We attended WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress in Zaragoza last week, and - armed with pen and paper, like any good newshound - I took notes during some of the most thought-provoking keynotes. I think the ideas contained within those presentations are going to have a significant effect on the media industry - so I’m sharing them now, and I’d love to know what you think, too.
David Higgerson, Chief Digital Publisher at Reach, (UK)
"In today's digital landscape it’s not about ‘what do we have to tell?’ but rather ‘what can we tell at various moments of the day?’"
What Higgerson is signalling here is that it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the audience is telling the newsroom how they should commission their storytelling.
When we talk about user needs (which we have done a lot recently), this is what we mean: writing about what your audience cares about, instead of writing about what you (or the newsroom) believes is relevant.
Think about Tom Rosenstiel’s 2013 TedTalk. There he said that there was a shift going on in the digital landscape, and in his opinion the audience needed - and wanted - to be convinced that they should visit you to satisfy their news-related needs.. It is not true the other way around where newsrooms determine what the audience needs to know. We’ve moved way beyond that dynamic. Times have changed. Have you? It’s an uncomfortable question, but it’s one we should all be asking ourselves.
Jo Holdaway, Chief Data & Marketing Officer at The Independent (UK)
"It’s now engagement over scale."
Holdaway was in the same keynote as Higgerson and they discussed the importance of creating engaging content in order to help the audience proceed through the funnel from ‘fly bys’ towards being engaged, subscribed and logged-in members. And, the solution here is magic, but it’s not complicated: it’s simply to create engaging content: stuff that your audience actually cares about. Holdaway continued by stating that publishers should make the online experience easier, better and more rewarding in order to ‘create’ returning visitors.
It’s important to understand that a lot of these quotes came from the overall feeling that after the enormous peaks in reach (during the pandemic) many publishers now see a decline in exposure or have reached a plateau in traffic. In order to get a stronger relationship with their audience they need to build trust. And that’s something publishers believe they can realise with creating more engaging content.
During the keynote ‘resetting newsroom priorities’ Adriaan Basson, editor-in-chief of South Africa's News24 started with explaining how his brand strategically shifted from a breaking news organisation to a trusted news organisation. This was a brilliant and concrete example of the need for building trust. Just look at this: even the focus changed from Breaking News first to Towards Trusted News.
What was fascinating is that he created two editorial teams. A fast team and a slow team.
News24 added talent and news skills to the (slow) team in order to make more outstanding content. Skills like podcast producers, investigative journalism, data journalism or examples of that. This all helped them create more of the kind of content that their audience truly values.