A recent PEW study of news consumption across all platforms in the US shows that older generations are rapidly becoming more digitally savvy
Earlier this month, we held our first seminar on the future of information in North America. News media executives of organizations, including ABC News, Gannett, New York Times, AJC, Axios, News Product Alliance And newscorp gathered in New York to share how they meet the changing needs of readers across generations.
The intergenerational divide
There is no miracle solution to best address this fracture. Older generations still prefer more traditional news media like television and print.
However, recent PEW study of news consumption across all platforms in the United States shows that these older generations are rapidly becoming more digitally savvy. This is good news in a world where publishers are primarily focused on digital growth.
The even better news is that these generations should also have more disposable income than today. This is a great opportunity for publishers to build digital habits with these audiences.
According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022, the middle age of a paying subscriber is 47 years old. If we want to leverage reader revenue for successful digital transformation, we need to understand the needs of readers who pay for information.
In today’s rapidly aging population, these potentially paying audiences can be significant. In 25 years, more than half of the American population will be over 40 years old.
On the other hand, Generation Z and Millennials consume much more of their news on social networks and via search engines and are often reluctant to pay. Will they stick to these habits as they enter their 30s and 40s? Or will their lives change, and products based on casual TV news and publishing will also find a place in their lives?
Authenticity and strong brand identity matter even more on digital platforms
ABC News learned that it is important to be present on the platforms used by viewers. Live TV is not enough to reach younger generations, so ABC News have expanded their presence on social platforms. Surprisingly, a traditional news channel like ABC News was able to build the second largest audience on TikTok.
In his speech at the Seminar, Alexandra SvokosSenior Digital Editor at ABC Newsconnects the TikTok success of ABC News with them keeping their tone of voice very authentic on all platforms. Instead of producing crazy dances or funny memes, ABC News invited their reporters to produce short videos alongside their more traditional video coverage of major news events. These are generally not expensive and bring the story in a version suitable for these younger audiences on the platforms they use.
A successful example is that of ABC News chief meteorologist, who posts a TikTok at the end of the weather coverage. This received a lot of positive feedback.
Eric Ulkenproduct manager at Gannet shared a similar story about the importance of staying authentic. THE USA today The team conducted text summarization experiments using ChatGPT. The results were “surprisingly good” but still “not good enough” to represent USA today renowned voice “to the point”. The team is now working to develop generative AI tools with a tone of voice more in tune with the USA today brand.
According Eric, tools like ChatGPT will help newsrooms become more efficient and productive. However, a human will need to be aware to ensure the voice and language are in line with the journalistic approach and brand DNA. Zack McGheeproduct director of Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) explained the importance of having a highly visible newspaper brand in targeted communities. In the past, the newspaper brand was very present: in points of sale, in supermarkets, as a sponsor of local events, etc.
“Before, our brand was everywhere. We must claim this intimacy with the local community.
Zack McGhee, audience director Atlanta Journal Constitution
These were important interactions that made the newspaper brand feel like they belonged and loved the community. Such a presence is also required on digital and social platforms. To regain a community presence, AJC created Getting to Atlantaa distinct and authentic digital space social brand focusing on entertainment and events in Atlanta. This digital brand has created proximity and visibility that meets the expectations of younger generations.
by Anita Zielina comments during the panel echoed the need to focus on brand building. She explained that publishers have a specific perceived image, especially in the minds of young readers and we have to fight to refresh and rebrand that image.
The importance of building a strong and consistent brand identity will become an even greater strategic advantage for any newspaper. This was also the conclusion of the breakout session, facilitated by Sam Button, Product Director of New York Public Radio, during the Seminar. As people will be inundated with an ever-increasing amount of content, the source of the content and the level of trust associated with it will eventually play a determining role in accessing and using the content on a recurring basis.
“The flexibility of a search engine with the rigor of journalism” – a new recipe for success
Tech giants have grown tremendously over the years by creating powerful search engines in addition to content from news publishers. Few publishers, like The New York Times have also started investing in their own conversational search engine with promising results.
In collaboration with a team from the R&D department, Dalit ShalomLead Product Designer at The New York Times, explained how a first experimental search engine was developed in 2019. This technology uses Machine Learning to find the best possible answer to a specific question from a reader. Technology got a real boost during the pandemic when people were hungry for information.
The team has now extended this even further to power a Climate FAQ module on the New York Times website. It is a source of very powerful and personal interactions with the public allowing The New York Times claim a partner role in the lives of their readers.
The next big thing to boost reader habits
But while search is a great tool for discovery and building a stronger brand partnership, the team at NOW explained that it only engages part of their audience.
Dianna ColasurdoManaging Director of Partnerships at Axios asked panelists about their most important sources of engagement. Not surprisingly, the inbox remains an important place for publishers to drive engagement through their newsletter strategies.
“We need to find a product as sticky as newsletters that can engage the 70% that don’t gravitate to the inbox.”
Esfand Pourmand, – SVP Global Product at News Corp
However, as explained Esfand Pourman, SVP Global Product at press company, only 30% of the digital subscription base revolves around newsletters and of these, only another third engages. The next big thing will be to find something that builds as much of a habit as newsletters but hits the other 70%. In EsfandOtherwise, it would be in the app rather than the inbox.
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe
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