Whatever happened to traditional journalism? Journalists researching important subject matters, verifying sources and then asking audiences to analyse the implications. Good old-fashioned quality media seems obsolete in the current climate with social platforms and aggregators focusing on speed rather than quality content. It is no wonder Publishers feel they need to take a stand on matters calling on the government to help over Google and Facebook. The Guardian recently reported that Publishers are urging ministers to ensure online platforms operate within a framework that is fair, non –abusive and respectful of media plurality.
The briefing delivered by the News Media Association suggested that the online news environment is an aggregation of news stories by third party players who repackage, serve, link to and monetise content. In particular reference was made to Google through their search facility and Facebook dominating in social. Publishers feel it’s not a fair system as Google and Facebook achieve massive values from aggregated content and diminish the value of original journalism. Publishers feel they are bearing the expense of producing quality news and the online platforms benefit.
The added strain of adblockers and the slump in ad revenues has pushed publishers to serve more ads where the focus is mainly on eyeballs and clicks and not responsiveness.
Our standards have dropped it seems we don’t want quality news we want entertainment and distraction. So how are content publishers going to drive the bottom line when audiences just want news, any kind of news that’s free and fast?
Publishers have been forced to diversify business models in order to retain traffic. The Telegraph and The Dutch Correspondent have shown year on year growth in revenues despite losing traffic to large platforms.
The Telegraph started using a metered paywall a few years ago and has recently started to focus on lifestyle videos as well as news videos and, the results have showed double as many videos being watched by readers.
The Dutch Correspondent has found that through a shared article approach and a flexible paywall they are making 90% of their revenues with no ads being served. The founder Ernst-Jan Pfauth explains, “Any paying member can share any article freely. It’s a member’s right as they pay for the service. Readers who click the link get access to read just that article. They are also told which paying member of The Correspondent has shared it and are then asked whether they want to subscribe. It’s the publisher’s most successful source of new membership. Each week, members hit the share button on The Correspondent’s site roughly 10,000 times (mostly to Facebook); 300 of these turn into paying subscribers. This success, Pfauth believes, is down to the feeling of community between journalists and readers.
Where ad blockers are concerned, French Publishing houses have shown how they are uniting to address adblockers.
French news publishers seem to have found a solution to the Ad blocking plight. They believe solidarity is the key to staving off ad blocking. Publishers are joining forces against ad blockers and taking a tougher stance. Out of France’s top 40 publishers, 80 percent of them are taking part in an operation to obstruct readers with Ad Blokers enabled. Publishers include Le Monde, L’Equipe, La Parisien and Le Figaro.
“It’s important to do it collectively,” Bertrand Gié, head of new media at Le Figaro, told Digiday. “If a reader goes on to Le Figaro and sees the message, then later on in the day they see the same one on Le Monde, and then somewhere else at the end of the day, then the message is getting inside the brain of the reader. La Figaro is using the same approach by progressively obscuring the text.
Large online platforms will continue to take content and assemble it to suit the new generation of millenials. Publishers need to adopt their strategies and use the social networks to draw readers back to their site through article links and comments. Putting content behind walls limits the amount of quality journalism exposed to aggregators however, this is a strategy call for publishing houses and to what degree they want to share their news.
Digital strategies will need to evolve rapidly to suit demanding readers. For serving ads take tips from the new age tabloids, engage with audiences, don’t put up annoying ads, track and profile your readers so you can target them according to their interests using segmentation.
Traditional journalism may be timeworn and unfitting for high-speed aggregators and social networks but, there is an argument to support that the increase in subscribers and loyal readers still exist. It’s down to smart publishers to expand their digital horizons and unearth their audience among the traffic and stay in the game with the large players.