The challenge of instant news for business and government

07 November 2013

Organisations need to wake up to the challenge of social media and instant news, and they need to do it fast, veteran journalist Nik Gowing told the audience at his Oxford Martin School lecture on October 30.

The lecture, ‘Instant news, social media – the new vulnerabilities for power’, looked at the struggle of governments and companies to cope with today’s “public information space”, where dramatic developments can be broadcast to millions in seconds via a smartphone.

In an interview before the lecture, he told the School’s communications officer Sally Stewart: “Just having a Facebook or Twitter account isn’t enough. They are getting left behind and it requires a real leap of understanding. It’s a behavioural issue, it’s a conceptual issue and many are still in denial, until there’s a problem.

“I think the problem is generational – people have got the top by conforming. Most people can’t believe this whole issue exists. If companies and governments don’t open up and realise how much they are on show they are putting themselves at great risk. Essentially the system needs to be turned on its head.”

The public information space was now much more democratic thanks to the social media and the internet, he said, particularly when crises erupted. “I think it’s a vital part of empowerment and that’s where a lot of corporate and government leaders haven’t got it. People think they can still control everything when they can’t. Look at what happened in Libya, Egypt and Syria. Look at what happened with the riots in London.”