Hello there,

Sometimes even we feel that we discuss user needs ad nauseum in this newsletter. But, the fact that the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has used the User Needs Model 2.0 as a basis for a whole chapter in its renowned annual Digital News Report confirms our belief that we can transform journalism with it. There, that's said. 

Therefore, it's challenging to see certain criticisms of models or data-driven work in general being dismissed with comments like: "You shouldn't just do what your audience wants."

There's something hypocritical about that. Mass media across Europe prominently feature their national teams on their homepages during the European Championship football, with much less coverage of other sports. Why is football more deemed important for newsbrands? Simply, because it attracts a larger audience.

So we need to dispel the biggest misconception about user needs, which is that the audience dictates what journalists should write about. No, that's up to you. User needs help you find a way to make your topic resonate best with your audience. The goal is to stay closer to your journalistic mission, to reach an audience through your values—an audience that either shares those values or is at least interested in them.

In our blog this week, we share what others have taken from the Digital News Report and contribute our own commentary on the research. We were, for example, surprised by how the Reuters Institute arrived at its conclusions about user needs.

Our comment: do consumers know what they want?

"In exploring user needs around news, our data suggest that publishers may be focusing too much on updating people on top news stories and not spending enough time providing different perspectives on issues or reporting stories that can provide a basis for occasional optimism."

This is written by Dr. Richard Fletcher, Director of Research at the Reuters Institute, in the Digital News Report.

News consumers in no less than 47 countries were asked what they want from the news, using the eight user needs from the User Needs Model 2.0 as a menu. At smartocto, we question if this is the best approach, as the received wisdom is that consumers often don’t really know what they want - or at least say they want one thing, when their actions show they want something entirely different.

Naturally, people in this study said that they primarily wanted factual updates. At smartocto, our data shows that context, inspiration, or service are considered more valuable. Nonetheless, the Reuters Institute arrived at interesting insights, as respondents were also asked how well they thought the media are doing in fulfilling these different needs.

Wait! Stop! Backtrack! Five key findings from the report

Perhaps we are moving a bit too quickly for you, and you haven't had the chance to familiarise yourself with the report yet. Here are the five key findings:

  • Trust in journalism is under pressure (link)
  • Developments around Artificial Intelligence are becoming visible to the general public (link)
  • Working with user needs can help media serve a broader audience (link)
  • The growth in online payment for news has come to a halt (link)
  • Young audiences are turning to social media influencers at the expense of traditional news brands (link)

But as with any large-scale report or research, it’s what happens next that’s often where things get interesting. Having presented the findings and proffered explanation and context, what are news professionals’ reactions to all this?


If you want to know how smartocto supports the user needs approach, we've made it easy for you. Rutger Verhoeven presents the power of data-driven work with user needs in a 20-minute online demo.

The video was part of our Feature Demo Weeks, where we’ve been introducing  all the options, features and services that smartocto offers and how we can support different business models. Last week, we had the final live webinar in this series with CEO Erik van Heeswijk, focusing on smartocto.ai and how artificial intelligence makes working with user needs easier.

If you prefer the information on paper, we also have a guide (covering both user needs and AI). If you would like to receive it, the easiest way is to simply respond to this newsletter.


  • Regarding trust in journalism: over at NiemanLab Jacob L. Nelson discusses  his research which reveals that (in the United States) the political affiliation of media or journalists is not the primary reason for distrust. It primarily stems from the assumption that the news industry as a whole prioritises profit over truth or public service. Ouch.
  • We enjoyed our time working with  Dmitry Shishkin on user needs, so it is nice to hear from him again about developments and, of course, how he is faring as CEO of Ringier Media International. He was interviewed by The Fix.
  • If you think TikTok is only used by young people, you are mistaken. Pew Research presents American studies showing that four in ten people over 30 are on the Chinese platform, and one in four people over 50 use it.


Journalism is now turning its attention to the summer of sports, with the Olympic Games taking place in Paris. Currently, the newspaper pages and news bulletins are still focused on the European Football Championship, and on Saturday, the Tour de France starts in Italy. The most important side issues of life deserve attention too, so don't hold back if you want to add a splash of pride to your homepage!

Until next time!

Team smartocto