Linky links

Every week I curate a few links for my team that are directly relevant to our objectives and activities. This week, I thought they were particularly interesting, with broader implications, so put them here too. The links loosely fall into being (1) about algos/data in newsrooms (2) optimising for mobile screens (3) readers having a say. 

1. Algorithms help in content decisions (70/30, but the human 30 is top): How Netflix embodies a seductive myth of the algorithmic age. 

2. They're looking, also, at optimising videos for different platforms. Which we should all be doing. Netflix looking at mobile specific versions of original shows. 

3. Using analytics in the NYT Newsroom "Engaging with an audience is key when it comes to being a good reporter. If you know who you’re writing a story for, whether the audience is big or small, you will know where those clicks came from, and it will feel rewarding no matter what."

4. Using algorithms to determine the homepage...

5. EVERYTHING one might need to know on mobile!

6. Readers increasingly important. If the quant is the algos (above) a reader center is the qual. 

7. A place for readers to discuss the news by WaPo. PLUS pair it with this (Dow Jones) article to spot the "readers discussing the story behind the story with journalists" trend.

The Audience-Publishing Gap

The presentation of news has adapted to digital disruption through new video and online formats, but the “when” of digital content distribution has been slow to adapt, potentially limiting audience size, journalistic influence and resource optimization.

Using RSS feeds, I determined the publication schedules of a number of media companies, both new media and old. Just over 8% of articles from Quartz are published at 7am, with an additional 8% published at 11am. NYT World has a publishing peak at 5am with 10% of articles published then. The Guardian’s publishing is spread out between 2am and 2pm. Distributed content on third-party platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and more, adds complexity.

Together, this data suggests that there is an industry wide gap between when audiences read the news and when media companies publish the news to be read. It seems that many media companies continue to publish according to traditional print schedules that are irrelevant to online readers.

This could be limiting value to audiences and the media. Giving readers the right content at the right time could help publishers create more value for readers, while simultaneously increasing page views, loyalty and awareness of available content.

In the long run, media organizations must think critically about their audiences’ behaviors. Understanding audience trends and applying them to specific organizational structures — like publishing schedules — will result in more resilient and long-lasting organizations.

In journalism, there is an inherent tension between editorial independence and corporate profitability that can prevent newsrooms from taking a holistic, company-wide approach to problem solving. It is important to consider how we got to this point and what led to this mismatch when considering how to change it. It is not enough to simply identify the optimum digital publishing schedule. It is necessary to change newsroom culture to encourage and enable ongoing adaptation.

Going glocal

Growing audiences is hard and it is competitive. Adaptation to local markets can be difficult. A number of companies are looking to grow by targeting specific regions and languages, rather than assuming their existing properties will work for everyone. There are three ways this is happening: 

  1. Acquisitions, like Univision’s purchase of Fusion and Gawker Media Group (though closing the Gawker site) to move into English language news

  2. Translation, like the Washington Post, Buzzfeed and a coalition of European Publishers translating are doing

  3. Business development like the NYT’s new department (NYT Global) is doing through its LatAm news products and recent push towards Australia, and Canada


Audience first thinking is a methodology, not a goal

Too often we conflate our own objectives with that of an organisation. Recently, I've noticed this happening with audience engagement and audience first-thinking. While extremely important, it is still a means to an end, a methodology that we must try to embody. It isn't an end point. So, I made a flow chart type of thing to illustrate the point. 


Does this happen in your newsroom too?


Video does what?

Facebook wants Live Video to be the future, paying close to $50mn to celebrities and publishers to create live video and prioritizing it in their newsfeed algorithm. While Facebook may be making the most headlines right now, it’s not the only company putting the spotlight  on live video. In the last year Meerkat (now pivoted), Periscope (now owned by Twitter), YouNow and most recently YouTube and tumblr launched live streaming.

So, why is Facebook prioritizing streaming video? Because it “is looking to compete for television advertising... [and] is anxious about the future. People are sharing less about themselves, which slows Facebook’s growth and cuts at the heart of its most profitable product, the News Feed…[this] is one attempt to solve that problem.” 

Live streaming may very well be a Facebook driven play for revenue and relevance, and not necessarily a question of demand. For instance, this recent Reuters study reports that over 3/4ths of people rely on text for their news, finding it faster and more convenient than video. What’s more, these findings apply to video at large -- not just live video; a majority of people prefer text to any type of video when getting their news.

Here, we look at different video formats: