This year’s Reuters Institute Digital News Report contains some signs of hope for the news industry. According to the report, “Change is in the air with many media companies shifting models towards higher quality content and more emphasis on reader payment.” However, as the report points out, these emerging trends are fragile, unevenly distributed, and are emerging in the wake of many years of digital disruption, which has undermined both consumer and publisher confidence.
Based on a YouGov survey conducted with 74,000 people in 37 countries, this is the seventh in an annual series of reports that track the transition of the news industry towards an increasingly digital and multi-platform future. Among the many challenges highlighted in the report is a low level of trust in the media in most countries and concerns about fake news. The business side continues to struggle despite a rise in reader revenue, as it has failed to offset continued declines in print and digital advertising revenue.
Here are 6 key takeaways from Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018:
The use of social media for news has started to fall in a number of key markets after years of continuous growth. Usage is down 6% in the United States and is also down in the UK and France.
Globally, the use of messaging apps for news is on the rise. WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of the sampled users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).
Across all countries, the average level of trust in the news in general remains relatively stable at 44%, with just over half (51%) agreeing that they trust the news media they themselves use most of the time.
By contrast, 34% of respondents say they trust news they find via search and fewer than a quarter (23%) say they trust the news they find in social media.
Last year’s significant increase in subscription in the United States (the “Trump Bump”) has been maintained. The average number of people paying for online news has edged up in many countries, with significant increases coming from Norway (+4 percentage points), Sweden (+6), and Finland (+4).
Privacy concerns have reignited the growth in ad-blocking software. More than a quarter of consumers now block on any device (27%). More than four in ten (42%) now use blockers in Greece (+6) with significant increases in Germany (+5) and the United States (+4).
The report concludes that the many changes this year serve as a reminder that things that once seemed certain (such as the importance of Facebook and the online advertising model) can quickly shift. The entire space continues to rapidly evolve, with technologies like voice-activated interfaces and artificial intelligence are on the rise, which will bring new opportunities as well as challenges. While the future of news remains uncertain, the report does provide hope that quality content will be increasingly rewarded in the future.
With the plethora of media choices, how do consumers choose their content? There are several opinions as to how we determine if a piece of content is worthy of our attention. Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet, advises people to include content from sources outside of their personal interests and opinions. Eli Pariser, chief executive of Upworthy, agrees that people need to get outs of their “filter bubble.”
However, most searches and social feeds are based on algorithms that select the information a user wants to see based on their user information (profile). In new research from the Knight Foundation, The Filter Map: Media and the Pursuit of Truth and Legitimacy, Deen Freelon introduces three criteria to help consumers determine which content will be most valuable to them.
The filter map criteria:
Agreeableness – aligning with your preexisting opinions with the content.
Truth value – determining whether a given message is true or false.
Legitimacy – when its genuinely safe to assume an opinion is considered acceptable.
Generally, people seek content that fits their interests, often opting for information streams that are low on disagreeableness. Consumers tend to seek content that fits their interests and filter out information that does not. Sometimes peoples’ filters, through no fault of their own, allow disagreeable information to confront them. At that point, they need to assess the information and chose to accept or not. If they accept, they may, even if only slightly, allow new information to influence their thinking.
True value is about the fundamental faith in realism. It’s about determining what is and isn’t true by observing the world. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds. Today, some believe what is disagree with, is false. On the contrary, disagreeing with information does not mean the information is false. Agreeability and disagreeability have little to do with whether something is true or not. Understanding this important distinction is critical to the filter criteria.
Legitimate opinions generally align with moral principles that are preserved across a broad array of societies, governments, philosophies, and religions. Content legitimacy, like true value, does not to include agreeability. Agreeableness is essentially a subjective characteristic; what is agreeable to one person may or may not be to another person. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is intersubjective. It receives its status from moral values shared across governments, cultures, religions, and philosophies. It’s not uncommon for opinions to be both be agreeable and illegitimate or disagreeable and legitimate views.
It’s important to incorporate content filters, especially, when engaging with social media platforms. Freelon’s filtering criterion allows for both agreeing and disagreeing with legitimate opinions. He readily admits that implementing such a system would be complex, particularly given the individual variations in his criteria. However, he believes that we can build a system that delivers true and legitimate content from across our personal agreement spectrum.
Mary Meeker, the internet trends guru from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has just released her annual examination of the global technology landscape. Meeker understands consumers’ relationship with technology. Her insights identify changing marketplace strategies and business practices. In her Internet Report 2018, one shifting strategy she calls out is Google’s move from online ad platform to ecommerce platform. Equally significant, she notes, is the fact that Amazon is doing the direct opposite.
Other key highlights from the report include:
Internet penetration is slowing down. While more than half of the world’s population is now online, new Internet users only grew by 7% in 2017, down from 12% a year ago. Smartphone growth shows a similar pattern. Further, with limited new users, apps will find fewer to sign-up.
Consumer are not disconnecting from media. In fact, digital media consumption continues to increase.S. adults spend 5.9 hours per day on digital media compared 5.6 hours a year ago. Mobile, especially mobile video usage is responsible for the overall growth in time spent in digital media.
Mobile payment adoption is growing. The payment process is also becoming easier to complete.
A gap exists between mobile time spend and ad spending there. Twenty-nine percent of time is spent in mobile but only 26% of advertising dollars. This creates a 7 billion opportunity in the mobile advertising marketplace.
Tech companies are a core component of the U.S. economy. They account for 25% of U.S. market capitalization.
However, consumers question their business strategies of using personal data to provide better consumer experiences while violating consumer privacy.
Only one-quarter (25%) of U.S. adults report they are willing to share personal data for benefits (lower costs, etc.). Further, close to two-thirds of U.S. consumers delete or avoid apps because of data privacy concerns.
Voice-controlled products like Amazon Echo show significant growth. The Echo’s installed base in the U.S. grew from 20 million in the third quarter of 2017 to more than 30 million in the fourth quarter. News behavior in listening to news, music and shop are emerging.
Meeker’s 294-page presentation offers a snapshot of the marketplace. It provides broad economic trends and studies global growth. The report is well-worth the read to keep pace with the marketplace.
New research from Parks Associates shows that 6% of U.S. broadband households are highly likely to subscribe to an online pay-TV service within the next 12 months, which would more than double the number subscribing today.
While traditional television subscriptions held quite steady from 2010 to 2015, they have declined year-over-year since 2015. Significantly, the percentage of households “cutting the cord” has increased between 2015 and 2017. Parks Associates also reports a larger number of “cord-never” households, though a much greater percentage of consumers are either testing new options or still in decision mode.
Why Consumers Cut the Cord
Price, cost, and low price/value perceptions dominate as reasons for pay-TV cancellation and cord shaving. More than 50% of households that have switched, shaved, or cut the cord in the 12 months prior to Parks Associates’ survey said that the reason is that their pay-TV service was not worth the cost. Parks Associates also found that about a third of cord cutters would have stayed with their service provider if offered a Netflix-style service bundled with broadcast TV channels.
Providers must replace revenues lost in the wake of fewer subscribers. However, only one-quarter to one-third of consumers are willing to pay more for their pay-TV services, even given the addition of highly appealing features.
Maintaining Customers & Sustaining Revenue
Thus, providers must prioritize consumer retention. Given that Parks Associates found that many pay-TV subscribers are unaware of the video on-demand (VoD) features available to them, pay-TV providers must do a better job in communicating VoD offerings, or they will lose consumer VoD viewing to online options. Providers should also consider adding the features that Parks Associates found are most appealing to digital video consumers (pause, restart, and rewind) for no extra cost in order to incentivize maintaining their pay-TV subscription.
The good news, according to Brett Sappington, Parks Associates’ Senior Director of Research, is that streaming is well-established, and consumers are familiar with its function, even without a deep understanding of the technology. And, while percentage of potential shavers and cancellers has risen, Sappington points out that many consumers are comfortable with what they have and not in a rush to change. This lapse provides providers and entrepreneurs openings for creative solutions to bring consumers ever closer to their ideal vision of price/value and feature excellence.
Consumers value access to ad-supported content when they feel that there’s a fair trade between the content and advertising. The study, “Consumer Sensitivity to Audio Advertising: A Field Experiment on Pandora Internet Radio,” examines the balance in this relationship. Specifically, the research analyzes the correlation between the number of advertising breaks, the number of ads, and content consumption. While Pandora sells display, video, and audio advertising, this study focuses on audio ads. Today most of Pandora’s advertising revenue is generated from audio advertising.
Jason Huang, David Reiley, and Nickolai M. Riabov created an experimental design using more than 30 million Pandora listeners. The design included nine test groups (1% of listeners) and a control group (10% of listeners). Each test group received either three, four or six ad interruptions per hour. And each interruption was comprised of either 1, 1.5, or 2 ads. By varying these two dimensions, the research assessed whether listeners prefer more commercial interruptions or longer commercial interruptions. The control group received Pandora’s normal advertising experience: four interruptions with 1.5 ads per interruption. The level of audio advertising remained consistent for each test group for the 21-month duration of the research.
The findings identify aclear relationship between the quantity of hours listened and the number of audio ads per hour. Interestingly, the number of commercial interruptions per hour showed little impact on listening behavior. Reactions in the test groups in the final month support these findings.
The findings identify a clear relationship between the quantity of hours listened and the number of audio ads per hour. Interestingly, the number of commercial interruptions per hour showed little impact on listening behavior.
Results across all nine test groups included:
A 41% percent decline in the number of active Pandora listeners,
A 41% decline in the number of days per active Pandora listener, and
An 18% decline in the number of hours per active Pandora listener.
Of the three reactions, the most common (82%) reaction involves a decline in listeners or listening sessions.
Further, the decline in demand for Pandora’s ad-supported product that was triggered by an increase in ads suggests a potential opportunity to transition consumers to an ad-free alternative. The findings show that the correlation is highly significant and increases the older the consumer. Therefore, the probability of leaving Pandora entirely due to an increase in ad load decreases with age. It turned out that older consumers were just as likely to switch to an ad-free paid subscription as they were to leave the Pandora service entirely.
Huang, Reiley, and Riabov use of an experimental design allows for a better understanding of causal relationships. Each independent variable, the number of ad interruptions and the number of ads per interruption, is important to evaluate. Examining the impact of the independent variables and the correlation with listening time (the dependent variable) offers a dynamic learning environment. Interplay between the elements identifies the variable impacting a change in behavior.
As Microsoft founder Bill Gates said this week, “People don’t mind having a little bit of demographic information about themselves used to target ads. That’s value added to the user.” When data is clearly used to improve the relevance of the ads consumers see, it can improve their overall experience.
Unfortunately, the amount of data collected and the myriad ways in which it is used are opaque to most consumers. And, when they get a glimpse behind the curtain, (as with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica dealings) consumers grow mistrustful of data collection—and even online advertising—as a whole.
However, it is possible that if consumers are more informed on the tracking process and what’s going on behind the scenes, advertising would be more effective and impactful. This is what Tami Kim, Kate Barasz, and Leslie John examine in their study, “Why Am I Seeing This Ad? The Effect of Ad Transparency on Ad Effectiveness” published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research. Their research analyzes the impact of ad transparency on ad effectiveness.
Today, some websites and advertisers are informing users (albeit in a limited fashion) about what they are tracking and their data practices. Some sites may display an adChoices icon that indicates an ad is targeted based on user characteristics. Consumers can find out why the ad is being displayed to them by clicking on the icon. Other websites are alerting visitors, upon first visits, of their tracking user software and practices (e.g., cookies).
The Ad Transparency Effect
Kim, Barasz, and John conducted five studies using the Facebook platform. They analyzed the findings to identify the core dimensions of ad transparency needed to positively impact ad effectiveness.
Study 1 allows consumers to select acceptable tracking methods from a pre-defined list. The analysis identifies two important ad tracking practices consumers find acceptable: 1) the information is obtained from tracking within the site and not outside of it; and 2) the information (attributes) is provide by the consumer and not inferred by the site.
Study 2 tests the effectiveness of revealing data tracking practices within a site versus across-websites. Participants are shown an ad. Then, they are shown either no information or messaging as to why they are seeing this ad (message a: the ad has been generated based on user information obtained within the platform or message b: the ad has been generated either based on information obtained cross-platform). The results from Study 2 confirms that transparency messaging increases ad effectiveness especially when it reveals the information is obtained within the platform and not from cross-website tracking.
Study 3 examines the impact of revealing a targeted ad is based on stated attributes versus inferred attributes. Participants are shown an ad and then given one of two messages (message a: the ad is generated based on information stated by the consumer or message b: the ad is generated based on information inferred by the site). Results for Study 3 indicate that privacy concerns are higher in the inferred attributes and detracts from advertising effectiveness.
Study 4 looks at the role trust plays in a site’s data transparency and its impact on ad effectiveness. The results of this study indicate that users who trust a site are more likely to engage with an ad that offers ad transparent messaging than those sites they distrust.
Study 5A and 5B explore the impact of ad effectiveness when there’s both trust of a site and ad transparent messaging. Study 5A divides consumers into two groups, half are assigned to a loyalty program (higher trust of site) and the other half to a non-loyalty program (no trust of site). Personal information was obtained transparently from the loyalty program consumer group.
This study found consumers are more willing to click on recommended items, spend more time, and purchase more when they both trust the platform. They will also provide their own data (attribute information). Study 5B includes two additional consumer groups and offers messaging regarding shared or inferred user attributes. Message group one: Recommended based on what you’ve shared with us (implies data user provides). And message group two: Recommended (implying the data is inferred about the user). Study 5B reveals that consumers are more likely to have a higher propensity to click on recommended items if they state their attributes than those targeted based on inferred attributes.
Kim, Barasz, and John’s research is an important step to understand how consumers’ readiness to engage with digital ads is affected by their awareness of the data practices used to deliver such ads. Ad transparency messaging is a critical step to increase advertising effectiveness on your site.
Digital media offers publishers new opportunities to better understand audience engagement. Using post-click measures within an article page of the client-side logging system provides insights into audience preferences and retention. Nir Grinberg, a research fellow at the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science together with the Northeastern’s Lazer Lab, reports on new post-click user engagement measures. His report, Identifying Modes of User Engagement with Online News and Their Relationship to Information Gain in Text, identifies metrics that will help publishers anticipate how long a reader will stay with an article and improve the recommendation process for new content.
Grinberg’s analyzes 7.7 million-page views from Chartbeat data on seven different news publications with articles across finance, how to, magazine (longer-form), science, sports, technology, and women.
Grinberg enlists three core metrics in his study:
dwell time (an estimate of the total time a user spends on a page)
scroll depth (the furthest position the user reaches on the page)
page interaction (the amount of interaction with the page through any form of input such as touch, mouse move, etc.).
His first step is to project the modes of behavior present in the individual page views. Then, he uses this information to predict the common behaviors of a larger audience. Identifying the modes can enable publishers and recommendation system to distinguish between different forms of reading, scanning and other lighter forms of engagement.
While Grinberg valued the original three metrics, he finds the information they provide limiting. His next step combines and correlates the original metrics with new measures. For example, he analyzes the proportion of an article that is visible on a user’s screen (relative depth) with how quickly a user scrolls through the visible part of the page (average scrolling speed).
Combining these two measures provides information about an overall navigation experience throughout an article. This information also allows recommendations systems to distinguish between audiences reading, scanning and other lighter forms of engagement. Based on these findings, Grinberg’s classifies reading behavior into five types: “Scan,” “Read,” “Read (long),” “Idle,” and “Shallow” (plus bounce backs for users who get to a page and almost immediately leave). This offers insight into the variety of reading behaviors and the level of engagement present when a user is consuming content.
As an example, the chart above reflects the relationship between different reading behaviors and their levels of engagement. The top right panel shows that the median article on a sports site has about 28% of page views that are scanning the article. The percentage is considerably higher than the rate of scanning in the other content categories. This suggests that people consume sports articles with a different intent, perhaps simply looking for quick games scores and/or result of a sporting event. This data helps characterize the likely user behaviors and intent of the page view and factors into content recommendations.
In addition to user behaviors, Grinberg identifies a measure that he calls “Semantic Information Gain” (SIG), the flow of information on a page. SIG captures how quickly an article moves toward its final point, It can be very helpful for publishers to use to see if or where a reader gets lost in an article. SIG can be highly predictive of audience engagement.
Practical and informative measures of post-click user engagement can improve recommendations of news content and enable more informed editorial decisions. Distinguishing between different modes of engagement with an article, such as scan, skim, or in-depth reading, can enable recommendation systems to better match articles with potential readers based on their engagement profile.
While the digital publishing world seems enamored with direct reader revenue lately, here’s a quick reminder that it is difficult to ask people to pay for something that used to be free. And there are a lot of decisions that go into setting up a successful program such as determining the threshold for a free article limit, deciding on a call-to-action, and identifying the right people at the right time.
We wanted to understand the existing subscription model landscape, so we analyzed 1,870 domains in the Parse.ly network. Just under one third (29%) use some type of paywall. The majority of those use some type of membership paywall or a metered/partial paywall. And barely 2% of our entire network deploy a full paywall.
If you’re considering moving from that 71% group into the reader revenue group, you probably have a number of questions, starting with: is this the right move? Other big things to consider include: Who should be seeing your call to action? And what’s the ideal “free article” limit?
Parse.ly’s Head of Audience Development Solutions, Kelsey Arendt, encourages clients to find the answers in data for these three questions when evaluating which paywall method makes the most sense for your site.
What subset of my audience are “super-users”?
Super-users are your most consistent and reliable audience. They appreciate your content and they trust you. That makes the valuable as a target group for a paywall call-to-action and as an exclusive audience for premium advertising partners or for VIP offers.
Selecting the right paywall method hinges on an understanding of audience loyalty distribution. To determine whether you have a sufficiently-monetizable subset of loyal superusers, ask yourself:
How often do my visitors read?
How engaged are they each time they visit?
Reader frequency and article engagement help you decide what the cut-off for your call-to-action to subscribe should be, whether it’s a paywall after five free articles or 10.
To illustrate this, we took a look at a sample of aggregated data from the Parse.ly network. Seventy percent of the audience to these sites visit a single website four times or less per month. They also read less than 10 articles per month. Said another way, those readers would not be affected at all if a site implemented a metered-paywall with a limit of 10 free articles a month.
The promising opportunity lies with the other 30%. Take one of the smallest groups, the 3% of the audience who visit a single website nine times per month or more. This loyal group can, and should, be identified if they are the ones who are most likely to convert into subscribers.
Imagine a moment when you walk into your favorite store, the one you go to all the time and where they know you. If someone tells you that they have something special for you, you tend to trust them and consider their offer. Audiences that have made it to that “circle of trust” for your site, might be more receptive to the idea of a paid membership model, thus increasing your chance of converting them.
What content belongs behind a paywall?
Another way of asking this question is: What content resonates with your super-users? To find out, consider the sections or topics your most loyal audience already loves. Figure out what your most loyal audiences pay the most attention to and consider making one of your premium offerings.
Measuring total engaged time reveals the content that resonates the most with readers. Total engaged minutes encompasses both breadth and depth. The team at Slate focuses on engaged time for exactly this reason.
Am I adding value for my readers?
While you have to examine the data behind the potential audience and what they’re most interested in, you should also ask yourself what else you can offer them.
The reason why readers subscribe will always come down to your unique voice and your brand. But as much as people like your content, they also value their time. So, any moment with them must either add value to their life or come at the right time.
There are so many ways to add value to a membership or subscription model. A few that have been explored: exclusive benefits, an ad-free experience, discounted events, direct input into editorial, or VIP access. But don’t limit yourself to what you’ve seen. Maybe your audience would sign up in exchange for a book of coupons to local stores or for an exclusive app download that made them more efficient with their time.
Ask not what your readers can do for you—ask what you can do for your readers.
Paywalls: Not always the perfect solution
At the end of the day, if you want your readers to pay attention to your work, you need to pay attention to their needs and interests. Data can help you understand whether a subscription model might work, and how to get your subscription offer in front of the right people at the right time.
And what if the data shows that paywalls don’t make sense? Paywalls, meters, and memberships are just a few methods of monetization. Even if you can successfully monetize that 3% of super-users, you’ll still need to explore other revenue options.
The other 97% of your audience can still help you generate other types of revenue, like native advertising, merchandise, or advertising. And of course, data can help you find opportunities for those options too.
Bots are software applications that typically run repetitive and easily-automated tasks. You can find bots posting content or interacting with users online without any human involvement. They are a valuable tool, often employed to answer questions and post updates to articles. However, there’s also a dark side to bots. Their malicious behaviors include the ability to spread fake news and influence online rating and review systems.
According to the Pew Research Center’s new research, Bots in Twittersphere, bots (be they”good” or”bad”) create 66% of all tweeted links across all web content and among popular news and current event websites, respectively. Bot percentages are even higher (89%) among popular aggregation sites that compile stories from around the web. Interestingly, a small number of highly active bots are responsible for a significant share of links to known news and media sites.
The Pew study analyzed 2,315 of the most popular websites, examining a random sample of 1.2 million tweets over six weeks in the summer of 2017. To identify the bots, Pew used the Botometer, a tool created at Indiana University and the University of Southern California. The Botometer estimates the likelihood that any given account is automated.
It’s not surprising that automated accounts provide links to a higher-than-average number of sites without a public contact page. Lacking a contact page, omits the opportunity for reader feedback that provides an opportunity for corrections or additional reporting. This can sometimes be an indicator of malicious bots directing users to fake content sites.
Intriguingly, automated Twitter accounts share a larger volume of links, 57% to 66%, from sites that are more centrist and an ideologically mixed. The analysis does not show that automated accounts are politically biased toward liberal or conservative in their overall link-sharing. Bot accounts share approximately 41% of links to political sites of liberal audiences and 44% to political sites of conservatives.
Social media makes it easy for automated accounts to create content and interact with users with no direct human involvement. It’s seamless and usually undetectable to the user. Bot accounts play an important part in the social media ecosystem. The provide automated news updates, answering questions and offering immediate feedback and more. Nevertheless, what impact do bots have on the user experience? Additional Twitter research is needed to focus on bot engagement. Understanding to what degree bot accounts engage users and to what degree bot accounts, when combined with human-sourced accounts, impacts engage offers insight into the complete user experience on Twitter.
Digital devices, especially mobile devices, give greater control to consumers whose expectations are high and constantly evolving, according to INMA’s new report “How the Connected Consumer Is Redefining News Media.” Once individuals experience a positive interaction or service with a brand on their mobile device, they expect other brands to provide similar offerings. Unfortunately, this presents a challenge for publishers because so many of these interactions and/or services are not necessarily set by media companies. Publishers now compete with expectations set by Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, brands that often deliver positive consumer experiences in searching, shopping and connecting.
Therefore, publishers need to rethink how they engage with their audience. Consumers are more digitally connected (and less physically connected) and this constant connection to content can lead to information overload. The INMA’s research suggests that publishers can better meet the connected audience’s expectations and digital relationship by employing “connected marketing” strategies. The approach includes two core principles:
Create, develop, and maintain a brand that recognize the needs of the connected individual.
Strive to merge and coordinate the physical, digital, sensorial, and emotional experiences to best meet the needs of connected individuals.
The brand is sum of total experiences. Connected individuals are looking for ease, engagement, interactivity, experience, and control – all in real time. Basically, they expect to connect with the publisher wherever and whenever.
Publishers should also think about targeting users outside of traditional audience segments and demographics. New audience targeting segments should include more custom and personal audience slices. Additional helpful strategies include:
Build a deeper audience understanding
Understand short-form or long-form content consumption the audience seeks.
Identify your content’s unique offering for each user segment.
Know what they content they are looking for on mobile – app, search, etc.
Understand audience commonalities
Find the commonalities among audiences. Connected consumers expect to be able to choose the frequency and depth of their involvement.
Develop connection points
Allow the audience to comment or even create content.
Help in their content discovery.
Build their understanding of issues through content that helps answers questions.
Help them shape opinions through content that provides options and different opinions.
Allow them to share content they value.
Digital devices present new ways for content offerings to be even more essential to the connected user’s day-to-day life. Publishers must work to simplify the user experience and serve content the audience values. Connected marketing strategies allow publishers to strategically use data, personalization and content discovery to simplify through commonalities, build understanding and and leverage the value of journalism.
When one thinks of local news, the immediate distribution points that come to mind are local TV, local newspapers and local radio. According to the Knight Foundation’s new research, Local TV News and the New Media Landscape, Local TV news is the most profitable one. Local newspapers are on shaky ground, continually losing circulation (and advertising dollars) and local radio is holding its own. However, it is significant to note that local TV news stations are looking to digital for innovative ways to tell their stories and to attract new audiences.
The Knight Foundation cites findings from the Radio Television Digital News Association Annual Survey that 65% of station innovations are focused on digital platforms. The other innovative areas include technical (17%), alternative approaches to newscast presentations (14%) and new organizational structures (4%). Clearly, local TV news is building a digital presence.
An important strategy for local TV news is the digital first approach. Many local stations are broadcasting their content, especially bigger projects, first on digital platforms before on air. This type of strategy shifts focus on audiences and where they want to access their content.
Further, more than three-quarters (78%) of TV news directors report putting new and important content online now. Their strategies include:
Moving newscasts online: More newscasts available online or conducting live events online.
Web-only content: Local TV news stations are also creating content specifically designed for web and mobile platforms.
Leveraging digital to improve storytelling: Stations are experimenting with user generated content for new POVs and storytelling opportunities.
Developing new properties for younger audiences: Stations are also developing digital assets to target younger adult,
Social Media Strategy
In terms of attracting a younger audience, 55% of local TV news stations are emphasizing social media. Fifteen percent are pushing specific social platforms or features (e.g. Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and others). Additional efforts also include content creation on digital social platforms targeted toward millennials.
Knight’s social media analyses indicates digital strategies are paying off for many stations in terms of reach and audience engagement. Further, in a content analysis of more than 1,100 posts (on human interests, entertainment, politics, public policy, etc.) for four stations with the highest engagement levels shows increases when social media components are added.
Efforts on social media are paying off and ratings are highest on local news stations when there’s activity on social media. This suggests that the content on social media is additive and not necessarily replacing the local station as an access point of information. Still, local news stations need to find a balance in using social media to find audiences and deliver news.
Marketers are concerned about brand safety and focused on investing their media dollars wisely to ensure that their ads are seen in a good environment. And rightly so. A new Australian study from Galaxy Research, The Company You Keep, provides insight into consumers views on trust in relation to the media and advertising they consume.
The framework of Galaxy’s study was the Adtrust Matrix, academic research published in 2009. The Adtrust Matrix is a recognized set of dimensions and elements used to measure trust in advertising. It includes four key characteristics, which breakdown further into 20 attributes:
Usefulness: valuable, good, useful and helps people make the best decisions
Affect: likeable, enjoyable and positive
Willingness to rely on: willing to consider the ad-conveyed information when making purchase-related decisions, willing to rely on ad-conveyed information when making purchase-related decisions, willing to make important purchase-related decisions based on ad-conveyed information and willing to recommend the product or service that I have seen in ads to my friends or family
In total, almost 3,000 Australians adults rated the content and ads against the 20 Adtrust characteristics across Newspapers (National, Metro, Regional, Community), Television, Radio, Magazines, Cinema, Outdoor, Digital news media (newspaper-based websites and apps), Social, Search and Any (other) websites.
The research findings identify newspapers as the medium scoring the greatest in consumer trust in advertising, followed by cinema, radio, magazines and digital news media. Further, the study shows social media scores lowest in consumer trust in advertising.
The Galaxy research finds a high correlation between trust in advertising and the content experienced in the same environment. The consumer scores offer a strong link between the content experience and the advertising experience. An overall high degree of trust in advertising occurs where there is a positive net trust in content. An overall low degree of trust in advertising occurs when there is negative net trust in content.
These findings were similar to those from DCN’s research study, Trust as a Proxy for Brand Value, which also found a high correlation between consumers trust in content and their trust in ads in the same environment. In the DCN study, consumers scored branded sites high for trust in advertising while social media scored the lowest in trust for advertising. Both studies confirm that greater trust in content leads to greater trust in ads.
Trust Drives Purchases
Importantly, the Galaxy research also shows greater trust in ads yields greater purchase intent. In fact, 50% of respondents agree that the more they trust an ad, the more likely they are to buy the product/service.
The Galaxy research finds once again that the environment, or context, in which the ads appear, has an impact on the ads receptivity and effectiveness. It reaffirms the value and importance of working with trusted publishers in the marketplace.
Consolidation across the media continues in 2018 as does business decentralization according to the Future Today Institute’s 11th Annual Tech Trends Report. This year, the Institute identified 225 trends and examined how these changes and new technologies might impact the marketplace in 2018 and 2019.
Here are 10 trends that will affect the news and entertainment media:
Natural Language Generation (NLG): a processing task where computers generate the language humans use in a different situation. NLG can rewrite content for all different types of readers. News organizations can create different versions of the same story for different audiences based on educational and reading level. The facts (data) remain the same but the vocabulary would be modified based on each of target audiences.
Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR): an investigative journalism technique. Reporters find public records and documents to mine. Using machine learning algorithms can analyze the data to help find hidden storylines.
Voice interfaces: Siri, Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa and others will soon offer more than one set of facts and opinion on a topic. There is emerging research into using voice interfaces to help professionals understand different sides of a discussion or argument.
Audio search engines: These are essential as podcasts continue to grow in popularity especially as a new platform for news commentary. Several companies are working to off audio in a searchable manner.
Niche publications, podcasts and digital content and AR: Augmented Reality integrations are expected soon in these different content offerings.
Software as a Service: in this licensing and delivery model, users pay for on-demand access. Offering access to systems that automatically generate reports using news organizations’ archives and databases can create a new revenue stream.
Immersive storytelling: Storytellers started producing stories built specifically for immersive environments. Publishers are experimenting now with POV storytelling templates and story formats specifically developed for new technologies.
Fake news: While Facebook and Twitter promise to curtail bot-generated content operations on their platform, fake news continues to spread. Unfortunately, in 2018, little success is anticipated. In fact, as social media companies experiment with improved ways to stop the spread of fake news, more problems and potentially more fake news stories continue social platforms.
Limited-edition news products: these offer an opportunity to provide audiences with temporary podcasts, newsletters, chatbots, and text messages about topics like weather events, big sports games and elections. They also provide a unique opportunity for revenue, audience engagement and data collection.
Historical preservation: Efforts to protect and safeguard historical digital news records are growing. Identifying the policies for record retention and backups needs to be addressed as an industry.
Several of the trends identified suggest new opportunities to drive change and increase revenues. Publishers that lean in to these possibilities can transform trends into growth.
Fake news has a long history in media. Propaganda has been around as long as there have been sides of a story to spin. Even though journalists set their goals on objectivity and credibility, propaganda still makes its way into media coverage. Now with the Internet, it’s easy to quickly access and disseminate false information. Add to that the fact that social platforms amplify homogeneous opinions, whether they are true or not. And let’s face it: People do little to correct falsehoods in their closed social echo-chambers.
Today fake news is a global concern. And it is helpful to explore the mechanics of fake news (the mechanism that put it in place). New research, “The science of fake news,” from Professor Matthew Baum from the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor David Lazer from Northeastern University, offers insight into how the Internet spreads false content and how citizens process the news and information they consume.
The report defines fake news in terms of process, “information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent.” Fake news intersects both misinformation (false or misleading information) and disinformation (false information that is purposely spread to deceive people). Importantly, the definition speaks to the absence of the editorial process, especially the practice of accuracy and credibility that differentiates fake news from credible.
There are inconclusive estimates to how prevalent fake news is today in social media. One estimate circulating states that approximately one to three stories per month were fake prior to the 2016 elections. Facebook claims less than one percent of its civic content shared on its platform is fake. Some estimate that nine to 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots and that there are 60 million bot accounts on Facebook that share fake news. The wide-ranging estimates highlight the lack of collaboration between social platforms and academics, which is required to clearly define the scope of the problem.
Baum and Lazer identify two categories of potential interventions to prevent fake news:
empowering individuals to evaluate the fake news they encounter, and
creating structural changes on social platforms aimed at preventing exposure of users to fake news in the first instance.
Empowering users to question false news is not so easy. Baum and Lazer cite outside academic research showing that people do not question the credibility of information unless it violates their preconceptions. Since people on social media tend to align with others with similar beliefs in their community, they question little. In fact, once concern is that individuals fact-checking context, may increase their likelihood of accepting the information as true and share it, when in fact it is not.
There is also evidence, experimental and survey research, that confirms that the perception of truth increases when misinformation is repeated. Even if the misinformation is paired with an effective retraction, it is still often viewed as being true. Teaching individuals to be critical-thinkers, especially when using social media, may assist in preparing students to ask questions about the credibility of the content and sources.
In terms of interventions, the platforms can implement policies and technologies to deter the spread of fake news. The inclusion of quality sources in algorithmic rankings of content, the limit of personalization of political content and the prevention trending content including any with bot activities. The platforms claim some integration of these policies. Yet little to no evidence is shared with policy-makers or the general public on the research or its effectiveness.
Call for action
Direct government involvement is sensitive and carries a risk. Any process by which the government or the platforms prevent users from seeing content raises concerns about censorship. While the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects social media for the false content written and shared on their platforms, their involvement and accountability in affecting the human experience should be questioned. Baum and Lazer call for a redesign of our information ecosystem that promotes a transparent and truthful news media experience. Publishers, social platforms and academics must collaborate to conduct a detailed and transparent audit on how the major platforms filter information.
It’s essential for publishers to understand the different pathways to subscriptions to deliver value and engagement to consumers in the process. In new research, “Paths to Subscription: Why Recent Subscribers Chose to Pay for News,” the Media Insight Project—a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research—surveyed more than 4,100 recent newspaper subscribers to understand their motives and mindsets at the time of the decision-making. The report identifies nine distinct paths from reader to subscriber. (Some individual subscribers may fit into more than one group.)
The nine paths from reader to subscriber:
1. Digital Paywall Converters (21% of total respondents) buy a digital subscription for its unlimited access. They subscribe because they like to read interesting articles and want to support local journalism. Digital Paywall Converters tend to be younger, male, educated, have higher income, and are Democrat.
Digital Paywall Converters are twice as likely to subscribe to large metro newspapers compared to other subscribers. They like to share content and are more likely than other subscribers to use the paper’s mobile app and access articles through search engines. They are a digitally driven user segment. Nine in 10 Digital Paywall Converters (86%) state that their favorite benefit of their subscription is unlimited access to online content
2. Topic Hunters (23% of total respondents) are motivated to subscribe because of local politics and/or local sports (college or high school). They tend to be well educated and favor the digital experience. They often convert to subscribing because they are very engaged and hit a paywall meter limit.
Since Topic Hunters tend to be more digital, the best time to convert these readers to paying subscribers is when they are online. Using analytical tools (e.g. API’s Metrics for News) to track readers by topic is helpful in the conversion process. Newsletters can also be useful to engage readers around their interest areas and can help lead to paid subscriptions.
3. Locally Engaged subscribers (18% of total respondents) are interested in content about the community. They like being engaged and informed locally. They report that access to local news and politics are the major reasons they subscribe to newspapers. These subscribers are “news junkies,” especially about where they live, and want the news regardless of a discounted sale. The Locally Engaged are an important segment for smaller publications. Nearly half of the Locally Engaged subscribe to a small or medium-sized paper. Further, the Locally Engaged are more likely than other subscribers to value the accuracy and reliability of the news publication.
News alerts and email newsletters on local government, neighborhood, and other local civic topics are goods ways to attract and engage these subscribers.
4. Social Media-Mobile Discoverers (19% of total respondents) are subscribers who engage socially and use their mobile to access newspapers. They are very active with newspapers through news alerts, following journalists on social media and by sharing content.
Once they reach their metered limit, this segment (25%) is motivated to subscribe, particularly if they receive a promotional offer for unlimited articles. It’s important for publishers to consider mobile and social as two important paths to discover this segment of young readers.
Social Media-Mobile Discoverers tend to skew slightly female (53% vs. 46%), are much younger (51% are under the age of 60 vs. 28% of other subscribers) and are likely to be Democrats.
5. Journalism Advocates (24% of total respondents) subscribe to newspaper to support journalism. This segment values supporting news publishers and also likes to keep political leaders in check. Most Journalism Advocates identify themselves as Democrats. They are more likely than other subscribers to have a college degree (76% vs. 64%) and are also younger (40% under age 60 vs. 30%).
Journalism Advocates are much more likely than other subscribers to mention they were attracted to subscribe because they witnessed attacks on the news media (25% vs. 2%) and because of they saw messaging to support local journalism (23% vs. 1%).
6. Life Changers (16% of total respondents) subscribe because of a transition in their life, be it a move or new job. For Life Changers, a subscription is not based on the editorial or marketing offer of the newspaper. Life Changers highly value local news and want to support local journalism. This segment is likely to prefer the print access over digital.
To target Life Changers, publishers should find readers who are new to the area, recent graduates, retirees or transplants. They should seek partnerships with local organizations or groups, such as realtors, colleges, or employers, to offer discounted subscriptions. Life Changers and Locally Engaged both have an affinity for following local news.
7. Coupon Clippers (12% of total respondents) subscribe to newspapers because of the value of the discounted offer. Discounts and promotions motivate Coupon Clippers to subscribe. This group is more likely to be women, identify as Republicans or independents, have less education and lower incomes, live in the suburbs and prefers print.
8. Print Fans (16% of total respondents) like the experience of reading a printed newspaper. They are big fans of print home delivery. While they also use a newspapers’ digital app, they like to start their day with a hard copy of the news. The majority of Print Fans are female and more than half live in the suburbs.
This segment is very interested in gaining access to exclusive content that is available only to those who subscribe to both print and digital.
9. Friends and Family (15% of total respondents) subscribe because they see it as a way to connect with loved ones. The paper is an extension of their social lives. It’s what they talk about over dinner or in a telephone conversation. Local news is important to Friends and Family but current events and other topics (lifestyle, sports, etc.) are also important. Friends and Family tend to skew heavily female compared with other subscribers (60% vs. 45%), be Democrats (61% vs. 48 of other subscribers) and are slightly more urban (36% vs. 27%).
Publishers should think about testing “refer a friend” programs, where subscribers can refer friends or family to receive a discount or as a gift. Publishers should also offer discounts and benefits to those who refer new subscribers.
Consumers interact with a newspaper and its journalists in many ways before subscribing. It’s important for publishers to study these interactions and identify the moments of engagement. Identifying these moments along with important background factors are strong targeting opportunities to add subscribers.
Publishers are rethinking their editorial practices and diversifying revenue streams to become less dependent on advertising or foundation funding. They (especially digitally native publishers) are implementing mixed revenue approaches, which include advertising, corporate underwriting, foundation funding, article syndication, events, affiliate programs, merchandise, and book sales revenue. The newly released report, Guide to Audience Revenue and Engagement from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, provides insights on strategies for building audience revenue and engagement.
To win a share of consumers’ valuable attention and money, paid news products (whether supported thorough subscriptions or member donations) must be vital to the subscriber. They must also clearly represent an editorial mandate they support.
The Tow Center identifies key strategies to support the develop of direct audience revenue:
Offer a unique perspective as a publisher. Readers become members when they want to be part of a unique community and access a valued news brand.
Clearly express your mission to accurately reflect the values you provide the world and your member community.
Identify activities and programs that are interesting, valuable and useful to retain members
Develop a strong editorial engagement with readers.
Build and monitor the steps in the audience revenue program conversion approach: research, expose and attract, engage and deepen, convert, and sustain.
Research (to learn about prospective member needs)
User experience research
Segmentation: reach different audience groups strategically
Expose and attract:
Increasing reach through social media
Increasing reach through in-person community events and conferences
Engage and deepen:
Article pages and site structure
Using events to engage readers
Managing data infrastructure
User data effectiveness
Giving and asking frequency
Recognizing and thanking members
Engaging and sustaining members
Engage your audience through your journalism, face-to-face interactions, product design and email newsletters. Each is a great way to build a loyal and engaged audience.
Importantly, when developing editorial products, it’s important to ask what do people want (desirability), can we make what they want (feasibility), and can we make what they want successfully (viability).
Further, developing audience segments based on user research and site analytics is important in understanding the different reader experiences. It’s critical to maximize the individual user segment experiences to ensure each is fully engaged.
Overall, online news consumers aren’t used to paying to support publishers. However, this transition is evolving. That’s why it’s important to establish a series of interactions to engage individuals to help shift the occasional reader into a paying supporter.
Historically, newspapers successfully employed a revenue model of print advertising and home delivery subscriptions. Unfortunately, this dual-revenue strategy is no longer a viable method to keep newspapers afloat. Digital advertising is dominated by two players – Facebook and Google – and most local news has failed to attract the subscription success enjoyed by publications with a national, or even international, audience like The New York Times and Financial Times.
In a new analysis, “Experiments and future models for digital news subscriptions,” the American Press Institute examines digital newspaper subscriptions in the U.S. to understand subscription costs and strategies. The research assesses subscription pricing by evaluating market size, circulation, and newspaper ownership. It’s important to note that digital content access includes but is not limited to websites, mobile applications, print newspaper copies, or e-editions. The results are based on 100 U.S.-based legacy newspapers; each based in one of Nielsen’s 100 largest designated market areas (DMA).
The median weekly price is $2.31 or $10 per month and $120 per year for a digital news subscription. Most subscriptions fall between $1 and $3 per week.
The new median weekly price of $2.31 is 83% higher ($1.05 more per week) than what was reported in the 2012 Reynolds Journalism Institute research. The median weekly price is also 221% higher ($1.59 more per week) than respondents stated they were willing to pay in the same Reynolds Journalism Institute research.
Four key factors in setting digital subscription pricing include market testing, corporate set price, industry norms and competitor pricing.
Market size and circulation do not show a correlation to subscription price. However, ownership does, as prices are often standardized across some companies’ media properties.
Discounted trial subscriptions result in higher conversion rates than do free trial subscriptions. It appears that some sort of initial payment information entry is helpful in converting discounted trials to paid subscriptions.
Subscriptions offer include an array of perks from access to comments and fewer advertisements to improved browsing experiences and rewards programs. There are also offerings that include “insider-only” perks such as newsroom tours, movie screenings and exclusive giveaways. Partnerships offerings are also popular. The Washington Post partners with Hulu to offer combined digital access to The Post and Hulu for $99 a year. The New York Times has a partnership with Spotify Premium for combined access for $203.88 for the year.
After news publishers capture the most loyal readers willing to pay for digital access, they need to secure the next segment of users who are not as easily convinced. This is when consumers need to be actively and individually converted to pay for a digital subscription. News organization must continually test new and unique offerings to attract new subscribers.
Digital Content Next (DCN) recently released findings from its second annual DCN Distributed Content Revenue Benchmark Report. The research, written about here and here, provides marketplace intelligence on distributed content strategies and the challenges confronting publishers when working with third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and others. The report confirms that despite the constant changes in distributed content policies and business practices, little has changed for publishers in the last 12 months.
Facebook and Google generate the most distributed-content revenue for publishers outside of Over-the-Top (OTT). However, together they account for less than 30% of the total distributed content revenue and represent only 5% of the total average digital revenue for publishers. Overall revenues from distributed content grew from 14% in last year’s report and now represent 16% of the surveyed publishers’ digital revenues.
Additional Key Findings
Monetization of distributed content for H2 2016 and H1 2017 represented an estimated $10.1 million and $10 million average revenue. For companies providing data for both H1 2016 (last year’s report) and H1 2017 for this report, distributed content revenue grew by an estimated 37% year-over-year.
Video, consistent with last year, represents 85% of the total, $8.3 million in 1H 2017, driven by TV/cable companies’ OTT monetization. The remaining 15% cuts across social media, Google AMP and syndication.
Facebook generated the most revenue for publishers, capturing $1.3 million (50% of social platform revenue) in H2 2016 and $1.5 million (59% of social platform revenue) in H1 2017.
Out of the specific third-party platforms tracked, publishers are active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. However, for monetization purposes, publishers are still most active on Facebook and YouTube.
Despite the challenges, DCN found that publishers remain active across a range of channels distributing and monetizing content off their sites at levels relatively consistent with last year’s findings. Still, publishers remain cautious about increasing staffing for distributed content monetization.
1. Concentrate negotiation at the executive level of your company management; do not leave negotiations to lower-level management and/or individual brands or businesses.
2. Focus on products that leverage your core business, are replicable, get new money, and have the potential to scale.
3. Negotiate for business requirements that support scaling in partnership agreements:
ad server integration;
third-party measurement integration;
management reports (e.g. roll-ups by publisher and/or marketer);
and-data for advertising and subscription monetization.
4. Test and measure content consumption and monetization through both advertising and subscription on third-party platforms and compare results to on-site metrics to inform monetization strategies.
5. Centralize responsibilities or use active cross-functional teams for managing third-party partnerships.
Advertising is the most common form of monetization of content distributed on third-party platforms, with more than 85% of total average revenue sold directly by publishers. While distributed content remains an essential part of publishers’ strategic plans, the revenues earned do not match publishers’ investment. Importantly, publishers will continue to participate and test to find the best value and revenue model for their premium content.
In efforts to quantify the spread of false information online, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, examinesthe reach of fake news in France and Italy. Both countriessee fake news as a serious issue. However, thereport, Measuring the reach of “fake news” and online disinformation in Europe, determined the reach of fake news websites as less than 1 percent of each countries online population.
The study based its analysis on 300 websites in each country that independent fact-checkers identify as publishers of false news. The research combines analytics from ComScore and CrowdTangle to measure usage of both established news and fake news sites. comScore, a web analytics company, uses a combination of panel-based and server-side measurement to provide usage data and CrowdTangle, a web tool, collects engagement data for Facebook accounts using the Facebook API.
The data also shows that the total time spent with fake news websites each month is lower than the time spent with established news websites. Online users spend an average of 178 million minutes per month with Le Monde (France), and 443 million minutes with La Repubblica (Italy), that’s more time than 20 fake news sites combined.
Still the impact of social platforms must also be accounted for in this analysis. Unfortunately, Reuters cannot measure Facebook’s average monthly reach or time spent for any website or article linkFacebook. (Only Facebook has access to this data.)
However, Reuters did examine the average number of Facebook interactions (shares, comments, reactions) with each news outlet to access user engagement. Importantly, based on this analysis, Reuters determined that a few of the fake news websites generated more or as many interactions as established news brands. In fact, one fake news site in France generated an average of over 11 million interactions per month, at least five times greater than established news brands
While the research suggests that articles from fake news sites registered low reach and social engagement in these countries, there are still those one-off articles that reach high levels of engagement. The problem poses serious implications and what still needs to be determine is the impact of the false information on people’s attitudes and beliefs.
Nearly half of all editors, CEOs, and digital leaders (44%) are even more concerned with the powerful role of social media than they were a year ago, reports Reuters’ Journalism, Media & Technology: Trends & Predictions 2018. Publishers note their disappointment with social platforms, particularly with Facebook because of the platform’s role in the circulation of fake news, the lack of promised video revenue, and the decline in referral traffic to many news websites. As a result, publishers plan to be less dependent on social platforms. As one executive summarizes, “Expect more news organizations to pull out of deals with Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat that they consider are not delivering sufficient financial return, focusing instead on building more direct readership.”
Predictions for Publishers:
Restore consumer trust in journalism
Publishers are continuing to strengthen consumer trusts in news brands. Unfortunately, too often quality journalism is posted side-by side with low quality content and misleading information. Most social platforms fail to distinguish between the two. In 2018, publishers will continue to pressure social platform companies to set standards and do more to differentiate brand news content.
Less reliance on advertising
Publishes are working to diversify their revenues to ensure less dependence on advertising sales. In fact, 62% of publishers say that advertising will become less important over time. Publishers need to shift their strategies from reach and advertising engagement to subscription models and tenure.
Improve data capacity
Publishers believe that data is important to their business needs. Nearly two-thirds of publishers (62%) report that improving data capacity is their most important initiative this year. It’s also imperative for publishers to understand and comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) starting this May. The GDPR requires that publishers ask users for consent to use email addresses, to profile and to share their data with third parties working on their behalf.
Predictions for Social Platforms:
Expanding into TV programming
Social platforms are moving into the television business. While Facebook’s early attempts at Facebook Live failed and Facebook Watch has yet to become a must-view entertainment hub, the company is still forging ahead. Facebook is actively looking to secure broadcast programming rights and plans to develop new content to compete with Netflix and Amazon.
New social messaging offers
Growing messaging and access to news is important for social platforms. Reuters Institute data, shows messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger are growing not just for messaging purposes but for accessing news as well. Facebook is launching a tween messaging app specifically targeting this demo. The idea is to draw the tweens in early and eventually expand their usage to age appropriate entertainment and education content.
Publishers and social platform alike are thinking about new business practices and monetization opportunities with their user base. Importantly, as they shift their strategies to meet 2018 goals, it’s key to keep a consumer focus, especially in the development of new content offerings, personal data information and GDPR compliance and new technology implementations.
Public trust in the media is at an all-time low, yet Americans still believe that the media plays an important role in today’s democracy. A new report from Gallup and The Knight Foundation, “American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy,” reveals that more than eight in 10 Americans (84%) believe the media either has a “critical” (44%) or a “very important” (40%) role in democracy. So, if journalism is essential to the foundation of democracy, why is its trust in such a fractured state today?
The Gallup/Knight Foundation research provides several insights to this question. The research identifies the spread of inaccurate information on the internet as one of eight leading consumer concerns. In fact, three-quarters of Americans (73%) state the “spread of inaccurate information” as their top concern, with young adults, ages 18-29, highest at 80%. Consequently, adult’s top concern centers on the “distribution” of false news and information.
Share and Share Alike?
The spread of false news and information is further intensified by the sharing and forwarding of news stories, a common practice among consumers today. In particular, social media offers an easy and accessible gateway to share information. Close to two-thirds of Americans (64%) state they frequently/occasionally share news stories with friends, family, or social media followers.
The Gallup/Knight research suggests that Americans are beginning to recognize the pitfalls of social sharing when ideological viewpoints and biasness are not always vetted properly to ascertain credibility. In fact, more U.S. adults believe that citizen videos (58%), the internet (57%), news aggregators (54%), and cable news (52%) have a more positive impact on the U.S. news environment than social media (42%) sites like Facebook and Twitter and political leaders using social media to directly communicate to users.
What exactly do consumer view as fake news?
The Gallup/Knight Foundation defines fake news as “misinformation with the appearance of legitimately produced news but without the underlying organizational journalistic processes or mission.” The research found that consumers have a broader sense of fake news and include: presenting false information as if true, reporting stories before facts are checked, slanting stories to depict a specific point of view and accurate stories showcasing political views negatively.
With so many news sources available, Americans find it hard to stay up to date and informed. Interestingly, even with numerous news outlets, consumers report difficulty finding a balanced source. Four in ten respondents (44%) state that they cannot name an objective source. While consumers also seek news aggregators, more than half of users (57%) are concerned with their method of story collection. Most often these hidden algorithms are not shared.
U.S. adults also recognized political affiliation as a large influencer on the views of the news media. More than half of democratic respondents (54%) report a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the news media. However, the opposite can be said of republican respondents, where more than two-thirds (68%) view the news media in an unfavorable light. Further, respondents report confusion when it comes to sorting out the facts (41%). Democrats tend to be informed about current events and more confident that they can sort out the facts (52%). Republicans on the other hand are more skeptical about sorting out the facts are Republicans (52%)
While Americans have access to more news media outlets than ever before, it a complex ecosystem to navigate. Distribution, aggregation and technology are all strong influencers of the news as well contributing to the proliferation of misinformation in the public domain. Supporting trustworthy publishers and journalists is more important than ever before so that they can distil accurate information and weed out the inaccurate in order to safeguard the democracy of the media.
Today, more and more resources are available digitally. The days of manually searching for data in basement archives are long gone. However, given all of the digital resources available, the process requires significant human effort. AI and automated journalistic processes can help ease that burden.
The Tow Center and Brown Institute have identified three major journalistic AI achievements to date:
Finding needles in haystacks: AI can find and fact-check faster than the human eye.
Identifying trends: AI can parse through data, again faster than humans, and group findings into categories to identify trends.
Examining an application of AI or computation as the subject of the story itself: Since AI algorithms are built by humans, AI can also proof itself for unintentional bias in its applications and outputs.
Further, there are several new successful applications of AI in newsrooms. One is Wibbitz, a resource used by USA Today to create short videos. Others include News Tracer, an algorithmic prediction tool that helps Reuters journalists gauge the integrity of a tweet and BuzzBot, software from BuzzFeed, which allows the collection of information from on-the-ground new sources. Still, journalists must be careful to evaluate the credibility of AI data, its sources and understand how the algorithms work.
Key steps to integrating AI in the newsroom:
Train editors and reporters to incorporate AI as a new resource for storytelling.
Develop and promote the use of AI guidelines regarding the ethical use of data. Further, public disclosure of methodology is a must especially in terms of editorial values and standards.
Small operations for which AI is too expensive should consider partnerships with academic institutions.
Reporters and journalists should continue to be transparent about AI usage in a report or how it’s used in the production of a story.
According to The Tow Center and Brown Institute, journalists have two main responsibilities. First, they need to present the information to the reader in a clear and concise manner. And second, they need to explain its authenticity. This includes the practice of AI, including full disclosure of details and formulas for its algorithms. Importantly, as AI helps facilitates the newsroom, journalists need to question and critique the process and the information received.
Consumers are swamped with video content options. New services continue to emerge in a fragmented marketplace of distribution platforms. It’s overwhelming for consumers and, as a result, much video content is left undiscovered and unwatched. Today’s video publishers need to do more than create (or acquire) must-see content. The need to attract and engage consumers and provide a return on investment to marketers.
Consumers have an appetite for new content. Half of consumers (55%) report they are looking for a new TV show or movie to watch at least once per week; 83%, a few times per month. Close to three-quarters (72%) of consumers are watching more video content than a year ago and just less than half (46%) are paying for more content.
Yet, consumers are frustrated with the content discovery process. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers agree that they often struggle to find something to watch, despite there being many choices available to them. Further, the findings show that half of consumers (50%) are frustrated when they search for content to watch compared to finding content to read (37%) or music to listen (32%).
Interestingly, pay-per-view customers (38%) enjoy searching for new video content to watch more than cord-cutters (31%) and cord-nevers (23%). Even cord-cutters are bothered by the process of finding content to watch. In fact, 74% agree that despite there being a lot of choices available to me, I often struggle to find something to watch and 61% also agree that searching for something to watch is frustrating.
There are several key influencers informing consumers viewing decisions. Streaming content plays an important role in content discovery. Eight in ten of all consumers (79%) and 90% of consumers under the age of 30 years old agree that streaming services play a large role in their discovery of new video content. Social media also helps consumers find what to watch (50%), especially for those under the age of 30. Interestingly while there are frequent discussions on social media about video content to watch, consumers don’t necessary based their viewing choices on these discussions.
Further, less than half (48%) of respondents said they are influenced by what their friends and family watch. Meanwhile, FOMO (fear of missing out) reportedly also drives 25% of consumer viewing habits.
Pay-TV subscribers and non-pay TV streamers differ in the top influences on new content discovery. Personalized recommendations appear to be missing its mark ranking number six for pay-tv subscribers and ranking number four non-pay TV steamers.
Browsing is still a popular way for consumers to find video content to watch. Almost half of consumers (47%) report that they came across a new show they recently watched while browsing for something to watch. The other top responses included commercials/advertisements looked good (44%), read a great review (32%), recommended to me based on another show I previously watched (27%) and people I know wouldn’t stop talking about it (23%). Consumers are also unpredictable. Eighty percent state that what they choose to watch is largely driven by their mood on that given day.
While 79% of consumers report they’ve watched a TV show or movie based on a recommendation from a content service and 90% state like what is recommended to them, personalized recommendations are still not the go-to source for consumers. Four key contributing factors as to why personalized recommendations are not working for consumers include:
Friends and family know better
Personalized recommendations are the shows the services are promoting
Not sure if the recommendation will be liked
Don’t want to waste time on starting a new show that may not be liked
Consumers want more clarity as to what is behind the personalized recommends. Consumers report they are more likely to watch personalized recommendations if additional context is included:
Provide criteria for high rating; provide details such as fast-paced, exciting, good characters (83%)
Allow to access reviews directly from platform (75%)
Quantify likelihood of enjoyment based on previous viewing habits or others with similar profiles (72%)
Offer specific reasons for poor ratings, for example, boring (72%)
Ability to link to reputable critics’ reviews directly from platform (68%)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help consumers find more content to fit their taste. AI can assist in content curation organizing content by themes. It can also use consumer insights to classify and target consumer segments to test recommendations. AI can look beyond genre categories and include a director, favorite actor, sub-sub-sub-genre, decade, special effects, costumes, etc. Personalization needs to be even more adaptive and include a temperature reading of mood. Content platforms should ask consumers how they feel. After all, 80% report their video content selection is often based on their daily mood.
Expanding the search function beyond individual platforms is also important to consumers. They not only want to know what to watch but where to watch. Helping consumers navigate the video content marketplace will assist the content selection process so that video gets found – and watched.
Fake news reaches one in four Americans, according to a new research study from Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College, Andrew Guess of Princeton University, and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter. The research provides the first individual-level estimates of visits to fake news websites. It analyzes web traffic data gathered from a sample of 2,525 Americans during the final weeks of the 2016 election campaign, from October 7 to November 14, 2016. Survey questions are also included in the analysis to provide insight into demographic and attitudinal variables and visits to fake news websites.
Overall, 27.4% or more than 65 million Americans age 18+ visited an article on a pro-Trump or pro Clinton fake news website. In total, fake news websites represented an average of approximately 2.6% of all the articles Americans read on sites focusing on hard news topics during this time-period. The pro-Trump or pro-Clinton fake news that people read heavily skewed toward Donald Trump. Consumers read an average of 5.45 articles from fake news websites with nearly all pro-Trump (average of 5.00 pro-Trump articles).
It’s important to note that fake news reached only a subset of Americans. Almost six in 10 visits to fake news websites came from 10% of people. Dr. Brendan Nyhan identifies these people as “voracious consumers of hard news” and “people intensely engaged in politics.”
Interestingly, supporters of Trump are far more likely to visit fake news websites than Clinton supporters. Among Trump supporters, 40% read at least one article from a pro-Trump fake news website compared with only 15% of Clinton supporters during this time-period. Trump supporters are more likely to consume pro-Trump fake news and less likely to consume pro-Clinton fake news relative to Clinton supporters. Further, older Americans, over age 60, are much more likely to visit a fake news site than younger people.
The research examined the URLs visited by a respondent immediately prior to visiting a fake news website. The association between Facebook usage and fake news website visits offers a direct inference in identifying Facebook as the most significant facilitator in directing people to fake news websites.
Fact checking is a current response to fake news. However, only one in four respondents said that they (25.3%) read a fact-checking article at least once from a dedicated national fact checking website. This is compounded by the fact that only 62% of the respondents say they are familiar with fact-checking. Importantly, the study found no instances of people reading a fake news article and a fact-check of that specific article. Consumption of fact-checks is concentrated among non-fake news consumers.
The research found the reach of fake news is wide yet narrow. Social media consumption offers consumers selective exposure of like-minded people and websites that reinforce personal and political biases. In other words, social media, specifically Facebook, offers a direct path to factually inaccurate but attitude-consistent information that reinforces their political views as theories of selective exposure predict.
Accenture’s research, which surveyed 24,877 consumers in 33 countries, found that 48% of consumers expect specialized treatment for being a good customer. And Accenture believes that this entails “next generation personalization” which they call “hyper-relevance.” Many current personalization tactics are static and relate to certain consumer behaviors. However, Hyper-relevance—like today’s digital consumers—is “always on.” It is much more dynamic, constantly changing and always available.
rather than focusing solely on customers’ purchase behaviors and preferences or relatively fixed attributes, such as their address or number of children, Accenture says it is essential to understand on customers’ needs in a given circumstance and the evolving context in which they make decisions.
As such, data gathered from website visits, social media posts, or previous purchase histories will not suffice. Rather, what’s needed is information that is much more personal in nature—such as health data transmitted via wearable biometric technologies. Needless to say, that’s getting highly personal. And when things get that personal, the potential rewards go up immensely. However, risk also rises.
It is heartening to note that two-thirds of those surveyed said that they are willing to share personal information with companies. But there’s a catch. They will only do so in exchange for some perceived value. And if that value exchange—or the trust upon which it is based—is broken, customers will quickly move on.
Accenture emphasizes that securing and maintaining consumer trust is a prerequisite to achieving the promise of intelligent personalization. They point out that it takes time to build trust, but that it can be shattered with one wrong move. Thus, companies must counter that risk by constantly presenting themselves as trustworthy, keeping their promises, and upholding their end of the value exchange agreement.
As companies seek to deliver hyper-relevance, Accenture makes three recommendations:
1. Look beyond the traditional customer journey
Companies that distinguish themselves with hyper-relevant experiences look beyond the traditional customer journey. They identify and prioritize those areas where hyper-relevance can deliver added value and quickly address the unexpected. Ask questions like: What can we offer once we realize our customer has missed her flight? Received a job promotion? Been forced to flee a hurricane? In these situations, customers need different things and relevance becomes supremely important.
2. Rethink data
Hyper-relevant companies don’t rely solely on descriptive analytics or traditional sources of information. They invest in predictive analytics, collaborate with an ecosystem of stakeholders to capture real-time snapshots of every consumer, and mine data in new ways to understand the customer journey that extends beyond core products and services and across channels. In addition, hyper-relevant companies redouble their data security efforts. They ensure customers have full control of their data across touch points. They eliminate duplicate requests for customer information and permissions. And they make sure all customer data is secure and visible to employees on a need-to-know basis.
3. Earn trust continuously
Trust must be a key consideration when designing hyper-relevant experiences, creating new customer value propositions, and serving as a critical resource when customers need them most. A company’s commitment to delivering the experiences that were promised and meeting customers’ expectations is paramount. Hyper-relevant companies understand their baseline level of trust, and eliminate issues or irrelevant offers that detract from the trust quotient. They make trust sustainable by establishing a rigorous process and a robust, cross-functional governance structure to continuously measure trust and hyper-relevant effectiveness—and act on their findings. Most importantly, they manage trust as the critical growth enabler it is.
The virtuous circle
Companies that are attentive to their customers’ concerns and reinforce their trust quotient are more likely to persuade customers to share personal information. That, in turn, helps to inform the design the kinds of hyper-relevant experiences that today’s consumers expect. So, while companies are finding valuable ways to leverage data to super-serve their best customers, they have also begun to realize that the digital trust consumers place in companies is as critical as the data itself.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and others continue to report increases in subscriptions. Undoubtedly, this is a trend that media organizations of all types would like to get in on. It is helpful, then, to understand who these subscribers are as well as why are they willing to pay for their news. A new study, The 3 types of news subscribers: Why they pay and how to convert them, from The American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs identifies the emotional and behavioral factors that affect consumers’ news subscription decisions. The research methodology included the use of in-depth interviews to uncover the values and motivations key to subscription habits.
Three types of subscribers (and how to attract them):
1. Civically Committed: those individuals supporting goals and initiatives that reflect their personal values. The Civically Committed subscribe to a higher-than-average number of subscriptions.
High willingness to pay for news content.
Views their support of journalism as a moral duty.
Subscription decisions are more emotional than practical.
Subscribes to a higher-than-average number of publications.
Prioritizes organizations whose goals and values align with their own.
High loyalty; likely to pay for subscriptions even if they aren’t using them.
Low price sensitivity.
Likely a news organization member, or donor.
Subscribes and donates to multiple news sources.
Likely donates to other causes and/or volunteers.
Strategies to attract
Publicize the news brand’s mission, values and community role. Ensure the brand’s mission and agenda is public. The Civically Committed support news organization aligned with their thinking.
Partner with civic-minded organizations and brands. Affiliate with causes the Civically Committed are already involved in and become part of their community.
Create events where they can meet journalists and get to know one another.
Reward them with appreciation. The Civically Committed see their subscription as an extension of themselves. Remember to thank them and be personal.
Allow them to donate to a news publication by adding a philanthropic relationship to their subscription. The Civically Committed want to support journalism.
2. Thrifty Transactors: consumers who pay for no-nonsense value and are highly selective in their subscriptions.
Moderate willingness to pay for news content.
News subscriptions are a combination of utility and relevance.
Price sensitive; needs to have high value.
Loyal to a small, highly curated number of publications.
Specific reasons for subscription such as part of a daily ritual.
Subscribers usually have at least one publication related to hobby or special interest.
Fans of coupon clipping.
May rely on a news publication for its coverage of one topic (look for digital users with high engagement in one area).
Strategies to attract
Provide excellence and ensure content stands out as high value and unique. Thrifty Transactors look to dedicated sources for items that really matter to them. Find these subject areas and serve the Thrifty Transactors.
Consider offering subscriptions by verticals or specialty areas. Thrifty Transactors only want to pay for the content they use so make sure they know the details of the publication’s reporting areas.
Think of magazine marketing partnerships to promote subscriptions of like content.
3. Elusive Engagers: generally do not like subscriptions. They see news and information as a commodity that should be free.
Low willingness to pay for news content.
Utility drives subscriptions.
Sees news and information as a commodity.
Not comfortable with transaction and commitment of subscription.
Likes free trials.
Likely to find content through search.
Strategies to attract:
Offer one-time-payment options with no commitment and include easy cancelation policy. It’s important to avoid monthly payment reminders.
Monetize Elusive Engagers outside of subscriptions. Market other products such as books, souvenirs, e-commerce, third-party paid promotions, etc.
The subscriber segments identified in this research are based on behavior, attitudes and beliefs, not demographics. This means an individual’s group will not likely change as they get older. However, further analysis of the segment groups by print and digital usage and demographics are also valuable in establishing marketing and monetization plans. Importantly, pinpoint the key differentiators of the news brand by segments to use in acquisition and renewal strategies.
Though sometimes it seems like we’ve been talking about it forever, Facebook became a leading referrer to publishing websites only in mid-2015, according to Parse.ly data. Around that same time, other news broke that was poised to impact traffic drivers: Google officially launched AMP.
Today, the two news stories again converge. We’ve seen Google take the “referral king” crown back, with Google accounting for 44% of traffic to our network, and 12% of external traffic to media sites specifically coming from Google referrals AMP pages.
We can thank supply and demand for some of this. According to Google, there have been more than four billion AMP pages published and over 25 million domains creating AMP pages. Google purports that AMP brings benefits that can explain the rise in referrals. The web giant commissioned a study that shows that “AMP leads to a 10% increase in website traffic with a 2x increase in time spent on page. For e-commerce websites using AMP, the study also found a 20% increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP pages.”
While these numbers point to a fairly big success for AMP so far, multiple causes likely contribute to the big picture numbers. Some of this shift to of referral traffic back to Google, AMP or otherwise, may be result of user preference for broader sources of information. Digital Content Next’s recent research showed that consumers have low levels of trust for news they get via social media, which could be a contributing factor. And perhaps the decline in Facebook as a primary driver of publisher traffic reflects Facebook’s desire to keep people in their app to try get a grip on the shifting tide of awakened media consumers.
However, it definitely shows the success of Google’s ability to sell AMP as a non-proprietary solution, versus Facebook Instant Articles. In short, development work done for AMP isn’t constrained to one audience or platform. Our research on referral traffic to publisher websites shows that the additional benefits may be mounting.
Adoption of AMP, it seems, has not just been embraced in Google searches but more broadly across the web. Over 3% of visitors to our publishing network visit through AMP off of Google, from sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. For context, all of Twitter’s referrals to publishers’ websites only accounts for 2.5% of total external referral traffic.
Whatever the cause, for publishers still considering the adoption of third-party distribution channels, or considering their continued support in 2018, understanding these numbers for your site and for the industry should play a role in decision making. Audience acquisition, engagement, and retention through them becomes not just an editorial strategy, but a product development one as well.
As the digital landscape continues to shift, it’s essential to understand the value of trust in digital media and the components needed to build a successful consumer relationship. New DCN research,Trust as a Proxy for Brand Value, shows that consumers today are increasingly using social media as their digital gateway to access information from news to entertainment. In fact, Facebook’s newsfeed is the number one place users go to get digital content.
Interestingly, our research uncovered that, while consumers use social platforms as a principal access point for information, they often do not trust the content they find there: Only 55% of consumers trust the information they find on social platforms. Furthermore, significantly fewer Millennials (45%) trust the information they find on social media. It appears that newsfeed automation and algorithms have a hand in the problem. Six in ten consumers (62%) agree that “there’s so much random content on social media, there’s no way to tell if an article is credible or not.”
As a result, a younger audience of “Social Skeptics” has emerged. Seven in ten of these consumers choose quality brand sites for content and prefer brand sites/apps for information. In fact, 41% of Social Skeptics have subscribed to digital content, which also signals a preference for premium content. This high-value audience is quite desirable: 61% are under the age of 40 and 68% purchased an item in the last month based on an ad they saw online.
The DCN research also showed that “fake news” and the spread of misinformation is impacting consumer trust in digital media. Eighty-two percent of consumers agree that “there is a lot of fake news on social media.” The fake news problem doesn’t stop there. Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed noted they find a lot of fake news on brand sites and apps as well. Younger generations (Millennials and Gen-Xers) are even more likely to say there is a fake news problem. Misleading headlines, too many ads, and sensational, clickbait articles are top items that break consumer trust.
Brand sites build trust by delivering on key attributes, such as credibility and accuracy, which correlate highly to both trust and importance. However, there are also hidden drivers which are less obvious—but correlate highly to trust. These include popularity, virality, and personalization, all of which are important strategies to employ and very much a part of the algorithms of platforms.
Four key building blocks of trust that brand sites should incorporate into their strategies were uncovered in the DCN research. All four components are important in establishing and maintaining brand trust.
attribution: confirming information with multiple sources;
reputation: acting as an authority;
navigation: ease-of-use /smart user experience;
prediction: positive past experience and direct relationship with the consumer.
Consumer trust in brand sites also positively impacts advertisers on the site. Higher trust in brand sites results in a trust halo effect for advertisers. Brand sites provide a significant boost in advertiser trust and positive perception compare to social media and YouTube.
Two attributes that highly correlate to the importance and trust of advertisers on brand sites include emotional connection and identification with the style and tone of the brand site. In terms of building trust for the advertisers on a brand site, these two components resonate significantly with Millennials as compared to other generations.
Consumer expectations around trust is higher for brand sites and apps. Consumers expect them to be trustworthy, credible, accurate, and up-to-date. Thus, brands should closely monitor trust and work to maintain it as a key differentiator in the volatile digital media marketplace.
Digital Content Next (DCN) and the Reuters Institute both released significant studies on trust in digital information within a week of each other. Here’s a topline analysis of the many consistencies in the findings important to navigating the future of digital content and building trust in media.
First and foremost, it’s important to note each methodology and identify the differences. Here’s how they compare:Here are some of Reuters’ top findings (and how they compare with DCN’s):
Social media is trusted less than the news media in its ability to separate fact from fiction. Respondents think newsfeeds are filled with inaccurate information, extreme agendas, and strong opinions, perhaps encouraged by social media algorithms.
Supports DCN’s findings of 62% agree “There’s so much random content on social media, there’s no way to tell if an article is credible or not.”
A significant proportion of respondents feel journalists do a good job in checking sources, verifying facts, and providing evidence to back up claims.
Supports DCN’s findings regarding the building blocks of the Trust Model and the importance of key components: brand sites must focus on four key areas to build trust: attribution (confirming multiple sources), reputation or authority, navigation/user experience, and prediction — building a direct relationship with consumers that builds upon past experiences.
In talking about trust, people mention television brands more than any other type of media (e.g. print or online).
Supports DCN’s findings in the regarding top trust brands – Newspaper and TV/Cable legacy brands historically rooted in media.
Some media outlets are taking sides, encouraging polarized set of opinions.
Supports DCN’s recommendation that Brand sites and apps should focus on what’s vital to consumers to drive trust, position their content as regularly updated, respected, and authentic in addition to the core positioning of high quality and trustworthy.
A substantial minority who trust social media, do so for its broad range of views and authenticity.
The news media needs to differentiate itself more from information that has not gone through the same professional checking processes
DCN’s recommendation that fake news and distracting settings are significant problems in the digital landscape. A good opportunity for premium publishers to market themselves as a destination to avoid these annoyances.
The media need to do a better job in separating facts from opinion.
Correlates to DCN’s discussion of vital drivers of trust. Premium content should be in-depth, respected, expert and authentic. These are the definitions of trust that move the needle.
Build a more representative media – in terms of age, politics, economic outlook, and gender – is likely to help answer the criticism that media is only looking after the interests of the establishment (we don’t speak to diversification of reporting).
Building trust takes a strong commitment from publishers and platforms, alike, to develop a successful consumer relationship. It requires understanding and strategically implementing components and drivers of trust. Importantly, the need for self-monitoring is essential to ensure accurate and credible reporting is commonly practiced.
Viewability is at the center of every digital media buy. It’s the metric that assures consumers have an opportunity to see a digital advertisement. The Media Rating Council (MRC), an independent third-party, has established a framework for measuring and reporting viewability. The MRC’s standard for viewability includes two factors: the amount an ad is shown on screen and the amount of time the ad is viewed on screen. A display ad is considered viewable if half its pixels are on the screen for one second. A video ad must be on screen for at least two consecutive seconds. The standard is meant to be a minimum threshold for determining an “opportunity-to-see.”
Not surprisingly, the research shows that the more viewable a digital ad is and the more screen time it has, the more likely it is to be effective. The more viewable campaigns are, the more likely they are to lead to a consumer action to buy, click or register, etc.
However, viewability is one of many factors connected to a campaign’s success. Additional metrics such as ad interaction also show a positive relationship with conversions. Specifically, Magna reports a direct relationship between consumers who interact longer with ads during exposure and their conversion rates. For example, the longer consumers interact with ads during exposure, the more likely they are, at some point, to convert to an action.
The research provides confirmation that the MRC baseline of viewability is clearly connected to ad effectiveness. It is significant to note that the research also proves that higher levels of viewability required by some agencies (80% to 100%) has no additional impact on ad effectiveness.
It’s important for marketers to experiment and test viewability rates and engagement levels to find the best performing combinations. Importantly, measurement of campaign success should include metrics that relate to performance goals. Other metrics such as such as cost, conversion task, target audience, ad format, frequency and others may also to the story of an ad’s performance.
Brand safety measures are a key concern for advertisers given recent headlines highlighting safety limitations in the programmatic advertising buying process. Advertisers and brand marketers often resort to open exchanges and ad networks for large volumes of inventory and to reach demographic targets. As a result, their ads may be found next to offensive or inappropriate digital and video content. The CMO Council, in partnership with Dow Jones, examines the impact of unsuitable ad placement on consumer satisfaction and perception of digital advertising in their research report “How Brands Annoy Fans.”
To provide context, the research also provides insights on the consumers’ view of the digital content environment. A full three-quarters of the 2,000 consumer respondents surveyed in North America and in the UK report that they are concerned with the growing number of fake and biased news sites. Further, consumers surveyed rank social media last among their five most trusted information channels, following friends, TV, search engines and newspapers. As a result, 60% of respondents now seek their content from brand sites with trusted content.
These findings indicate that environment impacts the overall advertising experience. Most consumers (88%) state a negative advertising experience may make them think differently about the advertised brand. Nearly half of all consumers (48%) indicate they would rethink purchasing brands or would boycott products whose ads appear alongside digital content that offends or concerns them. Further, 38% report they would lose trust in a brand that advertises next to objectionable content.
Importantly, ad placement in specific channels has a direct impact on how consumers perceive those brands. Additional findings on the effect of ad placement on consumer intent include:
64% of consumers state they respond better to ads delivered from a trusted news site than those that appear on social media or search.
If ads are near to objectional content, 37 percent report it changes how they think of the brand, and 11% state they will boycott the brand.
Advertisers and programmatic platforms need to take these findings to heart as consumers are ready and willing to their business elsewhere. Importantly, where marketers run their ads is just as important as the ads themselves. Brands need to ensure their ads are adjacent to appropriate content among trusted-brand websites in well-lit environments.
What makes a great headline, and why? How can headlines make the casual skimmer stop and read? While much has changed in media’s shift from print to digital, these fundamental questions haven’t. Editors and writers correctly describe headline writing as an art — but with all the technology out there, there is a scientific way to put evidence behind that art, and help publishers grow their engaged readership as a result.
Reading, scanning, skipping, sharing – our reading behaviors have changed dramatically in recent years. Chartbeat data shows that on average, only around half (55%) of readers who click through to content actually read what they land on.
The context of headline writing has changed as well. Media objectivity, which involves writing factually true and balanced content, is sometimes at odds with the goals of social media marketing, which values metrics like shares, likes and clicks. Increasing readers’ engagement with content can align objectivity and editorial integrity with the need to grow audience in a world where more than half of traffic to publisher sites is driven by platforms like Facebook.
However, publishers can support those better reading behaviors. Recent Chartbeat research shows that despite our changing reading and writing habits, there are scientific ways to improve the likelihood that something will get read.
The role of language and technology
In an analysis of around 100,000 headline tests and 250,000 individual headlines, we examined linguistic traits of successful and unsuccessful headlines and found that language really does matter.
What we see is that words like “what” and “where,” as well as numbers, quotations and superlatives (like best and worst) lead to more readership, whereas using question marks or time references can actually hurt. Interestingly, short headlines actually have a negative effect on readership of content as well, whereas notably longer headlines have no effect.
In a separate study, we also looked at the impact of headline testing technology and its ability to improve the number of visitors who read for more than 15 seconds. What we found surprised us. In a comprehensive evaluation of headline tests that use Chartbeat’s multi-armed bandit testing model, we discovered that alternative headlines – ones that, without testing, would never have seen the light of day – outperform the original roughly two-thirds, or 62% of the time. That means most headline writers only get headlines right the first time for 38% of stories. But technology can vastly improve these results.
A headline should not only entice readers to click and see more; it should drive consumption of a story. Of those 62% of stories, the alternate headline saw on average a 78% lift in traffic. It also led to a 71% lift in readership, measured by quality clicks: visitors who spend more than 15 seconds or more of engaged time with an article.
The bottom line
While gut instinct around language matters, technology can enhance that ability to find the right fit between content and audience. This, in turn, can dramatically improve engagement with content.
These days, publishers wear many hats. They have to write, edit, promote, monetize, optimize and grow quality audiences. The good news is that science — both in terms of predictive modeling and engagement-focused technologies — can help us improve the imperfect art of writing so we can better connect with readers and, ultimately, with each other.
Fraudulent news poses new challenges in today’s digital society. As such, there is a need for best practices and practical solutions to repair tainted digital information streams. In an effort to develop effective solutions and remedy the information disorder, the Council of Europe commissioned research to delve into the digital information and communication process. The newly released report, Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy, offers a detailed insights at a global scale and examines the agents, messages, and audiences involved.
The term “fake news” was intentionally not used in the report. Instead, three new terms were introduced to better define the reporting and sharing of false and inaccurate information.
Dis-information is false information purposely created to harm a person, a social group, an organization or a country.
Mis-information is false information not created with the intention of initiating harm.
Mal-information information that is based on reality used to bring harm to a person, a social group, an organization or a country.
The phases and elements of information disorder
Three components are identified in the process of information disorder: the agent, the message, and the interpreter. Agents are involved in all phases of the information chain from its creation, production to distribution. It’s important to explore and provide context to agents to identify them and their motivation. Discovering who the agent is, and the purpose of the message is an important part of the evaluation to help stop the information disorder process.
Evaluating the agent
Is the agent acting as an official person/group (e.g. intelligence services), a politician, a news organization or an unofficial person/group?
Is the agent organized as an individual, an official business group (e.g., PR firms or lobbying groups) or a group casually organized group around common interests?
Is the agent motivated financially to profit from the information, politically to discredit a candidate, socially to connect with a specific group of people or psychologically to gain status?
Is the agent human, automated by technology or both?
What audience is the agent targeting?
Is the agent’s intent to mislead??
Is the agent’s intent to harm?
Examining the message
The message itself also needs to be examined. Analyzing the content for key characteristics is important to determine the accuracy of the information. Asking these questions will also help to identify intent of content.
Is the message for short-term or long-term intent?
How accurate is the message?
Is the message legal or does it include hate speech or privacy infringements, etc.?
Is the message posing as an official source to appear credible?
Who is the intended audience?
Factoring in interpretation
The last component to evaluate in the process of information disorder is the interpreter, the recipient of the message. Audiences, individuals or groups, all react to messages in different manners. Understanding how individuals and groups consume information is critical to understanding the flow of the information. Further, identifying what audiences do with the information, such as commenting, or sharing, are an important part of understanding the intent of the content.
A few efforts were introduced last year to stop the information disorder. They include Tim Cook’s, CEO of Apple, call for Public Service Announcement about dis-information, new technologies to take down bots, and the addition of labels to identify different types of content on social media. Facebook and Google have also announced ways to prevent fake sites from earning ad revenue through their advertising platforms. Unfortunately, none of the programs impede the continuous flow of fraudulent content.
The issue is complex and efforts toward solutions need to work across multi-levels using technology companies, consumers, educational institutes and others. Importantly, it’s essential for all constituents to receive steady reminders
Consumers are very familiar with digital recommendations. Suggestions online are a constant and come in all varieties from recommendations on new products to purchase, to new songs for your playlist, to new individuals to connect with to news posts in your newsfeed. As consumers spend more time on social platforms consuming content and expressing their views on just about everything, more data is collected, and more algorithms are employed to extract value from consumer information. However, consumers appear mystified as to what usage data tech platforms collect and how it’s parlayed into algorithms to impact their content results.
The Tow Center for Digital Journalism examines this question and others in their study, “Readers are hungry for news feed transparency.” In all, they conducted 13 focus groups across four cities with news consumers. The goal was to understand consumer usage and to clarify the role of algorithms in terms of tech platforms’ accountability and transparency, particularly in the distributed news environments.
Key findings include:
1. Tech platforms and news habits
Participants claim that their news and information consumption on tech platforms is more of a consequence and not their main intent upon visiting. They believe the ease and convenience of accessing news when visiting social platforms fuels this pattern of news consumption.
News audiences understand few details about platform algorithms. In fact, many participants have little awareness of algorithm usage. While, others see algorithms as filters for relevant content and personalization. Still others think their usage remains independent of algorithms and generally overestimate their degree of control on their news feeds. Interestingly, many participants said they are willing to leave tech platforms because of the lack of transparency with their algorithms and privacy practices.
3. Local news
Participants think local news has little to no visibility on tech platforms.
Audiences claim they can recognize publishers’ brands on platforms. They also admit to sharing fake news, thinking at the time it was accurate and truthful. Many participants identify what the Tow Center refers to as the “third-person effect.” According to the participants, they of course, recognize solid news brands but it’s “others” who do not and end up sharing fake news.
Participants link fake news to social platforms and place responsibility on them for allowing fraudulent information to be shared. While consumers debate platforms’ ethical responsibilities, they agree that offering ineffective solutions to identify fake news is not the answer. Further, audiences also see platforms as often having political biases. They think platforms are quite challenged in their ability to remain politically neutral.
5. Privacy on social platforms
Participants are concerned with tech platforms’ black box practices and lack of transparency, yet they appear resigned to the practice of data collection. Surprisingly, data collection is viewed as the price paid for accessing these platforms. Not surprisingly, the younger the participant, the more accepting of a platform’s data collection practices.
6. Business models
Participants acknowledge the value of news content; however, they often engage in practices to avoid publisher paywalls. The ease to which consumers can access news content on social platforms reinforces the practice of non-paid for content.
In terms of advertising, native advertising and the use of sponsored links such as “recommended links” or “partner content” is viewed with little trust and appears to carry negative views on the publisher.
The research suggests a necessary unveiling of algorithm practices for both publisher and tech platforms to maintain a trusted relationship with their audiences. It’s essential to offer tools and education to verify brands and the legitimacy of content and to unveil algorithms, tracking and privacy policies.
As Facebook and Google continue to dominate the US digital advertising market — and capture nearly all its growth — digital publishers look to paid content for stable revenue and diversification. Consumer subscription models also provide publishers with a strong consumer touch point, allowing for deeper data and insights for content development and engagement. New Digital Content Next (DCN) proprietary media strategy research, DCN Paid Content Benchmark and Best Practices – Part 1 provides marketplace intelligence on paid content revenues and deal structures to support premium publishers with ongoing efforts to accelerate revenue diversification.
DCN members are actively developing paid content initiatives including direct-to-consumer subscription products and third-party revenue streams for licensed content. The study shows that monetization of distributed content for the first half of 2017 represent an estimated $22.4 million average revenue for the 20 participating DCN member companies. This report encompasses branded SVOD products (e.g. PBS Passport) managed by digital publishing operations, it does not include long-form digital video content through third-party virtual MVPDs (e.g. Hulu Live), SVOD services (e.g. Netflix) and download-to-own channels (e.g. Amazon). These businesses are for the most part run from corporate distribution operations.
One quarter of digital revenue comes from digital content subscriptions, and 27% from paid content overall. It’s important to note that eight companies reported less than 5% of their revenue coming from paid content.
Eighty percent of paid content is comprised of consumer subscription products sold directly by publishers, while the balance is divided between licensing and syndication (11%) and third-party sales of consumer subscription products (9%).
Companies reported an average of 12.3 digital subscription products sold directly to consumers, however after adjusting for the large portfolios of print brands included in the study, the average is 2.9 digital subscription products per company.
Facebook and Google technologies and policies limited publishers’ ability to leverage new audiences sourced through distributed content. Such subscription business models require the control of paywalls, the ability to track and differentiate the experience of repeat visitors, and the capture of data to manage the relationship with subscribers. Facebook and Google’s recent announcements of plans to support publisher digital subscription models with subscription tools and new policies are promising but still at early stages of planning and activation.
DCN identified five best practices publishers developed for successfully managing paid content.
Support commitments to paid content initiatives at the highest levels of top management.
Invest in premium content — including the creation of original content — for direct-to consumer subscription products that inform, educate, enrich, benefit, entertain and thrill consumers to drive subscriptions, high levels of engagement and renewal.
Support direct-to-consumer subscription products with opportunity for growth with investments in dedicated staffing, marketing, and technology and develop disciplined subscription marketing operations to optimize your marketing spend.
Where possible, push for a high level of accommodations from key third-parties – Amazon, Facebook and Google in particular — for subscription content and products. These platforms need to continue to develop policies and tools that provide for the data capture, paywall management and the direct customer relationships required to manage a subscription business.
TV/cable companies should also consider launching strongly branded Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services.
While there are many examples of digital subscription success, there are still those publishers who exhibit a cautious yet opportunistic approach. DCN Paid Content Benchmark and Best Practices (which is only available in full to members of DCN) serves as the starting point for additional member research on paid content planned for 2018. Next up is a series of case studies that will dive deeper into the strategies and best practices that are driving success for select DCN member companies.
The UK TV industry has always punched above its weight class. Smaller than Oregon, with a population equivalent to that of California and Texas (66 million), the British TV sector is a vibrant £14 billion a year ($18.58bn/yr) business, which has created formats, content, and executives, who have made their mark around the world.
So, what the can media organizations everywhere learn from their smaller cousins across the pond? Here are seven ideas and considerations (not, by all means, unique to the UK) worth exploring:
1. Consider moving millennial orientated services online only
We know that millennials consume content differently. They’re more likely to watch video content on devices like smartphones and laptops than older demographics. They’re less likely to watch TV-like services on an actual TV.
Against this backdrop, in 2016 the BBC made their youth targeted TV network, BBC Three, online-only. In part, the move reflected the fact that younger audiences are increasingly consuming less linear TV. But, it also yielded major savings (estimated at c.£30 million / $39.6 million p.a.) as the online-only service requires less original programing, and isn’t burdened with the same transmission and distribution costs.
The BBC’s move didn’t just make financial sense, it was also an effort to more explicitly take content to the spaces that their younger audiences inhabit.
2. Explore opportunities for ad free options
British viewers have grown up in an environment where TV advertising is much less pervasive. The BBC, for example, has no adverts at all, just trailers for other BBC programs and services.
“Seven in ten (67%) say they like to watch TV programs and films on demand to avoid adverts, or because there are no adverts,” UK communications regulator, Ofcom, recently noted.
This preference – coupled with the use of ad blockers on web based TV services – should be a cause for concern, given the continued importance of traditional advertising. One potential solution, explored by the UK’s oldest commercial broadcaster ITV, is to offer a premium IP delivered service that mirrors the ad-free experience provided by HBO and Netflix.
In 2013 the network launched an iOS app that allowed Apple users to watch the last thirty days of their content (from five different TV services) without advertising, as well as live simulcast of ITV3 and ITV4, for £3.99 ($5.27) per month.
The service, called ITV Hub+, has now been rolled out to other platforms including Smart TV’s. (It also costs £3.99 a month.) Will consumers pay more for this convenience? Evidence suggest they will, and this is therefore a model that other broadcasters may want to emulate.
3. Be everywhere
Given the range of ways in which audiences consume – and access content – it’s increasingly incumbent on broadcasters and other content providers to be as accessible as possible.
The BBC iPlayer, an internet streaming, catchup, television and radio service from the BBC, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has always been available across wide range of devices, including mobile phones and tablets, PCs, gaming devices and Smart TV’s.
BBC Three, their youth orientated service, doesn’t just live on the BBC’s own app and web services, it also has its own YouTube channel with full episodes – and entire series – available to watch.
Other UK broadcasters have followed suit. The ITV Hub, for example, is now available on 30 different platforms, including Google Chromecast, and Xbox. At the end of 2016, the broadcaster noted that consumption (the measure of the number of hours watched) is up by 43% in the past year; and, interestingly, that Live TV accounted for c.30% of all requests.
4. Embrace bingeing, archive access, and offline viewing
On-demand services like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix have changed viewing behaviors. As a result, traditional broadcasters need ask whether they too should go “all in” and do things differently.
That might mean releasing new series in their entirety, offering new content for download and offline viewing (which the BBC and others offer) as well as providing “digital boxsets” so that audiences can binge on older shows.
These moves are not just designed to protect revenues and audience share, they also reflect evolving consumers behaviors. Failure to respond to these expectations means that traditional broadcasters risk being left behind.
5. Serve better ads, because audiences still watch a lot of TV
It’s not just online ads that are often terrible, many TV commercials aren’t great either. And yet, we continue to watch a lot of TV, creating prime conditions to deliver strong, effective, advertising to captive audiences.
“The average time spent watching broadcast TV across our 15 comparator countries,” the UK communications regulator noted, “was 3 hours 41 minutes per person per day in 2015.”
That’s a lot of screen time (most of it live viewing) which, when coupled by the mass audiences TV can still reach, continues to remain attractive to many advertisers.
6. Innovate and experiment with new forms of ad delivery
TV’s mass reach makes it an appealing medium for advertisers. Yet, at the same time, we also know that audience’s attention is increasingly fragmented. For many younger audiences, TV is already the second screen, and has been for some time.
As far back as 2012, the Pew Research Center found that 58% of smartphone owners used their phone to keep themselves “occupied during commercials or breaks”. But, Pew found, respondents were often engaged in second screen activity related to what they were watching. This resulted in advertisers trying to find new ways to engage audiences on their second screen. (See some great examples below targeting Game of Thrones fans).
Personalization, time-shifted ads and the use of products (like Sky AdSmart in the UK) to serve different ads to different households (or different people in the same household) against the same content, may still be relatively small markets, but they’re expected to grow quickly. As such, they’re a technology that broadcasters need to be doing more than keeping an eye on.
7. Recognize online revenues can be a major growth area
In 2016, TV revenues in the UK were worth £13.8bn, a figure which is remarkably resilient considering that TV revenues in 2011 stood at £13.3bn.
The sector’s revenue mix has also proved to be surprisingly durable. In 2016, 30% of UK TV revenue was generated by advertising, compared to 29% in 2011, subscriptions accounted for 46% of revenues in 2016 and 44% in 2011, and broadcasters enjoyed 30% of total UK display advertising in 2016, down just 1% from five years ago.
However, this relative stability doesn’t mean that sector can rest on their laurels. Finding new revenue sources, remains important. And in this space, online revenues are growing fast.
In 2011, online revenues were worth £0.3bn for UK TV companies. Jump forward to 2016, and this figure was £1.7bn, a substantial increase. Given this rapid growth, and stagnation in other areas, expect more efforts to be focused on this space.
“Despite fundamental changes in the advertising market over the last ten years,” writes regulator Ofcom in their latest UK Communications Market Report, “the television advertising market has remained very resilient due to its primacy in providing mass audiences.”
That’s not going to change any time soon, but as viewing habits on both sides of the Atlantic continue to evolve, so broadcasters and advertisers need to refine their strategies accordingly. This means finding new ways to capture attention, serve relevant – and increasingly targeted – ads, and experiment with new revenue models.
Three areas that I believe merit more attention are: more flexible pricing models – recognizing that many audiences love to watch certain shows, series or events, but that they don’t necessarily want (or can afford) a year-round subscription – simulcasting shows (nationally and internationally) to prevent piracy, and identifying opportunities to both reduce churn, and discourage the illegal sharing of logons and subscriptions.
What we see in the UK, as well as here in the US, is that although TV’s business model is changing, there are opportunities to diversify both content distribution and income strategies. How broadcasters continue to respond to the challenges – and opportunities – presented by digital disruption, is a subject many of us will continue to watch with interest.
Damian Radcliffe is the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, a Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. (And, by way of disclosure, Damian is originally from the U.K.)
The continuous stream of false information and mounting consumer mistrust challenges today’s media environment. When fake news becomes a daily battle cry for consumers and politicians alike, it’s time to rethink current reporting practices. The PEN American Center’s new report, Making News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, reviews journalism and media interactions to identify how best to rebuild consumer trust in news outlets today.
Figuring out fakes
What exactly is fake news? It includes clickbait and misleading headlines as well as fraudulent news for profit or political reasons. On the other hand, “good-faith mistakes” or editorial points of view don’t fall under the fake news umbrella. PEN America defines fraudulent news as “demonstrably false information that is being presented as a factual news report with the intention to deceive the public.”
Importantly, while there is no quick-fix to stop fraudulent news, restricting or governing speech is not the solution. That said, digital media’s content and search algorithms are no excuse. Popular information channels like Facebook and Google need to behave responsibly, given their powerful roles. When Google shares content to supply a search result and Facebook curates content for its newsfeeds, they take on the responsibility to ensure the information they share is truthful. Social media and technology platforms need to step up their game to curtail the spread of fraudulent news.
The game plan
The report calls upon users, news outlets, policymakers, educators, social media and technology platforms and others in six key areas to support consumers in their efforts to combat fraudulent news and rebuild trust in media outlets. The six steps approach includes:
1. Educate to create informed consumers of news across all platforms.
Policymakers and educators:
Identify effective forms of news literacy education.
Engage and prepare teachers to educate the public on news literacy.
Use all media platforms to inform citizens about the foundation of news literacy.
2. Equip the public to differentiate between fact and fiction.
Technology, social media platforms and other news intermediaries:
Identify those producing fraudulent news to ensure they do not profit from advertising revenues and marketing dollars.
Develop or invest in technologies and practices to quickly identify fraudulent efforts (e.g. bots) that increase traffic and suggest credibility of information.
Detect fraudulent traffic so it’s visible to users.
Fortify partnerships with independent fact-checking organizations. Ensure their work is easily available and understandable to users.
Encourage news literacy plans and support through funding and partnerships.
Introduce users to content outside their personal views. Ensure users can control what they see and receive.
Appoint independent spokesperson(s) to reply to the public questions on these policies.
Collaborate with academic researchers and civil liberties advocates to understand effectiveness of educational programs and policies.
Ensure employees can speak candidly about preventing the spread of fake news.
Guarantee there is an appeal process for those identified as publishers of fake news.
3. Exemplify the values of collecting and distributing credible news.
Highlight transparency practices including the editing practices and the management of errors.
Carefully label content to identify information reports versus an opinion or analysis.
Ensure independent spokesperson(s) focuses on transparency and accountability.
Assist in the public education regarding the harms of fake news.
Proactively engage in civic and education initiatives to improve media literacy.
4. Engage users of different groups to better understand the passion or trigger points that influence their trust in the news media.
News outlets, social media platforms, educators, research institutes, and civil society:
Identify and understand the drivers of media distrust.
Offer opposing sides of topics to fight fraudulent news.
Include voices from across the political spectrum.
Ensure objectivity in operations and including the reasoning behind conclusions.
5. Expose those who purposely spread fake news.
News organizations and civil society:
Report the ways in which fake news is created and distributed.
6. Empower people to help disarm fake news practices.
Policymakers, news outlets, social media platforms, and civil society:
Refute those who deny validity of news.
Protect sources especially with concerns of national security.
Support the news of those in the minority.
Publicly reject all efforts to denigrate the news media or undercut the legitimacy of their work and reaffirm commitment to the freedom of the press.
Counter government efforts to close or limit media outlets.
Defend freedom of the press.
Consumers, news outlets, social media and technology platforms all have a role in combating fraudulent news. Importantly, empowering consumers is the ultimate solution to reviving trust in media. Today’s users have the right to exchange information but now they need the necessary tools to conscientiously access its credibility.
Over the past year, advertisers have devoted more dollars to programmatic native than ever before. And it’s easy to see why. Programmatic native gives native scale, while bringing more efficiency and data-targeting into the equation. Nativo, TripleLift, Sharethrough, Unruly, and Bidtellect are some of the most well-known players/programmatic native exchanges in this space.
To get a clearer picture of today’s programmatic native ad market, my company, MediaRadar, pulled together some of the most pressing trends on the year so far.
It’sa growing market
The number of advertisers placing native in Q1 2017 was nearly identical to Q1 2016 (2,318 vs. 2,326 brands). However, there was a sharp increase in Q2 2017, where the number of advertisers grew 42%, from 2,100 to 2,981 native programmatic advertisers. Why the surge? Good performance. As I have shared previously, programmatic native is generally evaluated on the same KPIs as display. In a contest against most standard IAB ad display units, programmatic native scores well with high click-rates and engagement. And it can scale.
Penetration is low
Despite the fast rise in programmatic native, 122,241 brands were buying advertising online in the first half of the year. This means that as a% of total, only 2.5% of those brands buy native programmatic. We are only scratching the surface here. Even though large national brands make up the early adopters, there is still significant room for programmatic native to grow. This is welcome news for native exchanges that sell this kind of advertising. They know the opportunity is poised to grow substantially.
Renewal rates are mixed
While total numbers are strong, quarterly renewal rates on programmatic native remain challenged, with only 20% renewing. Specifically, the brands buying in the first half of 2017 share just 20% of the same brands from the first half of 2016. So, for programmatic native to continue its expansion, brands will have to recognize its benefits and make a long-term commitment to the format.
Campaign duration varies
Campaign duration remains short, with most native campaigns lasting a median of one month. In Q1 and Q2 2017, 14% and 20% of advertisers ran multi-month campaigns, respectively. During this time period, renewal rates on longer campaigns were much higher than shorter-term campaigns. This is why renewal rates and campaign duration are often tied together tangentially. Longer campaigns mean more of an opportunity to tweak and amend programs, which feeds into higher renewals.
Programmatic native is on the rise. And while there are some challenges – namely measuring performance of programmatic native and no definitive, standard set of metrics, as well as some market confusion about what programmatic native can offer – the benefits outweigh them. Yes, the market is still in its infancy – relative to its potential – but it’s becoming increasingly popular. And it has a lot of room to grow.
A study conducted by International Center for Journalists survey set out to answer a critical question: Are journalists keeping pace with the digital revolution? Despite making strides in leveraging new technologies, the study concluded that the answer is no.
The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms takes a deep look at the adoption of digital technologies at a wide range of news media organizations worldwide. Working with Georgetown University, the International Center for Journalists conducted the study in 12 languages, and received more than 2,700 responses from journalists and newsroom managers in 130 countries.
Key takeaways include:
Newsrooms still face a deep technology gap.
Digital journalism has made some substantial gains.
In an era when fake news and hacking have proliferated, too few journalists are taking the proper precautions.
While most newsrooms find it challenging to gain trust with their audiences, there are two major exceptions.
New revenue models are emerging, but not fast enough.
Newsrooms have yet to fully embrace analytics data to make decisions.
Journalism is a young person’s profession.
The digital training journalists want is not what their newsrooms think they need.
Today’s media organizations
The report examines technological investment, use, and staffing across different types of newsrooms in the digital age. ICFJ identified three newsroom types based on their primary distribution platforms:
Traditional news organizations, which disseminate information primarily in the legacy formats of newspaper, television, print magazines, and radio. Though these organizations may have a website or some digital presence, their primary platform is a traditional format.
Digital-only news organizations that exclusively publish in an online format.
Hybrid news organizations, which use a combination of traditional and digital formats. Many hybrid organizations have transitioned from being traditional news outlets.
The report finds that digital-only and hybrid newsrooms are outpacing traditional media in most of the world. In fact, according to the ICFJ, news organizations that disseminate content primarily in traditional print, television, and radio formats are disappearing from the global media landscape. Overall, the majority of journalists surveyed work for news organizations that are either fully digital (33%) or a hybrid of traditional and online (40%). About one-quarter are employed by traditional news organizations.
Today’s newsrooms have access to a multitude of new platforms and formats — from social media to mobile apps to virtual reality, which they use to distribute their stories and reach wider audiences. Though the range of tools has expanded, the news industry relies heavily on the two social media giants: Facebook and Twitter.
Though digital-only and hybrid newsrooms are more likely to use Facebook, traditional organizations (which use digital but not as a primary distribution format) are not very far behind. Three-quarters of traditional newsrooms reported using the social media site to push out content, compared to 93% of digital-only and 91% of hybrid.
Hybrid organizations are the most likely to cut their newsroom staffs, with 41% reporting that their staff size has decreased in the past year. Traditional newsrooms are a close second, at 38%. Digital-only newsrooms are at the opposite end of the spectrum, with only 17% reporting that their staff size has decreased, compared to the 50% that reported adding more staff members.
Digital-only newsrooms are also more likely to have older personnel – in the 51-55 age group – than both their traditional and hybrid counterparts. Traditional newsrooms also have a higher percentage of staff in the 25-29 age group than hybrid ones, following digital-only newsrooms in this category.
Hybrid and digital-only newsrooms are more likely than traditional newsrooms to have digital content producers/editors and tech professionals on staff, though the number of these positions remains small compared to established roles.
The study shows that many journalists are hired into their positions without experience working in digital media or significant digital skills. While on-the-job-training remains an essential tactic for staff-strapped media newsrooms. However, news professionals almost universally agree that training is important to help them meet the demands of their job.
As the report points out, the digital era is forcing newsrooms to adapt to a constantly evolving space. They face an array of major challenges, including shifting revenue models, attracting loyal advertisers, engaging audiences, and developing new storytelling formats. While journalists (and the media organizations they work for) continue to experiment with a range of digital tools, the report makes it clear that continued investment, innovation, and development of the digital skillset is required.
A year after Apple announced the arrival of the subscription app model as part of a wider sweep of changes it made to its App Store policies, the size and scope of this new app category is exceeding analyst expectations. It is also paving the way for content companies to grow audience numbers and engagement.
Content companies that embrace the model can plan their business with high confidence that they will attract high-value users and generate a predictable cash flow. This is because consumers who buy into subscriptions commit to a recurring fee and – generally speaking – stick to their decision. Their resolve is inextricably intertwined with a concept known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy. Simply put, people who have invested time or resources in something don’t want to see it go to waste. Think of the times you rented a movie and, even though it wasn’t great, you watched it to the end. Now you’ve got the gist.
Consumer commitment colored by this fascinating bias bodes extremely well for companies that offer subscription apps. In fact, as far back as 2014, research found consumers would buy into subscription apps if the price was right. Specifically, the Branchfire research into consumer attitudes toward subscription apps found that “$10 a month is the sweet spot for subscribers.”
Are subscriptions right for you?
Fast forward, and the range of subscription apps has expanded to include much more than streaming media providers like Netflix and Spotify. Data provider App Annie reports that “in-app subscription revenue from non-game apps, particularly within the media streaming, news and dating categories, is rapidly increasing.” Overall, App Annie forecasts revenue for non-game apps to grow at an incredible rate of 25% – reaching $33.8 billion in 2021.
It’s good news that subscription apps are gaining traction. But not all media companies that can offer their app as a subscription model should do so. If you’re asking users to open their wallets, you need to offer value for money.
A crowd-pleaser across the board is fresh and relevant content. Obviously, media companies do this by definition. That said, in order to merit a monthly recurring cost, the content must be exclusive, or engaging – or both. Regularly releasing new features is also a plus.
Finally, apps that remove the friction from navigation, or help users accomplish important tasks (book a reservation, register for more information, streamline sharing) are also a hit with time-crunched consumers and multi-tasking mobile users.
Do your homework
Before you decide to release a subscription app, do your homework to make sure your audience engages frequently, and deeply enough, to merit the investment in the first place. This is where audience measurement data around the who, when and why of app usage in the form of behavioral data and insights is a must. Even better if this data spans all the platforms that encompass consumers’ daily routines.
Finland’s Verto Analytics focuses on precisely this, quantifying the user journey from one device to another and measuring from the point of consumer interaction across all platforms, media, content and devices. In April Verto posted high-level research into news access and engagement across platforms, highlighting how (and when) valuable audience segments engage with news content.
The day-in-the-life data and visualization underscores the importance of offering content to consumers on their terms – and across all platforms. But it also reveals interesting “windows of opportunity” during the day when content companies might use their presence to interest consumers in a subscription offer.
Raising awareness of your app is an important top-of-the-funnel activity. However, you also need additional data to plan your app marketing and acquisition campaigns – and ultimately benchmark your performance against your peers.
You must also consider several important criteria, which are raised in the 2017 Subscription Apps Report, such as: What is the proper price range for a subscription app? How long is too long to wait for a user to convert and commit to paying a recurring cost? When are the best months to reach and engage potential users?
Compare costs and contexts
The report finds that it costs $161.38 the cost to convert an app user into a subscriber. However, the number may skew high since the subscription app category Liftoff tracks includes Dating Apps, Utilities, and Finance. These types of apps vary significantly in the value they offer and the monthly subscription fee they charge.
It is essential to remember that subscription apps (and their users) are about long-term gains, not short-term bargains. Granted acquisition costs high, but media companies can also increase conversion rates by using all channels at their disposal – including email, push notifications and print ads in their own media properties – to reinforce their value proposition.
Provided they are powered by appropriate messaging and effective targeting, subscription app campaigns can engage and re-engage audiences all year long. This is very different to other categories, such as commerce, which take their cues from seasonal triggers such as holiday sprees or back-to-school shopping.
Companies that offer subscription apps have a huge window of opportunity in which to run campaigns and hit targets. Liftoff also finds that there are some stand-out months, such as September and March, when the “cost to acquire a user who subscribes to the app pays dividends beyond the promise of a more predictable business model powered by more sustainable revenues.”
Above all, keep in mind that driving high conversion rates for your subscription app a journey, not a destination. Regardless of your app subcategory (news, lifestyle, sports) or your campaign objective, your results will be determined by your ability to orchestrate all of your channels to take advantage of all the opportunities to communicate with consumers in ways that are easy, engaging and effective.
Peggy Anne Salz is the Content Marketing Strategist and Chief Analyst of Mobile Groove, a top 50 influential technology site providing custom research to the global mobile industry and consulting to tech startups. Full disclosure: She is a frequent contributor to Forbes on the topic of mobile marketing, engagement and apps. Her work also regularly appears in a range of publications from Venture Beat to Harvard Business Review. Peggy is a top 30 Mobile Marketing influencer and a nine-time author based in Europe. Follow her @peggyanne.