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Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

“As users look to rebuild their news habits, they’ll be looking for products that seamlessly integrate into their lives.”

In 2019, audiences will choose to move away from passive consumption of news through social feeds and instead they will become more active and dedicated consumers of news.

I predict we’ll see users move away from social platforms and we should expect to see a return to and opportunity in direct traffic (be it apps, section fronts or homepages). For publishers, this means we have a small window of opportunity to get it right. News publishers should work on identifying how and when users are looking to switch their consumption habits and in the meantime, make sure their products are ready.

As users decide it’s time to cut through “social noise,” they’ll explore publications based on their perceived journalistic merit and reputation, but they will stay only for the best product experiences. That is, as users look to rebuild their news habits, they’ll be looking for products that seamlessly integrate into their lives.

Tech giants have created a landscape where users have come to expect frictionless products (e.g. users refuse to waste seconds figuring out where something is). Publishers whose products can stand up to the social media giants will win. This isn’t an easy or inexpensive task, but if newsrooms want to take advantage of eager audiences, they should start investing heavily in seamless user experience. To capture regular, loyal, returning and paying subscribers, easy registration and subscription, curation, personalization, customization, smart programming and delivery will all matter.

Zainab Khan is an audience strategy editor at The New York Times.

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