage, with a prominent difficulty of strengthening the “soft power of media network in Jiangsu”. Wang Ning, now a researcher in ZMT, takes the Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation (his former employer) as an example. He points out that the mainstream media of Jiangsu have fairly good hard power. In 2016, the total revenue of Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation reached up to 15 billion yuan, with net profit of more than 2 billion. Holding equities of one company and sharing equities of three listed companies, it has a total asset of more than 20 billion yuan and has been ranked among "the top 30 Chinese Cultural Industries" for many years. All these data has proved the hard power of Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation.
Wang points out that generally, soft power of Jiangsu media network presents the weak points in its network communication, network influence, and network credibility. Zhang Hengshan says that the essence of so-called soft power is the attraction of life values behind. The guidance of life values by traditional media was very prominent and overwhelming. Party newspapers are among the mainstream media, but it is true that they are suffering the loss of readers. The public opinions by traditional media are enormously different from that by new media. Pei Lei believes that it is too early to announce the success of new media, since the most valuable news is still reported by traditional media. We are at a transitional stage with dislocation competition.
Wang Ning proposes that the soft power of media network equals to network communication through channels pluas network influence of content and plus netizens’ credibility. From this viewpoint, the soft power of Jiangsu mainstream media network is indeed not strong. In recent years, party newspapers in Jiangsu have basically invested in constructing their Internet communication channels such as terminals on PC or mobile phones. They also started new services such as online graphic text, audio and video. Seemingly, there are a lot of channels of “two micro- and one end (namely the wechat, microblog and Toutiao)”, but the rate of network coverage is not high and the channel communication is not strong. At present, some new media content are still created by the original staff team with traditional resources. Neglecting the netizens’ demand by merely transplanting the contents of traditional media instead of creating more original new content, the network influence is undoubtedly weak. Lacking in-depth grasp of audience structure, audience’s cognitive characteristics and proper expression, and weak in guiding the network hot spots or setting network topics, the network credibility is another problem.
Yan Zhihua believes that what the traditional media can do now is to devote great efforts on new media, such as the News Terminal on mobile phones by Xinhua Daily Media Group and the Litchi-Cloud platform by Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation. Wang Ning says that some of the new-media platforms are welcomed provincially, but remain to be improved in its national influence. The core of difficulty lies in the soft power of these new-media network.
Shi Aichun says that it is precisely because the traditional media network soft power is not strong enough that the central government and relevant officials promote the “media convergence”. Given the combination of content of the traditional media and fast transmission of new media, it is expected to create a new world of modern media. And such an expectation is out of sound judgment on the development law of “media convergence”, basic grasp of evolutionary logic, as well as macro-thinking of vigorously promoting the development of “media convergence”. In the past, the traditional media and the new media are clearly separated. Now after primary convergence, they are more closely interwoven. The goal of deep convergence is to realize a complete integration.
Insufficient degree of convergence, serious brain drain, beset with difficulties in enhancing soft power of mainstream-media network
In view of the reasons for weak “soft power”, researchers inquire from various perspectives.
Yan Zhihua holds that one reason is that provincial media step late into the new media field. It may also due to stereotypes of traditional media that they are not worthy of being improved. Wang Chengjun also believes that to improve the soft power of media network, an independent brand of network media is required, and it is not easy for traditional media to do so. However, Kang Lele disagrees that Xiakedao, an we-chat account by People’s Daily, has received great popularity. Wang Ning thinks that Xiakedao gives full play to the advantages of traditional media in deep analysis and insightful report. It also pays close attention to netizens’ concerns and set proper news topic. Yan Zhihua analyzes that the influence of Xiakedao results from it being a high-end platform with openness.
Min Xueqin proposes that brain drain is a serious problem for the mainstream media. Wang Ning agrees by mentioning that in recent years, more and more famous hosts, editors, and directors quit their jobs to engage in business, and many young and middle-aged professionals in key media positions are leaving in group, resulting in the passive situation of huge brain strain. This is not only because of income gap, but also because of larger space for personal development, more freedom of creation, and more tolerance towards mistakes that are presented in the mechanism of new media.
Kong Zhaowei says that the weak “soft power” of Jiangsu media should be attributed to the following reasons. The first is a shortage of innovative concept. Due to the lack of Internet thinking and the concept of constructing a strong media network, media personnel with versatile skills are rare now. Despite various television programs, information service is not comprehensively implemented, and network culture is not developing prosperously.Netizens browsing the Jiangsu media network is far less than those browsing the Phoenix mobile-phone network. We have no special information infrastructure, nor a strong information economy. And advertisements on media networks are far less than those on commercial video sites. At the same time, in order to maintain network security, the media network is very cautious, with a less degree of freedom than other commercial sites. Personnel mastering information technology are rare and journalists with thinking habits from traditional media need more time to adapt to the network media. Jiangsu traditional media need to further develop the multilateral communication and cooperation with the Internet in order to avoid falling into a backward situation. The second is lacking innovation. Jiangsu media practitioners are often limited by the rules and regulations, and they expect no breakthrough but no mistake. Failing to incorporate the construction of soft power of Jiangsu media into the development trend of the new era and neglecting problems about people's livelihoods, many media practitioners make no breakthrough or actual effects, and thus fall behind.
Wang Ning concludes that there are three reasons for the lack of soft power in Jiangsu media: the first is the integration of the form, the depth of integration is not enough; followed by the system being more rigid, lack of regulatory flexibility; the last is difficult to implement cross-border integration.
At the era of new media, the soft power of mainstream-media network depends on quality content
Does the weak network soft power indicate that the mainstream media bear no chance to win in the Internet era? Researchers do not think so.
Yan Zhihua says that China has realized that it needs to change the mode of discourse in order to tell the world about its story. Once being opened partially, media’s discourse right is expected to enjoy more freedom in the future, such as the Xiakedao and the Overseas Edition of People’s Daily.
In addition, many Central Media have their accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and have attracted a lot of followers. Today, the news may not be necessary for people, but information is a must. The news can be regulated, checked, or screened, but information can flow freely. Wang Ning agrees by saying that the Central Network Media should improve their capability in setting network topics and diversifying techniques of expression. They should guide the direction of online public opinions, follow what people concern and express, and predominate the online public-opinion field by creating a network context that is objective, three-dimensional, and comprehensive.
Yan Zhihua says that we should not be too pessimistic about the traditional media, because the impact that traditional media endure now is inevitable with the outbreak of new technologies. The construction of network platform highlights the scarcity of high-quality content. The traditional media are in a period of transition and transformation. The most efficient method for their self-rescue is to strengthen supervision of public opinions, so as to acquire more credibility and attention. Pei Lei agrees by saying that the key is to be modest, to correctly position themselves as network media, and to rearrange the production of news. As a result, the product, production, organizational skills, organizational culture, and the overall design will all be upgraded. Wang Ning adds that the content should be enriched with consumption characteristics and combine with changes in demand. And the traditional mainstream media should make full use of their advantages in editing resources, media credibility and content work-team etc., and they should work hard on news that tailors to netizens’ interest and follow hot topics on the Internet or in the society.
Song Yahui believes that the division and specialization of new-media tasks are important successful experience. Instead of creating a big and wide platform, the new media should consider how to enhance their soft power, and take the road of specialization with precise positioning.
Min Xueqin points out that the Jiangsu media should modestly learn how to chat, to speak, to be humor, to judge with data, to incubate and buy webcasts. She also suggests that the enhancement of soft power needs independent brands of online media. For example, Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation can set up venture capital funds in Nanjing University for direct incubation of the Internet entrepreneurial team. And such funds can be entrusted to the think tank for allocation.
Yan Zhihua holds that the promotion of Jiangsu media’s soft power need to consider four aspects. First, the content of traditional media should be maintained with good quality. Second, the traditional media need to continually integrate with new media. Third, discourse right should have more freedom. Fourthly, traditional media should make full use of the existing new media platforms. On the loss of credibility which is caused by new media chaos, Kong Zhaowei says that traditional media must have their own original discourse system during the process of convergence with the new media. It is necessary to build a bridge between the mainstream values and the traditional moral concept. Through the interaction between the mainstream ideology and the changing social values, a common value will be adopted and followed. Meanwhile, we should strive to improve the external discourse rights of Jiangsu media, build an influential discourse system, and enhance the appeal and credibility of external discourse, so as to spread good Chinese stories with Chinese voice and characteristics.