Hi there,

This week a Dutch journalist attempted to make sense of media dynamics after Donald Trump cast doubt on whether NATO countries could still count on unconditional military support under a Trump administration should they be attacked.

He points out three things, the last of which gives us food for thought. 

  1. Republicans who would normally counter these remarks, are afraid of losing their jobs
  2. Trump supporters seem to swallow everything hook, line, and sinker
  3. Anyone who thinks differently is so battered by the 24/7 news cycle that they now ignore it

The latter should sound familiar to everyone: being battered by the news. It happened this week to the writer of this newsletter when it seemed like the 1000th article about Taylor Swift in the stands at the Super Bowl appeared. As the world's most popular artist, she’s already the subject of frenzied media attention, but at the Super Bowl news outlets seemed to think that every smile or frown was a reason for a news story.

If something is new, it gets attention, and if something gets attention, it generates more attention.

The journalistic machine thrives on attention and a familiar target (hi, Taylor). The question is whether this works. We’ll go out on a limb here and state this even more strongly: we see signs that the type of journalism that rides on trends and hypes is decreasing in value. The earlier-than-expected decline in the number of online subscriptions sharpens the issue. INMA summarises:

“Apart from the low news cycle, the slow subscriber growth likely stems from not addressing core reader needs, lack of habitual use, low visibility of offers, value perception issues, sign-up friction, subscriber churn, and lack of impact on readers’ lives.”

Media organisations that stand out are the ones that are guided by self-control and a solid strategy. There’s reason for optimism too: given that newsrooms prove that they’re great at attaching meaning to the unimportant, it also follows that - if they wanted to -  they could also give the same superstar treatment to stuff that actually matters.

Write engaging stories

Naturally, all media aim to increase audience engagement. But how exactly do you do that?

Our latest practical blog shines the spotlight on longform stories. Done well, and done right, longform stories have the potential to keep readers on site longer, boost engagement, and bolster loyalty. But to achieve these goals, you need to answer these questions:

➡ Why does your audience care?
➡ How does your audience care?
➡ Actually, do they care at all?

The decision tree below shows that sometimes the best thing you can do is throw your stories away. At all other times, you need to make it crystal clear what the reader will get out of reading it.

Sharing is caring

Perhaps we should signpost this now: at smartocto, we’re in the process of setting up a network of media trailblazers in the areas of leadership and innovation, all of whom are keen to collaborate - and who see their data analysis as the starting point for this.

It’s really gratifying that an editorial team from Finland is advocating what we also wish to advocate: share your experiences and help one another in improving journalism. Ultimately, this benefits everyone. Katariina, Johanna, and Nina from Turun Sanomat share their experiences from the User Needs Labs programme, where they learned how to better reach their audience.

“There is a need in the newsroom to give data analysis more substance,” says Johanna. “The question is just: How do you get an entire company to adopt a different way of working and incorporate it into their daily routine?”

Smartocto has provided extensive assistance to them with User Needs Labs. If you missed out the first time around, we'll start the same programme again next month with FT Strategies - and there's still time to sign up.


  • You've probably already come across a thousand articles on how to introduce AI into the newsroom, but this one from The Fix is particularly special! We were pleased to have the opportunity to explain how the combination of AI and content analytics is actually the most logical step forward – hence the introduction of smartocto.ai.
  • Facebook has made a major change after years of PR disasters, and news sites are paying the price. This CNBC article makes it clear that reposting articles is becoming increasingly unprofitable for newsrooms.
  • Traffic from Google is also declining for many publishers. Additionally, Google is displaying increasingly poorer search results. German research shows that texts generated by AI are a significant cause.
  • These are turbulent times for social media, anyway. While some media outlets are saying goodbye to Twitter due to the large amount of hate and misinformation circulating there, BlueSky has opened its doors to anyone wanting to switch. It's not as popular as Threads yet, but it's growing fast, as Tech Crunch explains.
  • Podcasts perform better when they have a guest. And only 15 percent of the most popular podcasts are about the news. That and more in the research that Niemanlab writes about.
  • Finally: Jon Stewart is back as host of The Daily Show. The world has changed since he said goodbye to the satirical show in 2015, writes The Guardian. A positive review of his comeback can be read in The New York Times.


With that, we’ve come to the end of our February newsletter. There's work to be done for all media wanting to stay relevant. Be sure to check out the page of smartocto.ai to see how we help editorial teams keep focused on improving their journalism, and forward this newsletter if you find it interesting or helpful!

Best wishes!

Team smartocto