Saturday, May 23, 2015

It’s all happening: Welcome to the exciting world of Digital

Catherine Payne, content producer for the Newspaper Association of North America (NAA), describes how The Charlotte Observer is finding success with its digital offering called CharlotteFive, focused on the Millennial Generation (also referred to as Generation Y, those born after 1980). She quotes Jen Rothacker, the Observer's innovations editor, as saying "It has a mix of news and lifestyle stories, but it is written in a voice that will appeal to millennials." According to Payne, CahrlotteFive does stories with style (easy-to-digest news, local news, news that matters), it has a “handcrafted email newsletter, it uses social media to connect, and is now looking at “deepening audience engagement in various ways”.

So, what do mobile and social media trends mean for newspapers? Payne addresses the question in another piece for NAA. Mobile and social media trends make journalism and technology strange bedfellows, she says, adding, “But news organisations can figure out how to define their relationships with social media platforms.” She refers to trends (expanding mobile audience, Facebook launching Instant Articles, etc) pointing to the growing impact of mobile and social media platforms on news circulation and consumption. She also refers to the “liminal press” which occupies the space between journalism and
technology.

Writing for NiemanLab, Joseph Lichterman refers to the State of the News Media 2015 Report produced by the Pew Research Center to stress the “ongoing march of mobile”. He says a remarkable 39 of the 50 most popular news sites had more mobile than desktop visitors. And as users migrate to mobile, advertisers are following them – $19 billion was spent on mobile advertising in 2014, a 78 per cent increase from the $10.7 billion spent in 2013, Lichterman quotes Pew as having reported. The outlook for newspapers is still gloomy, with newspaper print ad revenue dropping (according to the report) by 4 per
cent in 2014.

An article by Dominic Ponsford for the Press-Gazette also attracted my attention. Calling it a “digital breakthrough”, he reports that The Times’ advertisers are to begin paying the same rate for display advertising in the title's tablet edition as they do in print. The agreement, reached with a number of key ad agencies, is being seen by insiders as a major breakthrough in terms of making money from digital journalism, he adds. Ponsford says the move to increase the price charged for tablet ads follows neuroscience research by News UK last year (tracking eye-ball movement and brain activity), which the company said proved tablet edition ads are at least as effective as the print equivalent. This, he adds, has now been backed up by a further piece of research called Project Footprint which closely tracked the online and offline activities of 70 digital subscribers to The Times and Sunday Times. Quite remarkable indeed, considering that advertising online costs only a fraction of a print ad. It was on the NAA website that I read a forecast: One billion people will use a tablet at least monthly. This should augur well for news publishing houses that adapt well to the digital wave.

For readers who are still stuck to newspaper websites, here’s advice. There are some wonderful online sites (such as Vice.com, Vox.com, Mic.com and our own Scroll.in, Citizen.in, Thewire.in) out there that can keep you hooked for hours. It’s the Millennial Generation many of them are focused on. But that doesn’t really matter. Take the example of Mic, founded by Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz who wanted to build a news company for young people. What’s the Mic approach? “Young people deserve a news destination that offers quality coverage tailored to them. Our generation will define the future. We are hungry for news that keeps us informed and helps us make sense of the world.” Well, that should tell us something.