20200
P
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2020
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7

Betting on loyalty

“News organizations’ love for their own digital properties is being rekindled after years of dalliances with unpredictable platforms, impenetrable algorithms, and misguided pivots.”

News organizations’ love for their own digital properties is being rekindled after years of dalliances with unpredictable platforms, impenetrable algorithms, and misguided pivots.

In an age of proliferating and ever-changing networks, devices, and formats, knowing how to get users through the front door is a huge challenge. Understanding how to get them to keep coming back — and sign up to pay for more — is an even bigger one. Whether it manifests itself in subscriptions, membership programs, or signed-in users, we’ll see more publishers focusing on building a better, more direct, relationship with their audiences.

Many organizations are already successfully embarked on that path. And it doesn’t necessarily mean completely shunning platforms, building walled gardens, personalizing every pixel of the news offer, or going on an “innovation binge.”

So what might this focus on loyalty mean for news audiences in 2020? Hopefully, stronger journalism, better and more useful news products, and an increase in trust.

A renewed focus on direct traffic should lead to better, more user-friendly news sites and apps. Let’s face it: Reading or watching the news on a digital device can often require so much tapping and navigating that many people give up.

Understanding what makes users return — the type of stories, expertise, perspective, timeliness, and trustworthiness — allows newsrooms to focus their efforts on their journalism rather than the more generic stuff designed to attract fleeting eyeballs on social networks. Better data (and, most importantly, better use of it) will put users’ needs at the center of the development of new editorial products, leading to more purposeful innovation and diversification.

And if audiences feel they have more of a connection with a news organization, trust increases.

One of my favorite things about all this is that the organizations that will pull this off are the ones that are breaking down old structures. The ones betting on cross-disciplinary teams with product, UX, editorial, engineering, and marketing, or — even better — the ones developing a new breed of digital folk with a mix of skills.

There are risks and downsides in the push for loyalty. But as we head into the new decade, I’m optimistic.

Nathalie Malinarich is an editor for mobile and new formats at BBC News.

News organizations’ love for their own digital properties is being rekindled after years of dalliances with unpredictable platforms, impenetrable algorithms, and misguided pivots.

In an age of proliferating and ever-changing networks, devices, and formats, knowing how to get users through the front door is a huge challenge. Understanding how to get them to keep coming back — and sign up to pay for more — is an even bigger one. Whether it manifests itself in subscriptions, membership programs, or signed-in users, we’ll see more publishers focusing on building a better, more direct, relationship with their audiences.

Many organizations are already successfully embarked on that path. And it doesn’t necessarily mean completely shunning platforms, building walled gardens, personalizing every pixel of the news offer, or going on an “innovation binge.”

So what might this focus on loyalty mean for news audiences in 2020? Hopefully, stronger journalism, better and more useful news products, and an increase in trust.

A renewed focus on direct traffic should lead to better, more user-friendly news sites and apps. Let’s face it: Reading or watching the news on a digital device can often require so much tapping and navigating that many people give up.

Understanding what makes users return — the type of stories, expertise, perspective, timeliness, and trustworthiness — allows newsrooms to focus their efforts on their journalism rather than the more generic stuff designed to attract fleeting eyeballs on social networks. Better data (and, most importantly, better use of it) will put users’ needs at the center of the development of new editorial products, leading to more purposeful innovation and diversification.

And if audiences feel they have more of a connection with a news organization, trust increases.

One of my favorite things about all this is that the organizations that will pull this off are the ones that are breaking down old structures. The ones betting on cross-disciplinary teams with product, UX, editorial, engineering, and marketing, or — even better — the ones developing a new breed of digital folk with a mix of skills.

There are risks and downsides in the push for loyalty. But as we head into the new decade, I’m optimistic.

Nathalie Malinarich is an editor for mobile and new formats at BBC News.

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