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The year to learn about news moments

“Late evening is peak time-filler — and therefore an opportunity to engage audiences. When writing or creating products, editors, reporters, and UX designers should therefore consider the reader sitting up in bed looking at her phone.”

To better serve existing audiences and reach new people, one thing we can do in 2020 is to cater to “news moments,” a term I learned from the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2019.

That study included qualitative research that concluded that young people have four key moments of news consumption:

  • Dedicated moments where they give time to news (usually in the evening or weekend);
  • A moment of update (usually in the morning);
  • Time fillers (browsing, often while doing something else); and
  • Intercepted moments where they receive alerts from news organizations or messages from friends with news.

Whether or not you are a young person, I’m sure you can relate to these moments. Do you check a newsletter, homepage, app, or Twitter in the morning in search of updates? If you’re like the 20 participants in the study, you’ll have “dedicated moments” when you spend time consuming a long read, perhaps on the weekend. And can you relate to the I’m-watching-Netflix-but-also-fiddling-with-my-phone moment that this report calls a “time-filler”?

Do you check your phone to unwind before you go to sleep at night? Late evening is peak time-filler — and therefore an opportunity to engage audiences. When writing or creating products, editors, reporters, and UX designers should therefore consider the reader sitting up in bed looking at her phone.

It’s not just the Reuters Institute report that encourages us to think of “news moments.” This post from Twitter guides us to think about how its audience uses the platform at different times: 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. is about staying informed, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. is a time for distractions, and 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. is a time for unwinding when people want “increasingly mindless or soothing content.”

What I find interesting are the different “news needs” people have at these moments. For example, in the evening, a reader might be most open to “inspire me” or “divert me” stories on Instagram and Pinterest. Indeed, “inspire me” and “divert me” are two of the six needs that Vogue audiences have. We found this though our own qualitative research of 5,000 people earlier this year. (The other needs are “update me,” “educate me,” “make me responsible,” and “connect me.”) We were inspired by a similar study carried out by the BBC World Service. Do you see “update me” stories read in the early morning, “inspire me” and “divert me” stories in the evening?

Here’s the theory in a table (click to enlarge):

Our job as audience editors is to get stories in front of more readers — “getting more people to read more of our journalism,” as The New York Times’ Innovation Report put it in 2014.

My hope is that “news needs” and “news moments” are tools we can use when writing stories, considering formats, and designing products. The different audience needs at different moments of consumption is something I’ll be testing in the new year.

Sarah Marshall is head of audience growth for the Vogue Global Network at Condé Nast.

To better serve existing audiences and reach new people, one thing we can do in 2020 is to cater to “news moments,” a term I learned from the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2019.

That study included qualitative research that concluded that young people have four key moments of news consumption:

  • Dedicated moments where they give time to news (usually in the evening or weekend);
  • A moment of update (usually in the morning);
  • Time fillers (browsing, often while doing something else); and
  • Intercepted moments where they receive alerts from news organizations or messages from friends with news.

Whether or not you are a young person, I’m sure you can relate to these moments. Do you check a newsletter, homepage, app, or Twitter in the morning in search of updates? If you’re like the 20 participants in the study, you’ll have “dedicated moments” when you spend time consuming a long read, perhaps on the weekend. And can you relate to the I’m-watching-Netflix-but-also-fiddling-with-my-phone moment that this report calls a “time-filler”?

Do you check your phone to unwind before you go to sleep at night? Late evening is peak time-filler — and therefore an opportunity to engage audiences. When writing or creating products, editors, reporters, and UX designers should therefore consider the reader sitting up in bed looking at her phone.

It’s not just the Reuters Institute report that encourages us to think of “news moments.” This post from Twitter guides us to think about how its audience uses the platform at different times: 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. is about staying informed, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. is a time for distractions, and 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. is a time for unwinding when people want “increasingly mindless or soothing content.”

What I find interesting are the different “news needs” people have at these moments. For example, in the evening, a reader might be most open to “inspire me” or “divert me” stories on Instagram and Pinterest. Indeed, “inspire me” and “divert me” are two of the six needs that Vogue audiences have. We found this though our own qualitative research of 5,000 people earlier this year. (The other needs are “update me,” “educate me,” “make me responsible,” and “connect me.”) We were inspired by a similar study carried out by the BBC World Service. Do you see “update me” stories read in the early morning, “inspire me” and “divert me” stories in the evening?

Here’s the theory in a table (click to enlarge):

Our job as audience editors is to get stories in front of more readers — “getting more people to read more of our journalism,” as The New York Times’ Innovation Report put it in 2014.

My hope is that “news needs” and “news moments” are tools we can use when writing stories, considering formats, and designing products. The different audience needs at different moments of consumption is something I’ll be testing in the new year.

Sarah Marshall is head of audience growth for the Vogue Global Network at Condé Nast.

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