The credibility of a publisher and its ability to provide trusted news and in-depth analysis are qualities that make a certain news outlet more appealing to readers over its competitors, according to findings from a recent survey conducted by Reuters.
In April, Reuters surveyed 1,230 of Reuters.com readers, in an attempt to gauge how they consume news from different sources and devices, as well as what will likely influence their attitude and perception of news brands in the future.
Eighty-four per cent of respondents said they like to be informed about a news story as soon as it breaks, and 85 per cent of them do so by checking multiple sources.
Breaking down the percentages by age group, 60 per cent of millennials "strongly agreed" that they like to stay on top of a story when it breaks, and 81 per cent of them verify the accuracy of said content from sources they trust.
While these results can be deemed heartening for publishers, the figures are less encouraging when it comes to people's desire to pay for quality news – 62 per cent of those surveyed agreed they would not consider paying.
The research also sheds some light on what digital trends and new technology formats are likely to influence how younger Reuters.com readers will consume news in the future.
Ninety-three per cent agreed the increasing power of mobile devices will play an important role, while 88 per cent also cited mobile app development as a factor.
Why would people look for the Guardian or BBC on Facebook? They need a reason to do that and publishers need to work out what that reason should beNathalie Malinarich, BBC News Online
Other elements that came into play included connected living and the "internet of things" (87 per cent), virtual reality (79 per cent) and robots and artificial intelligence (78 per cent).
Furthermore, half of those who responded agreed their news consumption is likely to grow in the future, but 12 per cent believed "news brands will disappear in the future".
"Certain [news] brands are a destination and they will continue to be," said Nathalie Malinarich, editor for mobile and new formats at BBC News Online, discussing the survey's findings at the Tomorrow's News event hosted by Reuters yesterday (2 June) in London.
She pointed out that in an environment like Facebook, where the distinction between news outlets seems to become blurred when everyone is covering a particular story in a similar video format with text on screen, there will be characteristics that will make individual publishers stand out.
"If you spend 30 minutes in your Facebook feed watching videos, at some point you are no longer sure where they came from.
"Why would people look for the Guardian or BBC on Facebook? They need a reason to do that and [publishers] need to work out what that reason should be.
"The distinguishing quality can be the outlet's personality, or impartiality, or trustworthiness."
Aron Pilhofer, executive editor of digital at the Guardian, said publishers should acknowledge that they operate in an "increasingly distributed" world and while they may well see companies like Facebook and Google as a threat, pretending they can still create a "destination-oriented business" is not the smartest choice.
"We need to figure out how we can utilise these platforms to our advantage and what opportunities are there to expand our readership and drive our business.
"Of course it's a threat, but it's no bigger than TV was in the 1970s, if you look at it that way."
As the digital display advertising market has "cratered", Pilhofer added, publishers now have to make up for that loss through other ways of attracting revenue from readers, so the Guardian is "doubling down" on memberships.
The danger with paywalls is they can lull you into a sense of complacency so you don't look at the fundamentals of your businessAron Pilhofer, the Guardian
The outlet is not contemplating a paywall at this point, he said, pointing out that operating a membership scheme could, in some ways, prove more challenging than just setting up a paywall.
"The danger with paywalls is they can lull you into a sense of complacency so you don't look at the fundamentals of your business. You put one up and it can explode but also plateau.
"And the difference is now we have to think about entire suits of products and realign our business accordingly, it's not just about the print newspaper anymore."
Pilhofer also said the Guardian sees its print product as "being the bridge to our future", thinking about how they can put out a great newspaper on a daily basis but also focusing on "driving growth where growth is", on the digital side.
The Guardian's data insights team looks at metrics for success that can be aligned with the outlet's strategy, including that of attracting paid members.
"Taking referrals from Facebook for example, how can we correlate a page like on Facebook with people's willingness to convert from what we call 'regulars' to readers, from readers to logged-in users and then to paying members?"
"Digital is not this one big thing and some of the questions we should ask ourselves are 'why are we on this platform?', 'what are we trying to achieve?', 'what does good look like?' and even 'when do we stop?'"
The Guardian recently published its first virtual reality project, 6x9, which allowed viewers to experience solitary confinement.
The team had no plans for monetising the piece at that stage or making it a regular feature, wanting just to experiment with the format, but Pilhofer said there are opportunities for virtual reality to deliver revenue, as publishers such as The New York Times have shown.
In order to be able to serve their readers properly by reporting on the topics that matter to them and delivering news where people want to read it, publishers need to make use of the data available at their disposal. But in the distributed content model, much of this data is held by platforms.
Athan Stephanopolous, president of NowThis, said the company's insights team works closely with editorial to "measure the performance of every single piece of content on each platform" it publishes on, but putting this data in the larger context of "success" differently according to each platform's specifics.
Athan Stephanopolous of fast-growing NowThis says Snapchat becoming it's most important platform - now 15% of monthly traffic #tomorrowsnews— Martin Hickman (@MartinHickman) June 1, 2016
"If we think a story about technology or science would be better suited for Instagram for example, we'll put it there. And if we have a highly emotional story, we'll put that on Facebook.
"We have to think about people's behaviour. If we only consider the stories that are important to us, it's a futile exercise if people are not interested in them.
"When someone likes your page, they're essentially giving you the authority to enter their newsfeed, so we have to take that seriously."
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