A few weeks ago, the Financial Times announced it was taking the next steps in its “digital first” strategy, which includes consolidating its print edition, shifting from “reactive reporting” to “news in context,” and altering its production schedule to serve an audience that expects updates throughout the day.
There’s been so much conversation lately about how everyone is a publisher and how much brands are learning from media in creating their own “branded content.” But, as the Financial Times move shows, the inverse is also true. What FT is doing might seem innovative for a newspaper, but it’s the kind of strategy global brands have been using for years: You have to meet your audience. That means creating content for conversation, providing information that’s useful or elicits an emotional response, and crafting a voice. Crafting a voice is a major strategy brands have adopted to get digital content right, and it’s something that traditional media outlets should mimic.
The modern audience has less time and more options for news than ever before. To make a newspaper’s content stand out, it’s essential to provide content that captures attention and sparks the viewer’s imagination. In other words, it’s essential for a newspaper to think like a brand.
EngagementEngagement is one of the biggest challenges facing the newspaper industry. The Nieman Journalism Lab reported in June that while 61.5 percent of American Internet users reported visiting a newspaper’s website in May, just 1.7 percent of the total time Americans spent online that month was on a newspaper’s website.
The key to engaging the modern audience is to make shareable content. We live in the age of social, and if a story doesn’t elicit an emotional or intellectual response in a reader, it will get passed by. That doesn’t mean every post has to be funny or highbrow, but it does mean that content should have a voice.
Brands, especially the larger ones, have understood this for a long time. Giving a multi-national conglomerate a voice is by no means an easy feat, but it’s one of the most important things that brands are doing to enhance their reputations. Examples of brands with strong voices are GE and IBM, which have crafted their content around innovations in science and technology. Both sponsor general interest science and technology magazines with large followings, as well as Tumblr blogs showcasing their work.
Value-added contextFT’s addition of “value-added context” to its digital first strategy underscores the importance of adding voice to content. Changing from reactive reporting to value-added news — meaning adding analysis and point of view pieces — is smart.
The race to be first in reporting a story is leading to irrelevant news that doesn’t make the audience any smarter, well informed or engaged. People are emotional and pay close attention to things with context and connection. Social currency is more important than ever, and if a story lacks a voice and contextualizing information, it’s more likely to be overlooked and unshared.