News & Opinion

The state of digital news

Speaking at the launch of the eighth iteration of the Reuters Institute 'Digital News Report 2019', representatives from the media industry discuss the findings.

As quality news publishes “have their biggest audiences ever”, the all-female panel talked about the industry’s opportunities in engaging online news audiences. Led by Edelman UK & Ireland’s executive director Jo Sheldon, the panel included co-founder of Tortoise Media Katie Vanneck-Smith; Naja Nielsen, digital director at BBC News; Anna Bateson, chief customer office at Guardian News & Media; and Jess Brammar, executive editor at HuffPost UK.

Report and panel highlights include:

More people are paying for news

Up from last year, the number of readers paying for online news in the UK is increasing as people's relationship with paying for content changes. “Journalism should be available for all” said Bateson when discussing The Guardian’s monetisation model. The publication’s business strategy allows for those who can afford to pay for news, ensure that access is given to those who can’t afford to pay – making news available to all.

Readers rely on ‘reputable sources’

The concern around misinformation is changing reader behaviours with 26% of people relying on what they consider as more trusted news sources, which for many means looking to quality newspapers. Looking at the report’s brand trust scores, FT, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent are the newsbrands scoring the highest. On fostering trust, BBC’s Nielsen concluded that it is crucial for newsbrands to be on-brand, so that readers know what to expect and develop a proper relationship with their newsbrand of choice.

Multi-platform journalism

According to the report, smartphones are increasingly delivering the first news of the day to readers and over half of under 35s start their day with social media. Newsbrands are communicating across many platforms, which was signalled earlier this year by The Guardian launching a daily podcast and other publications such as the Mail Metro Media following suit. The Telegraph also have morning WhatsApp briefings so readers can keep up to the date with the day’s key stories. As Bateson added: “Journalism is available in all ways you want to access it.”

Engaging gen z

Podcasts are thriving and under 35s account for the majority of listeners. As the conversation shifted to younger generations, the panel spoke about the best ways to drive the value of news for a younger audience – HuffPost’s Brammar suggested that “the single best way to attract younger audiences is to hire some of them – and listen to them". Last month, the Daily Mirror recruited teenagers from across the country to take control of one of the paper’s editions, in an effort to inspire and engage younger readers. 

What’s next?

Tortoise Media’s Vanneck-Smith commented “[as an industry] we talk ourselves down all the time” using the example of referring to our industry subscriptions as “paywalls” and not “subscriptions”. Moving forward, the panellists concluded that we need to encourage people to understand the value of news and assist them to navigate the content they read.  

As BBC’s Nielsen nicely summed it up, “we can help each other grow” and collaborating more as an industry is key – this is something we are already doing with industry-wide initiatives such as The Ozone Project and PAMCo.

The Reuter’s Institute’s Digital Media Report is the world’s largest comparative study on the trends of media consumption across 38 countries. You can access all the findings and full report here.

Hannah Ohm Thomas 14/06/19

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