Time for some tips
While the following may not be an easy solution, it is nevertheless a simple one.
Anticipate your audience. And, don’t second guess them - ask them, for Pete’s sake.
This isn’t a gross oversimplification. There are straightforward ways to help your audience navigate their way through the quagmire of information, disinformation and alerts. Here are some quick-start pointers:
1. Audit your content
How is your content balanced across the six user needs? Compare this against your editorial analytics reports. As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and this is a good place to start. If you’re heavy on breaking news, but most of your engagement comes from deep-dive pieces, note that analysis.
2. Take one story, create six perspectives
What resonates with your audience? Again, marrying user needs-driven planning with editorial insights is a useful exercise. At the BBC, Dmitry Shishkin (with whom we've worked on the Triple N project) said that this was invaluable: “we’d take one piece of news in the morning and ask teams to go away from the newsroom meeting and come back with ideas reflecting all these different user needs. Effectively we’d get six different editorial treatments.” And, once you’ve got these variants in place you can start to see what works, when, and how. As we’ve said before: “because that’s what we’ve always done” isn’t a good enough reason to continue doing anything. Sorry.
3. Get the headlines right
This is a big one. We know that audiences rely on headlines: we all use them to see if a story is worth exploring further. If the headline is wrong or misleading, you’ve wasted that reader’s time. As Joy Mayer of Trusting News reminds us, many audiences are exposed to news articles on social media where the headline may be all that’s visible. Make it count. A/B test it. Check the read depth scores to ensure readers aren’t clicking and swerving away. If they are, you’re not delivering what they expect to receive.
4. Pay attention to post-publication activity
All too often the story is considered done when it’s published. Sometimes though, if you look through the comments or the activity on social media, you’ll get hints that there’s something you’ve not delivered on. Maybe people are asking what happened next. Maybe someone points out a connection with another story not mentioned. Maybe it’s spawned a meme or a gag on Twitter. In those cases, a follow up story, an article which ‘gives me perspective’ or something that simply provides some light relief may be all that’s required to stay part of the conversation, stay relevant and keep your readers on side - and on site.
Ultimately, trust means finding ways to build a healthier relationship: one where readers trust publishers because those same publishers value their readers - and not just in simple marketing or sales terms. Try new thing, experiment, get to know your audience - the hard work will pay off, we promise.
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