For many years, the prevailing wisdom has been that “content is king”. No doubt that this is most certainly true as today’s readers need hyper-relevant content to become more informed regarding a wide range of topics. We are watching a true battle among content providers for reader engagement. Nowhere is this more obvious that within the news content arena. Brands like the NY Times, Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have been trading on the power of their legacy for years within the digital arena.
In 2017, the Pew Research Center reported that over two-thirds of US Adults received their news from social media sites – which is a 10% increase over the previous year. The challenge to legacy print brands today continues to be how to differentiate their class of news and reporting against social sites like Reddit, Digg, Newsvine, Quora, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Facebook etc.
Over the years we have witnessed the shift of many print readers from legacy platforms to digital and social while remaining loyal to these publishers due to their affinity and experience with the title/brand. Readers felt that no other similar news service provided the quality of content and insight that they find so valuable. Today’s “news related consumer” has found the feature, access and means of engaging with news via social providers much more amenable to their personal profile and habits.
In contrast, legacy print news outlets have traded on their reader’s loyalty and preference by “charging” fees to engage fully with content via multiple platforms (mobile, iPad etc., Paywalls). “Bundle paid subscription offers” and provide open access to content via multiple platforms. These subscription programs lock in readers online and build commensurate revenue streams. Subscribers are offered a digital version of their print publication at a “combo” price.
The economics of publishing news content online and engaging an audience is incredibly important for the publishers in their overall ability to monetize their online and print audience from an advertising perspective. There is no doubt that while there is great interest in social platforms as a desired news source, the question that remains is whether these sites can sustain themselves (quality of news content) in the coming years solely on the contribution of advertising dollars to the infrastructure. With costs rising, will they confront the inevitable of building their own paid subscription model?
In the near term, we feel that in order for the legacy publishers and others to remain relevant in the battle, they must build parity with their social counterparts. Data documents that we are consuming this sort of content while on the go and often. We also see a great level of engagement in the ability to gain access to news information in real time as opposed to a “news hour” or set publishing schedule.
Publishers must develop their own digital/social tool kit and understand that it is their readers who have migrated to this new and interactive platform. As such, there should be a significant focus on the feature, functionality and methods in which content is delivered via these social channels. It would be best if the competing properties did all they could to lure back their readers by offering innovative new means and methods in terms of news delivery to subscribers.
Will the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Sports Illustrated and others be a factor in publishing engaging content 10 years from now? Social Media News Sites have most definitely outflanked the legacy news titles in the early skirmishes of this battle. We see great opportunity for new social thinking here and a series of new products and services that could level of the battlefield. It’s critical that legacy has social in its scope and on a daily basis to understand what is being done in news coverage and delivery to build and retain audience. Legacy players need to be proactive in implementing services that will outmaneuver the social competition on their own turf.
In order to survive and thrive in the years ahead…. neither social nor legacy print brands can rest on their laurels – Each side needs be in a constant state of innovating and optimizing their offering in the marketplace. The battle for readership is happening in real time. There is no clear victor as of this writing. All sides of this battle must be committed and driven by what the reader data perceives in terms of content interest and consumption.
Winners in the news content category will be determined by the actions taken to adjust the way in which consumers digest and engage with content in the days ahead. Advertisers will support venues (regardless of whether they are) with their marketing dollars when they see high concentrations of their target audience engaging with content in the venue of choice.