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#wef12: Why news outlets must embrace a participatory culture

Image by shawncampbell on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Image by shawncampbell on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Outlining the shift in the way news is distributed and consumed today, Al Jazeera’s head of social media Riyaad Minty said news organisations need to understand that they “do not break the news anymore”.

The role of breaking news is now carried out by the people, Minty explained. And “people trust people first, before they trust an organisation” – highlighting the need for news outlets to embrace the participatory culture.

We are no longer the gatekeepers of information as media professionals … need to understand the shift and embrace it.

And if a news outlet is able to harness the crowd in its operations, it becomes part of a “virtuous circle” which ultimately means people come back to the news outlet.

Founder of social newswire Storyful, Mark Little, added that the service news outlets offer to users is not an exclusive right to content, it is trust.

Therefore there is “no fear anymore” for any news outlet to include external content in their own output, he added.

We don’t own content. What they are paying for – if they’re paying at all – is their trust in you.

And this will “require a real shift” in mindset, he added.

We have to become far more humble as journalists, we are now members of the community people look to and engage with… We don’t own the news anymore.

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#wef12: Six lessons in tablet storytelling

September 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Mobile, Multimedia, Newspapers
Copyright: C. Regina on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Image by C.Regina on Flickr. Some rights reserved

At last year’s World Editors Forum in Vienna we reported on the 10 great tips shared by Mario Garcia, founder of Garcia Media, on creating news apps.

At this year’s event in Kiev Garcia is back, and he shared with delegates some of the lessons learned in the past couple of years when it comes to storytelling on tablet devices.

In summary, here are just six of the takeaways to be gained from his presentation:

  • The editor today needs to undertand the sociology of how readers use tablet platforms and remember the multimedia approach

Garcia urged editors to not think it is all about the newspaper. “No one expects to have the breaking news there,” he said.

In the eyes of consumer, digital is current, print is old, not abandoned, but old.

… Still newspapers write headlines as if they’re the only forms of communication these days.

He added that news outlets need to show they are a multimedia house. Therefore “no marketing campaign should be based on one of the platforms”.

  • Be visual and make something happen

A main point made by Garcia was about the importance of the visual element on tablet devices, where users “don’t just want a photo”, he said. “They want something to happen”.

He suggested that every four or five screens users should be offered “a moment where the finger touches the screen and something happens”.

Whatever it is, in the tablet you can not be linear.

… If all you do is turn the pages, readers will not be happy.

Garcia also referred to a Poynter study due to be published in the next few weeks, which found the majority of people preferred the “flipboard” visual style, with photo galleries and videos.

  • The story is what counts

While lessons have been learned about tablet storytelling, content remains king.

Garcia offered a new definiton of news, as “anything you know now that you did not know 15 minutes ago, or 15 seconds ago”.

And this piece of news is “what counts”, not the platform it is distributed on.

  • Understand the pattern of consumption during the day

Garcia said research shows most people use tablets after 6pm in the evening, while the average person reading on the tablet at night has the television on at the same time.

  • Users are willing to pay on tablets

The research also found that those who use tablets are more willing to pay for content than online users.

With that in mind, he highlighted the potential for news outlets – bearing in mind the 85 million iPads in the market today, which he said may reach “more than 165 million soon”.

  • Print has not been abandoned

And despite all this, “there is a place for print as a lean-back platform,” Garcia stressed. “Print is eternal, but only if it adapts”.

And “paper has the power of disconnect”, with print readers able to “totally unplug and read.”

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#wef12: What news outlets can learn from magazines on content presentation

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vfsdigitaldesign/5651302028/sizes/l/

Image by VFS Digital Design on Flickr. Some rights reserved. Creative commons licence

Bonnier Business Media designer Jacek Utko has previously spoken about the need for news outlets to break the template format online, in the way they can with their print products.

Speaking at the World Editors Forum in Kiev today, Utko helpfully highlighted the ways in which news outlets can show that creativity in the presentation of their newspaper print products. And the place to look for inspiration is in magazines. Put simply, he said, “I don’t look for inspiration in newspapers anymore”.

The key lessons for newsrooms to take from magazine content presentation include finding a balance between long and short pieces, producing simple visuals and offering bite-sized chunks of information, the latter being a news presentation format which also “increases understanding”.

Magazines also demonstrate how to “tell stories almost without words”, he said, and “surprise the readers” with different news design on the front page.

That’s what we do with our newspapers, play the white space…

This then looks “totally different in the kiosk on the shelf than the other newspapers”, he said.

And this design approach need not only be for news outlets with sizeable resources. It is “very cheap” to do, he said, and takes just a few hours a day, and means print products can get a step ahead of digital in terms of design.

Art direction and news presentation is so weak on the web, it’s our strength, it’s our competitive advantage for print.

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#wef12: CEO of Australia’s Fairfax Media encourages publishers to make ‘the big calls now’

September 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

The Sydney Morning Herald is one website which will see a paywall introduced

Earlier this year Australian publisher Fairfax Media announced what it described as ‘landmark’ events, including the introduction of a digital-first editorial strategy in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, as well as a paywall in front of its Metro Media digital content.

The strategy followed a 12-month review, which concluded a need for “decisive action to restructure our business model to better reflect audience and advertising trends”.

This included cost cutting measures such as the loss of 1,900 members of staff in a bid to make savings each year of $235 million AUD, within the next three years, according to a report by one of Fairfax Media’s metropolitan titles the Sydney Morning Herald.

At the time chief executive of Fairfax Media Greg Hywood said:

No one should be in any doubt that we are operating in very challenging times. Readers’ behaviours have changed and will not change back. As a result, we are taking decisive actions to fundamentally change the way we do business.

The changes announced today have been selected after considering the merits of a full range of structural alternatives, including a demerger. The package of strategic initiatives is bold, and several are difficult, particularly as they will impact on some of our people.

However, we believe that they are in the best interests of Fairfax, our shareholders, and ultimately the majority of our people. They are necessary to ensure Fairfax retains its position as a leading independent media company and a key voice in our markets.

It is now a couple of months since the announcement was made and on Monday (3 September) Hywood spoke at the World Editors Forum in Kiev in detail about the restructure, and where it is hoped it will take the company in the next few years.

Hywood said the company was facing the same external pressures and declines as other media business and decided to respond by building a “platform or technological-agnostic” model.

And the company is “within reach of a very different profitable model for journalism focused primarily on digital distribution”, he said.

During his presentation to the conference he also called on other news outlets to “make the calls, and make the calls now”, in order to develop a “dominant digital news position”.

At Fairfax Media such big calls have included a move for two of its metropolitan titles – or mastheads as Hywood refers to them – SMH and The Age, to a compact format next year. The company is also closing down two large printing plants and moving the work to its regional plants.

In the newsroom there has also been a “revolution” he said, with the newspaper placed “at the end of the process”. Meanwhile sales teams are focused on offering “one media solution for each advertiser”, rather than going in with individual solutions per platform.

And while Fairfax Media is making these significant changes to its business, Hywood thinks other news organisations should also be reassessing their situations.

One day… it won’t be profitable to print any more. Then what you do is turn the digital tap on, what drops out is the entire costs of the manufacturing business underneath it.

As outlined in the ‘Fairfax of the Future’ strategy earlier this year, the company believes that implementing the changes it is will give it “significant flexibility to adjust the business model to reflect audience and advertising trends” should they change in the future.

But “you’ve got to make the big calls now”, he warned.

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#wef12: WSJ’s Raju Narisetti on ‘copycat’ paywalls and the ‘golden’ future of digital advertising

September 4th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism

Raju Narisetti from the Wall Street Journal, pictured speaking at the news:rewired conference, earlier this year

Speaking at the World Editors Forum on Monday (3 September), managing editor for the Wall Street Journal’s digital network Raju Narisetti said he had concerns about many US “copycat” paywalls, and whether they would be able to generate the necessary revenues to succeed financially.

Instead, he predicted that “the golden age of digital advertising lies ahead of us” and that by “running towards paywalls” news outlets may be missing the challenges of the future, such as the mobile consumption of news and the need to produce content which can travel with its advertising to platforms outside the news outlet’s own.

I caught up with him after the session to speak to him more about his views on digital business strategy, “copycat” paywalls, and why he thinks smaller news brands shouldn’t be “throwing the advertising baby out with the bathwater”.

I think most US metro papers are looking at the New York Times and saying let’s follow their model, whether it’s 20 free stories or 30 free stories, it’s a metered wall, and I think the New York Times has seemed to have pulled it off but I think a lot of smaller papers will find that the content they have is not going to be enough for people to want to pay.

My worry is that you’re throwing the advertising baby out with the bathwater saying ‘oh advertising rates are falling, it’s a no-win situation’. As you saw, as an entire global industry, we only get 2 per cent of digital advertising, so my concern is why are we not focusing on the advertising end of the business which is … much larger and is growing, rather than focusing on the subscriber end of the business where we’re going to have a much harder time convincing people to pay for content?

News outlets should instead be asking “how should I expand the pie?”, he said. Narisetti added that part of the opportunity in the digital advertising business will require news organisations to do more to understand audience interactions with adverts.

As an industry we know our readers very well, we know what they do what, what they read, where they come from. Why is it that we haven’t invested enough to know how they interact with advertising and taken advantage of that?

He said some news outlets have “abdicated the responsibility of understanding their advertising behaviours and then taking advantage of that”.

Instead, “we’re just selling eyeballs as opposed to selling our knowledge of our reader behaviour”.

We know so much about what they consume … why don’t we know what advertising works for our readers then? We’ve just ignored that.

So why does he think news outlets without that are moving in the paywall direction? Factors include a “me too” mentality, he said, where news outlets see another succeeding and want to try it too, in other cases it may be seen as a “defensive mechanism”, he said, “to say it will stop people migrating from our print to our website”.

But this could be missing a bigger issue, he warned.

My point is that increasingly readers have the opportunity to be more and more promiscuous because technology allows them to go anywhere …

While we’re all on a journey of different speeds on, say, this information highway, there’s probably going to be a big mobile wave coming behind that will put all of us in a relatively level playing field. How do you monetise mobile… how do you create stickiness, is something we should be thinking about now rather than worrying about our website which are increasingly seeing fewer and fewer people come.

… I’m not sure we’re going after the right set of problems.

The Wall Street Journal “never gave its content away for free”, so it does not face the challenge he has highlighted for others of trying to charge for content that was once free. And of course other paywalls are also seeing success, but his argument is that digital advertising is far from being fully maximised and paywalls should not necessarily be the first answer for everyone.

If you have a paywall that’s working, more power to you, but if you’re going to jump in feet first or head first, think a little about what’s going to work rather than just saying the [New York] Times is doing it, let me follow.

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#wef12: 5 steps from New York Times Company on building digital subs model

September 3rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

The latest results reported by the New York Times Company showed a total of more than 500,ooo paid digital subscribers. This was an increase on the 454,000 paying subscribers recorded a year after NYT.com launched its online subscriptions model, which refers to subscribers across the New York Times and International Herald Tribune.

And this is not including the 700,ooo print subscribers who also gain digital access to the company’s content, according to New York Times Company vice chairman Michael Golden.

In fact a report published last month, as covered by AllThingsD, predicted that the New York Times “will have more digital subscribers than print subs within a couple of years”.

So when Golden took to the stage at the World Editors Forum today for a session on ‘how some newspaper companies are succeeding’, his presentation was unsurprisingly focused on digital subscriptions.

We were laughed at we were scorned … after the launch here’s what we’re seeing now, people are saying it’s a great success

He said the introduction of digital subs at the New York Times has boosted staff morale: it has “changed the way people walk around the building”, he said.

So for others keen to also build a digital subscription model he offered these five steps:

  • Be very clear on what you’re doing

Golden said the company spent much time studying this, and what their overall goals were, such as”to develop a significant revenue source because our business model demanded it”.

The aim was also to build a “one-to-one digital relationship with consumers and protect digital advertising”.

  • Align the entire organisation around it

It “cannot be an editorial project alone”, he said.

  • Remember readers know what they want

Audiences are indicating every day what they do or do not want to read, and on what platform they like to consume it.

He added that the launch itself is “incredibly important” within this: it will either “create momentum or lack momentum” he said.

  • Think and act like a digital company
  • And finally, continue

He spoke about the ways publishers can work to continue to increase subscriptions, such as the Times’s ‘Most Engaged User’ initiative which rewarded the most engaged subscribers.

Its move from a “gateway” of 20 articles a month to 10 articles a month also helped it see “another boost in subscriptions”, he added.

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