Journalism.co.uk recently held its 31st Newsrewired conference for innovators in digital publishing. The insight-packed event mixes talks, panels, and workshops – offering practical knowledge attendees can take back to their newsrooms.
Led by over 26 industry experts, participants discussed several key topics and themes, including innovation in the newsroom, trust in journalism, winning over audiences, running a media business, and more. Here are some of our top takeaways from the discussions:
Solutions to news avoidance
Audiences are less interested in receiving the news – mainly due to a polarising news cycle, negative news topics, poor website experiences, aggressive media commentators, and the relevance of news to its audiences.
To counter “news avoidance,” newsrooms should focus on relevance and value for their audiences. The historical approach to publishing a news story, such as a motorway crash for example, reinforces a negative perception of the news – and it fails to engage audiences not immediately connected to the specific story. When reporting on content like car crashes, reporters can instead follow events all the way through so audiences see the complete picture and get a sense of completion.
Subscription retention strategies
More news organisations are exploring reader revenue to enable their digital operations, but there is a clear challenge. Acquiring digital subscribers is good, but hanging onto paying readers has an invaluable impact on revenue – and when facing economic turbulence, a subscriber saved is worth more than a subscriber earned.
In the past, there was certainly a feeling that some news organisations would attempt to curb the retention challenge by complicating the cancellation process. Today however, newsrooms want to understand what drives people to cancel and how to tackle these problems purposefully.
The first 30 days with a news brand are critical. Instead of scrambling to understand subscriber needs at the last minute, ensure subscribers are on-boarded properly, informed of the breadth of the offering, how to personalise their experience, and how to maximise their subscription.
If a subscriber continues struggling to see the value or make the time to engage, making the cancellation process uncomplicated will increase the chances of them re-subscribing in the future
Securing loyal online audiences through live-blogging
Research shows attention spans are declining, mobile consumption is rising, audiences and perceptions are scattered, and distrust of ‘fake news’ is rampant. So how can today’s newsrooms deliver relevant and reliable news content to their audiences?
One of the panel sessions at this year’s event highlighted how newsrooms can create immersive, live content stories to engage with their ideal online audiences. Live blogging allows newsrooms to utilise multi-media, real-time story-telling in bite-sized snippets – a big preference of today’s audiences.
Authenticity and reliability are two major pros of live blogging. Reporters have control over their content and delivery of a breaking news story, and if a mistake happens (journalists are human too!) or information is still incoming, this format allows reporters to be transparent about the information they have around a developing story.
How AI is impacting journalism
Newsrooms can leverage AI in various ways, but it’s imperative to maintain integrity and freedom from bias when doing so. Data is a paramount aspect of how language models work – if the data going in is sub-par or lacks integrity, the output reflects that. When using AI or its content, newsrooms must remain open-minded, be sceptical, and verify what they see.
Before implementing AI into the newsroom, it’s essential to understand the objective or problem and how AI fits into that puzzle.
AI is already used in newsrooms globally, think of Grammarly for spelling and plagiarism checks or Gmail’s detection of spam mail. AI can also support newsrooms in the following ways:
- Newsgathering, sifting through data
- News production, podcast editing, generative image production
- News distribution, targeting subscription models
Amid growing uses for AI in journalism, remember that in a landscape rife with misinformation and disinformation, language models are designed to look right, not ‘be right’. Also, remember that a fundamental role of journalists is to provide information and data outside the public sphere, and models like ChatGPT are only capable of using what’s already readily available.
Media wealth building: rethinking local journalism
Developing countries have dealt with a viability crisis in local journalism, but this is a new problem for the UK. UK newsrooms are pondering how to fix the local news crisis if local news doesn’t meet the needs of its communities.
One solution is to avoid limiting the notion of local publications to print-only. There’s a wide range of journalistic work at local levels, including mobile-first organisations, community radio, and digital platforms. They’re using new technology to disseminate local news, just as the mainstream media explores new models.
This year’s conference was full of insight, innovation, and learnings journalists can take back to their newsrooms – and we can’t wait until next year!