Caroline Little: What the newspaper trends of 2014 mean for the industry's future
The newspaper industry has transformed in a way that we could not have imagined just a decade ago.
Across the globe, there is a renewed energy to innovate, strategize, and meet these growing opportunities and challenges. That was the theme of the World Newspapers Congress, which I had the pleasure of speaking at earlier this month, and it rings very true for our industry in America.
We are already halfway through 2014. From the creative solutions and trends I am seeing, we are in an excellent position to further evolve and thrive for the rest of this year and far beyond.
Newspapers continue to command a huge audience and remain the most-trusted source of news and information. While that will not change, there has been a key shift in the way information is delivered and audience is engaged. The World Editors Forum revealed their Top 10 Trends in 2014 report and it is intriguing to explore the way those trends will impact our business.
The importance and influence of data and analytics on every part of our industry cannot be underestimated. It is only going to grow. Much has been made of recent ventures in data-focused journalism, such as statistics and data-driven predictions that will figure more and more heavily in mainstream journalism. Publishers and journalists across the country are now relying on hard metrics to assess the readership and engagement of a given story, and the more we do so, the more successful we will be as we understand what interests drive our unique audiences and tailor our offerings accordingly.
As I’ve noted before, data plays a critical role in our increasingly personalized world. The days of a one-size-fits-all solution to news are ending, and newspapers are in a strong position to capitalize. We have enormous amounts of data at our disposal to deliver a customized news experience. The opportunity lies in analyzing and leveraging that data to create and strengthen our products for consumers and advertisers.
As we do this, we will see advertisers follow. The advertising landscape has likewise changed dramatically, as consumers now choose whether or not they view ads and insist on relevant, personalized material. Advertisers are looking for precisely targeted audiences, and newspapers’ data on user engagement and experiences will enable them to deliver exactly that.
Another trend that will significantly shape our industry is thinking about mobile strategy first, instead of it being tacked on as an after-thought. Excellent video products have become critical storytelling vehicles for newspapers, with the possibility that our quick, agile videos – perfect for mobile platforms – can challenge traditional broadcasting. Our focus in video over the next few months should focus on refining individual formulas for creating successful videos and integrating them even better with our other content offerings.
The ways in which journalists report the news may be changing but the essence of a free press is not, despite being challenged on multiple fronts around the world. We have seen journalists in Venezuela and Hungary threatened with violence or had information suppressed in the past couple of months. Here in the United States, New York Times reporter James Risen could face stiff fines or jail time for not sharing confidential sources, which shows why we need a federal shield law for reporters to be able to cover our government without fear of prosecution.
Newspapers are at the forefront of researching and planning for the explosion of wearable tech, developing and refining the types of journalism that will be most successful. The ubiquity of social media, push notifications and short-form stories for apps has created a distinct, on-the-go audience that will look for even more immediately available, “snackable” content with the influence of wearables.
However, as Reuters’ Digital News Report points out, that will create greater audience segmentation as younger generations use smartphones and tablets to constantly consume news, while more traditional offerings remain the product of choice for other generations. Newspapers are tasked with balancing and integrating strategies across each platform and generation to effectively reach every audience. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes leaders in any industry could make today is eschewing one platform for another, trendier medium without considering how they complement each other.
As we prepare for the second half of 2014, it is encouraging to look at the amount of growth, innovation and new investment we have seen in the first half. I am proud to say that next year, the NAA will be partnering with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in bringing the World Newspaper Congress to our hometown of Washington, D.C.
I’m eagerly anticipating where our industry will be in 12 months. With the wealth of talent and energy at our disposal, I have confidence that these trends forecast a very bright year.
Caroling Little is the president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America