Thursday, November 12, 2015

Journalists: 3 trends that show how your digital news business can thrive in the digital era

As a journalist you know the question media managers all around the globe seek to answer is the same: how can newspapers thrive in the digital era? As a graduate student in Northwestern's Medill Media Strategy and Leadership program who is exploring the intersection of media and technology, I have found two insightful articles to share on what traditional newspapers are doing in the U.S. to reinvent their business in the digital era and acquire more subscribers.

In the document "Our Path Forward", an 11-page manifesto released in the beginning of October, the newspaper The New York Times announced it has hit a 1 million digital subscribers mark in August and reveals interesting information about how it has reached this number. Now the Times has a new goal: to double its digital revenue from $400 to 800 million until 2020. To achieve its new goal the newspaper will have to double the number of engaged digital readers and create a relationship with them so they can later become subscribers, as highlighted by Ken Doctor on the website Newsonomics.

One of the options the Times consider is to engage with the digital native generation of millennials. But there is a challenge: a recent study from American Press Institute reveals that Millennials are willing to pay for content but not so much for news.

In the same week Rick Edmonds from Poynter published an article about Gannett’s surprise acquisition of Journal Media Group (which is responsible for the former Scripps papers and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). Gannett, the company that owns the newspaper USA Today, said the acquisition has the goal of increasing its audience as it translates to better prospects for digital ad sales. The combined operations will have 100 million monthly unique visitors

Based on the ideas in these articles and my my studies in Northwestern Medill Journalism program, here are three trends any journalist and publisher should consider to be successful in the digital market:

1 - Focus on your brand, not clicks: Reader's attention is fragmented, so journalists and newspapers need to develop their brands to increase the chances readers will look for their specific content and maybe pay a subscription.

2 - Think global: Gannett is trying to increase its readership across the whole USA so they increase the number of subscribers and clicks, something that has worked for the Times. As the internet has no boundaries and remove logistic limitations, newspapers can now work more actively to reach broader audiences.

3 - Listen to the online conversation: Digital platforms give journalists real-time feedback from their readers and are valuable sources of insights about what they want to read the most, what has to be improved and where are the next stories.

The traditional business model of media companies is dying, journalism is not. This is an exciting and challenging time to be a journalist. A time when engaged journalists are needed to create innovative content and good stories are more important than ever to brands that want to survive the commoditization of news and be relevant.

Ligia Aguilhar is a Master of Science Candidate in the Media Strategy and Leadership program at Medill - Northwestern University. She has worked as a tech reporter and editor in Brazil and conducted research on new business models in journalism with support of International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). At Medill she studies the intersection of media and technology as a McCormick Fellow. She is the author of a blog about innovation and technology.

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