Building bridges between newsbrands and the people

Next year’s World News Media Congress (WNMC.19) will explore Newsbrands. Audiences. And the gap between. With total audience numbers for many publishers at an all-time high – thanks to digital reach – and trust in quality journalism showing signs of turning despite sustained attack, what’s the issue?

by Simone Flueckiger | November 26, 2018

Photo: Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel on stage at #WNMC18

For one, the cherished view of journalism held by those of us in the profession is not universally shared or understood. Young people, who consume news online – and have shown willingness to pay for content – have different views about journalism’s role in society and a different relationship with brands.

So should we as an industry be doing more to convince people of the value and normative role that journalism offers, and reform our businesses to give audiences what they want?

For the journalism industry to succeed and build a sustainable business for the next generation, bridging the gap between newsbrands and audiences is vital. Those who have grown up within a disrupted media landscape are more likely to be sceptical and critical of the news. With social media considered the least trusted source, does more need to be done to underline that, according to Newsworks, newsbrand content published on these platforms is actually 40 percent more trusted than general social media content?

Investigations into the trust crisis in news have highlighted a lack of understanding of basic news concepts and of the way journalists operate. News organisations often struggle or neglect to communicate to the public what happens behind-the-scenes, what goes into producing the news, and how editorial decisions are made. While journalism has traditionally happened behind closed doors and lacked transparency about its processes – this is changing.

It is clear that operating at arm’s length may no longer be enough for news organisations to reach and retain audiences, particularly from generations that have not grown up exposed to newsbrands, and, as such, don’t bring inherent trust or understanding to the table.

WNMC.19 will highlight what publishers are doing to promote transparency and openness, how they are communicating values and missions, and building stronger ties with audiences. With scrutiny on social media platforms, news organisations have an opportunity to reposition themselves as providers of quality, trusted information.

Initiatives vary – from getting behind tech-funded projects like the Trust Project, to taking simple steps in the newsroom to better label stories, provide explainers of news concepts and articles that provide the backstory of the reporting processes.

In the past two years there have been plenty of studies on the trust issue – some suggesting that establishing a responsive and participatory relationship between audiences and newsbrands is the way forward, and would build and boost trust, save resources, and improve conversion and retention.

So after intensive self-reflection, projects, programmes and research, are we any closer to convincing our detractors that journalism is an essential part of open societies? And from a business perspective, is the gap between paying audience and not-yet-paying audience closing at a rate that will allow us to continue producing good journalism and overcome lost ad dollars?
What strategies and products are emerging to embrace Generation Z – or rather, to encourage Generation Z to embrace and pay for news?

We will be exploring these questions and topics alongside many others at WNMC.19, taking place on 1-3 June in Glasgow, through case studies, presentations, roundtable discussions and more. Each year, the World News Media Congress brings together hundreds of leading news media executives from across the globe, sending delegates back to their respective newsroom armed with actionable insights, strategies, and inspiration.

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