Digital disruption has forced news organisations to rethink business models and transform products to sustain growth. Those that invested in data and research to create user-centric products have seen across different platforms and succeeded in pivoting towards a digital subscription model.
In the New York Times’ 2017 full-year earnings release, they declared that that while subscription revenue grew 7.5 per cent, this was mostly due to a 25.8 per cent surge in digital-only products. Conversely, total ad revenue was down 3.4 per cent in the previous year. This shift is also reflected in the Financial Times’ pronouncement that it was now a ‘majority digital content business’, with digital subscriptions making up over 78 per cent of its readership.
Not only that but there is evidence that suggests that there are audiences that will pay for content. The Digital News Report, released a few weeks ago by the Reuters Institute, found that the proportion of those paying for online news in the previous year stood at 14 per cent.
However, the percentage of people paying for online news remains low in the the DACH countries (8 per cent each in Germany and Austria, and 12 per cent in Switzerland), far beneath the BENELUX and nordic countries, where an average of 19 per cent of the population pay for online news.
While digital subscription revenue models won’t work for all publishers, those who move in this direction need to look at how they currently present their products and how and if this represents how people search for and read news online.
If you look at the website for any legacy news brand, they tend to group stories in traditional newspaper sections, usually news, sports, celebrity, culture, opinion, world, business, tech, science, and travel. Each section then breaks down into further sections.
For example, news might lead to a main news page from which the reader can click to reach further sections such as domestic news, foreign news, political news, etc.
But this is problematic since a story might touch on many topics. At the time of writing, German chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership just underwent a serious crisis, as Horst Seehofer, CSU leader and interior minister, threatened to quit unless he and Merkel could come to an agreement over immigration into the Germany.
This story touches on many topics and keywords such as Horst Seehofer, Germany, EU immigration, and the German phrase Unionsfraktion, describing the bitter row over migration policy between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, German interior minister and leader of CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Ms Merkel’s CDU. As you can see from the screenshot on the left, ‘Horst Seehofer’ was trending on Monday on Frankfurter Allgemeine. This topic page changes automatically, often from second to second, to reflect what the readership is interested in.
In the second shot, taken from Zeit Online, there is now a theme page dedicated to Unionsfraktion that lists all the stories and references about this subject.
By sensibly curating stories automatically, readers do not — and will not — go looking through different sites and webpages to find the best coverage.
This leads to an increased audience engagement, where readers visit a news publisher’s website at more frequent intervals, reading larger volumes of articles. It also helps publishers to have a more direct relationship with readers, relying less on third-party platforms.
At Retresco, our content curation system is built for such a purpose. Using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology, we help publishers extract value from their content by making it more accessible and discoverable for readers, facilitating a loyal and returning readership. Its other products include a trending topics dashboard to help editorial teams spot content gaps, and the ability to be integrated into any CMS system.
Journalism is changing, and the old ways of presenting information will soon no longer be old, just obsolete. As we learnt from the latest Reuters Digital News Report, digital transformation should be embraced. Readers are still readers and while the message has not changed, the messenger has.
Founded in Berlin in 2008, Retresco has become one of the leading companies in the field of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning. Retresco develops semantic applications in the areas of content classification, recommendation, as well as highly innovative technology for natural language generation (NLG). Through nearly a decade of deep industry experience, Retresco helps its clients accelerate digital transformation, increase operational efficiencies, and enhance customer engagement.
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