Nathalie Malinarich, editor for mobile and new formats at BBC News, shared her thoughts on the evolution of digital publishing in Nieman Lab’s excellent Predictions for Journalism 2020.
She noted that news organizations are starting to get back to their roots and properly value their own (owned) channels:
“News organizations’ love for their own digital properties is being rekindled after years of dalliances with unpredictable platforms, impenetrable algorithms, and misguided pivots.”
This makes sense, there have been many cautionary tales showing us that an over-reliance on third parties can be dangerous.
News consumers today face a litany of choices, with a multitude of brands beating down a path to their digital doors.
Getting to them in the first place is enough of a challenge.
“Understanding how to get them to keep coming back — and sign up to pay for more — is an even bigger one. Whether it manifests itself as improved subscription offers, membership programs, or signed-in users, we’ll see more publishers focusing on building a better, more direct, relationship with their audiences”
The key here is direct!
There’s nothing particularly direct about fly by social and search traffic.
Social platforms and Google of course still have their place and are very important, but they are fickle beasts and should not be relied upon too much.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean completely shunning platforms, building walled gardens, personalizing every pixel of the news offer, or going on an “innovation binge.”
So what does it mean?
A renewed focus on direct traffic for one: both getting readers and converting them into members and subscribers. This will lead to many benefits, according to Nathalie.
“A renewed focus on direct traffic should lead to better, more user-friendly news sites and apps. Let’s face it: Reading or watching the news on a digital device can often require so much tapping and navigating that many people give up.”
If you don’t already have a news app – you might be putting off potential subscribers who grow frustrated with the inferior mobile browser navigation.
Apps also provide a very direct channel to your readers through both the ever-present home screen icon and push notifications.
“If audiences feel they have more of a connection with a news organization, trust increases”
If you already have native apps, make sure they are up to par with the best in the industry and give your readers the most smooth UX possible.
At the end of the day:
“The organizations that will pull this off are the ones that are breaking down old structures. The ones betting on cross-disciplinary teams with product, UX, editorial, engineering, and marketing, or — even better — the ones developing a new breed of digital folk with a mix of skills”