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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Nic Newman, Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Nic Newman

Common myths

Nic kicks of by debunking some of the most common video myths…

Is video eating the internet? No. It’s not true that audiences can’t get enough. The growth is coming from supply side and technology changes, not demand side. There’s precious little evidence that young people want more video than older people – but they’re getting so much more of it.

And short form? Well, yes, it’s working now. But is it the best way for the future?

Video consumption varies wildly by country. High in the US and Canada, but quite low in Denmark. The majority of people are not consuming news video. People still have an over-whelming preference for text . The figures are shifting a little towards video – but not hugely. And there’s little difference in the preference between the young and old.

Why?

Text provides control – it lets them get information quickly. Video is often supplementary: adding drama, context or reality. It’s adding trust – the footage is seen as credible.

Video road blocks

Pre-rolls are a real turn off for people. They are really viriolic about it – and their resistance is growing. The contrast between Facebook – where video just plays – and news websites where they have to endure a 30 second ad is marked.

61% of videos on Facebook are entertainment rather than news. Only 11% of BBC news users access video in their app, and 7% of Guardian users – but that goes up to 19% and 22% during breaking news. The growth is mainly offsite.

A brief history of social video

2015 was the auto-play year, with vertical, square, and Immersive/360 taking off. This was the year when internet video started rivalry TV for breaking news.

2016 had the consolidation of live formats. Twitter did good work in bringing together the social and video environments – but ethical issues are rising with battles, suicides and assaults.

In 2017? Short social video is a major priority, as is live – with their own sites, long form and VR lagging behind. But things have changed since January. Short form is commoditising rapidly. It’s really hard to monetise it. Facebook is now pushing towards longer view with midrolls ay 90s. Live is retreating – Facebook is no longer paying for it. Live is not efficient in an attention poor world.

Long form is increasingly being shot with extras for social in mind. Long might be trends towards immersive: look at Economist films. And VR? An empathy machine.

VR: key points

  • Moving away from documentary focus towards real time content – 360 is the major consumption route
  • There are significant barriers around headset ttake-up and productions costs
  • No real business models yet
  • The content is still technology-driven rather than audience-driven

Things to consider

  1. Understand what your audience’s video needs actually are – and how they differ onsite and off site
  2. What might future users want?
  3. Is it a good investment against other content types?
  4. What are the realistic opportunities for revenue – especially as more pile into the market.
  5. What’s the role of offsite? Revenue? Priming the funnel?
  6. What formats and tools can make the process easier?
  7. What new skills do we need?
  8. Is this something we do ourselves – or do we partner with others.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

James Waddell, social media writer at The Economist.

James Waddell, social media writer at The Economist

In print, The Economist skews older and male. Online is ¾ under 45, and 22% are women. Why do these demographics matter? Print advertising revenue is in pretty drastic declines as slice of revenue. That means that revenue from subscribers has become much more important – and thus that the newspaper can no longer rely on a small, rich demographic.

Their focus is on subscriber growth – and that means that they use social platforms to recruit new subscribers. They are a means to an end, rather than an end in of themselves.

Waddell is very clear that it’s not his job to convert – it’s his job to create the funnel end. And then it’s the (completely separate) marketing team’s job to take the audience he builds and turn them into subscribers.

The strategy seems to be pretty simple: who do we want to reach? Where can we reach them? For example, Line has been a major factor in reaching new audiences in Asia.

How about their presence on Snapchat? What 16 year old on Snapchat is going to read the Economist? Well, they’re better aligned than you might think, suggests Waddell – forwards-looking with a bias towards major international issues. The presence there is a long game – get them into the ecosystem and show them what we can do. And somewhere down the line they might become subscribers.

Economist, Medium rare

Why is The Economist on Medium?

They’re not expecting it to drive hordes of new subscribers – but it’s a great place to run experiments. They have to prove the ideas before you get them on economist.com. It’s a sandbox for innovation.

Three driving ideas:

Authenticity: on Medium they run bylined pieces where correspondents can get something off their chests. For example, this piece on Mike Pence’s dining habits. They’ve also got a Spotlight stand – picking up on issues important to Millennials, while showcasing other writing they have.

Transparency: The ecosystem behind The Economist is unique – show they show it off via Medium, exploring how the magazine is made.

Interactivity: They’re asking readers to participate in the creation of stories. It’s a win:win – cogent research and readers becoming part of the conversation. They’re struggled with comments on the website – but on Medium, they’ve had a really, really positive response.

They’re not trying to drive huge subs from Medium – but they are the second most followed publication on the platform already.

Analysis

Again, as seems to be a theme at this conference, there’s nothing revolutionary here – just great execution of well-known ideas. We’ve been talking about using blogging to expose the inner workings of our titles since the early 2000s, for example. It’s great to see The Economist going back to that idea in a really sensible way. And I couldn’t help but admire Waddell’s push back against members of the audience who really wanted to hear that content was being repurposed across channels. Creating for the channel is simple more effective.

My one concern: the strict division between the social editorial team and the marketing team. If the purpose behind the content is (eventually) converting readers, that aim is likely to be better met by a more involved dialogue between the two parts, and that will make the editorial choices more sustainable. Amedia’s example later in the day was a great example of that.

Another set of liveblogged notes from Digital Media Europe 2017. Typos, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax probable.

Lea Korsgaard, Editor-in-Chief, Zetland, Denmark

Lea Korsgaard

Do you create a community to monetise it? No. You create a community to serve it. If you are to build community, you need to be very precise about the answer to the key question of:

Why are we here?

Their answer?

We are here to make sense. Not news.
To give insight. Not mere information.

The world does not need more information. We’re on top of the biggest mountain of information in history. What they lack is insight – how to make sense of all this information. Fake news is less of a problem than an industry that favours conflict over understanding. That favours sensationalism over a long-term view. Why did no-be see Trump coming? Why did no-one see the financial crash coming?

Journalists are too interested in what is happening now, not long term developments.

Zetland publishes at 5am, with four or five stories a day. It’s finishable. There’s no stream. It’s not endless. That’s a key part of the strategy. It’s ad-free. We try to sort through the noise and focus on what really matters. In its current form it launched in March 2016, and has 7000 members. It reaches 1000,000 to 300,000 people per month. Grows 10 to 50 people a day, and are aiming to hit 11500 by the end of the year. They have a staff of 24.

They have a “generous” paywall. The journalist wants readers. The user wants to share good stories. Paying users can share content – so they are the ones who find new readers for the journalists.

What makes people pay for news?

Journalism is a service. What can we do for the community?

Why do people pay for news? Loyalty? Why do they become loyal? A relationship. An intimate relationship (without sex…) Personality and character matter. You don’t gain authority by talking from a pedestal. You gain it from being part of the audience – talking to the audience. Have a tone of voice. Have a personality. Entering Zetland is like entering a clever, interesting, witty dinner party.. Journalists need to be more than names or bylines – they need to be real people. You need to feel that someone made this. You need to feel that someone is eager to give you the best service.

Ask you readers for help. Ask them for sources or contacts.

You need to be transparent. We invite the members behind the scenes, and tell them what’s happening in the business. Here’s how we spend you money. Here’s the 10 biggest mistakes we made this year. Here’s why it’s awkward that my mother has just become the minister of culture.

I don’t think the classic news voice is something people want to pay for.

A conversational tone of voice matters – it’s much closer to the oral tradition.

Getting up close and personal with your readers

Meeting the community is key. They have Zetland Live – a magazine on stage. A 90 minute show made up of stories from reality. It works. The event doesn’t finish with the show – it continues into the bar, where the staff can learn from the members. This isn’t scalable – but there’s a hunger for this community events, where you focus together on something at the same time. They end the event with a song, everyone singing together.

You shouldn’t just remember that you serve a community once a year, but every day. And you should ask yourself of every article idea “would I pay for that?” If you won’t, why would anyone else?

They do everything they can to prevent silos developing internally. Everyone has lunch together at 12pm. No excuses. If you want to be a dinner party for the readers, they have to create that for themselves.

I’m at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe conference in Copenhagen for the next few days. This is the first of my liveblogged session notes from the event.

Christian Röpke, CEO, ZEIT ONLINE

Christian Röpke

Die Zeit has a 500,000 paid circulation as a weekly newspaper – and their weekly nature means that they lack many of the problems dailies have in balancing print and digital operations. Their circulation is 10% digital, and is growing 30% year on year. Online they reach 11.4m uniques per month.

35% of their audience in under 29 – higher than their competitors. It’s a stable figure – they’re young, but they want to get even younger. Why? Because you can’t just focus on today’s customers – you need to put effort into creating your future customers.

Four strategic aims

  1. Quality advertising of premium reach – display advertising isn’t dead – and as publisher we need to tell that story. Their business grew by 10% last year.
  2. Digital circulation/paid content – they’ve sold through apps, but now they’re adding paid content on the websites.
  3. Classified offerings – in niches (academic positions, top positions at NGOs)
  4. Focus on millennials – you can’t look at the future without looking at your future readers.

They’ve focused on mobile to reach millennials – and with mobile “cards” in particular – a design language that works for “flipping” behaviour for millennials. “We are not afraid of mobile”. Mobile display advertising is growing strongly for them.


Up until now Die Zeit has been sold as a single product, and Zeit Online was a separate thing – the print articles only hit the websites three or four weeks longer. They’ve now mixed the two in the Z+ product.

Digital-only and digital-and -print bundles are growing strongly – app store revenue is pretty much flat.

Targeting young readers

Zeit Campus – is a new editorial platform for students. It has a distinct design feel from the main part of Zeit Online, but it is still part of the wider product. Their first article – about ghostwriting of articles – went strongly viral. The key idea is orientation – helping students figure out what they want to do at university. They built an online tool to help people make those decisions.

They’re also reaching out to the younger demographic with events. event: Z2X – the Festival of New Visionaries in Berlin for 600 people. It’s not a one-off – they’re doing series of them.

And their launching niche sites. For example, ze.tt – launched in July 2015 and run by a small, separate team, based in a loft in Berlin. It targets the 18 to 30 year old demographic. They run recruiting events called “work & play”. These are at least partially gamified, so rather than “speed dating” potential employers or employees, you play escape room games with them.

Key lessons

  • Find your own fundamental laws on display, mobile and homepage traffic.
  • The homepage is not dead.
  • Keep adding and expanding business models,
  • Understand young readers
  • Understand your market position. They choose to be premium.

Analysis

A couple of core points here:

Community development

The strategy for developing young, mobile readers is a classic community play:

  • Identify a target audience
  • Identify content that they will find useful
  • Develop that content
  • Give them a sense of involvement through distinct branding
  • Grow that out into events.

That creates an emotional/intellectual double whammy that builds loyalty to your brand – and that loyalty is more likely to convert into paid subscriptions, if you can prove value.

Income diversity

Like many larger businesses, Dei Zeit is realising that there won’t be a single saviour business model that will enable transition to digital. A diverse range of business models targeting different sections of your audience is much more viable – and provides a greater safety net.

Nothing especially innovative in the ideas underlying the approaches shown here – but some good, thoughtful and sustainable execution.

Techmeme

Has our lust for innovation made us move on from ideas too quickly? I’ve been mulling that over for most of the day, since I read Charlie Wurzel’s long piece on Gabe Rivera and Techmeme. Unless you’re a blogger of a certain vintage, you’re probably thinking “who?” right now. And that’s fine – he runs a niche site, but a hugely influential niche site:

Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai are both confessed readers, as are LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, former PayPal exec and current Facebook Messenger head David Marcus, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella. Hunter Walk, a former product manager at YouTube turned seed-stage venture capitalist, told me he checks the site three to five times daily. “It’s one of my first morning sites,” he told me over email. “My perception is that lots of us [in Silicon Valley] use it.”

Techmeme is that most-old fashioned of digital things, an aggregator. It makes editorial decisions with algorithmic support over what the most important stories of the day are – and then links to all the discussion around that core story. That combination – of ranking and connection – is utterly compelling and all too little replicated anywhere else.

There are many people trying to find ways of surfacing the “best” or “most important” stories of the day – usually through algorithms, although I still favour the human-curated element through either newsletters or (whisper it) blogs. In many ways, it’s the second element of Techmeme – that’s so interesting – connecting together the conversations.

Conversational connectivity

Techmeme at work

In digital content circle, we talk a lot about “content atomisation”, the idea that the publishing packages of the past have been atomised into individual articles found via search or social. In a sense, what Techmeme does is reconnect those atoms into molecules of news, allowing you to track not just the most popular articles, but to explore the interconnections between them and other articles, which respond to them or follow them up. Thos connections both inform the ratings, but also guide to the reader into the broader context of the story.

It’s such a compelling idea that I’m surprised that nobody is really working on it in any other way. A decade back, the blog platform makers were really interested in connecting up conversations online. That led to the advent of standards like Trackback and Pingback, both of which got steadily buried under ever-increasing volumes of spam. And, to add to the woes, much of the discussion around any single article is now buried away in private spaces like Facebook.

But still, it seems a strange gap in the technology of the web that it’s surprisingly hard for the casual reader to easily find responses and follow-ups to something they’ve read.

And, it seems to me, that such a system might be a very handy tool in the war on intentionally misleading news.

The Telegraph on Apple News

The Telegraph is seeing substantial reader growth – from Apple News:

For The Telegraph, Apple News has become the most effective third-party platform at driving readers to its own sites and app — where it can eventually turn them into subscribers.

(Note the contrast here to Facebook, which is doing everything it can to keep you in the Instant Articles walled garden.)

Two anecdotes that seem to bear this out:

  1. I’m getting about an extra day’s worth of traffic a week from Apple News (you can sub to One Man & His Blog there, should you wish.)
  2. My wife – a Facebook refusenik – now uses Apple News as her major news-reading interface.

Something’s happening here.

The Need for Notifications

Another interesting point in the piece:

“The main growth has been driven by the iOS10 update and a combination of our new strategy,” said Bridge. Several publishers recorded traffic increases since the iOS10 update last year, partly because of the introduction of notifications. “In the modern age, people look to consume content through notifications. That doesn’t mean they will always open them and click through.”

For breaking news – you need to have a notification strategy, but one that doesn’t get your notifications switched off.

Issue 16 of Offscreen magazine is now available. It’s a beautiful print magazine all about the digital industry, which I’ve been happily reading for the last couple of years. If you’re interested in online, but still a lover of great print magazines, it’s well worth a look. (I mentioned it in passing a few months back.)

The new issue is a complete redesign, and the editor Kai Brach supported himself through the redesign and rebrand phase, via crowdfunding (I was a backer). And this is how it looks:

Offscreen 16 cover

Offscreen 16 laid flat

A typical Offscreen spread

Here’s what’s different:

Both the website and the magazine have undergone a complete visual overhaul. The new design comes with a lighter footprint, thanks to simplified typography (just one type family), more white space, a brighter colour scheme, and quirky, hand-drawn illustrations by Agnes Lee that add a personal touch.

We made the new issue a little smaller so it feels even more like a book. Instead of the standard Perfect Binding that makes the magazine hard to keep open, Offscreen now has an open, lay-flat stitch binding that offers an improved reading experience.

I should get my copy sometime next week. You can grab your copy from the Offscreen website (and you can sign up for a subscription, too), or buy it in person via specialist magazine stores like Magculture in London or Magazine Brighton.

There’s a new journalism aggregator in town, called Compass – and it’s attempting to be a Netflix for news.

Compass News - the app

Isolde Walters spoke to Matilde Giglio about the subscription-based app:

It’s a bit like your Facebook timeline but instead of that girl you used to go to school with who is in the Caribbean yet again and endless dog videos, it’s all serious quality journalism. Maybe a little too serious. One criticism I would make is the selection of heavy political and economic news did make me feel like I was running through the reading list of a PPE undergrad. I’d recommend a little thoughtful fluff – I’m a big believer in fluff – to add a little glamour and human interest to the mix.

That’s a smart insight. Any product like this that only surfaces serious news will fail, because the market for serious news and only serious news is too damn small. Can you show me any major newspaper or magazine that doesn’t have a lighter element? Chances are if you can, it’s a “need” publication – trade press, scientific journals – rather than a choice publication.

A Netflix for news could work. But a Netflix for only serious news? Never.

A little context here: there have been numerous efforts to build something like this before. They’ve been described, variously, as “an iTunes for news” or a “Spotify for news“. We’re on to “Netflix for news” now. There was News International’s much-rumoured attempt to build an iTunes for news, before abandoning it and going for paywalls. There’s Blendle which is still around. There’s magazine subscription apps like Issuu.

I suspect they struggle because they’re caught between the opposing poles of loyalty to a particular news brand (through political, cultural or geographic affiliation) and the free flow of news through Facebook and Twitter. Best of luck to Compass – they’ll need it.

The New York Times has redesigned the opening spread of the print edition to make it more of a digest of everything the outlet is doing across all media. So, yes, that include capturing the best of its journalists’ tweetstorms on there. Laura Hazard Owen interviewed Jake Siverstein who led the design work:

But we also recognized that there were some important functions this page could play — not only warming people up but offering a dashboard of the huge scope of activity that’s going on in the world of The New York Times on any given day. That scope has expanded in recent years to take in not only what’s happening in the print paper and videos and podcasts and various institutional social media accounts, but also our live journalism, and all of our journalists’ own social media accounts.

This is a tentative step in the direction pint newspapers will need to move if they are to survive, in the era of 24/7 online news. Once you acknowledge that the print edition is no longer the “breaking news” vehicle, but, essentially, a daily summary of what you need to know, then you can design outwards from that idea.

Why newspapers should take design cues from magazines

Interestingly, Silverstein comes from the New York Times Magazine (he’s editor-in-chief) – and this is much more magazine thinking than newspaper thinking. Silverstein again:

Part of the goal was to create something that was entirely visible in one open spread of the newspaper, that used some of the rhythm and pacing and design of a magazine front-of-book — the difference being that the whole front-of-book is laid out before you turn any pages, so your eyes can wander around small content and small features, latch on to one thing and then drift over to the next thing. There’s something leisurely and pleasurable about that. It’s kind of an appetizer course before you get to the rest of the paper.

And that’s what print newspapers are becoming: daily magazines.

A prominent YouTuber has lost a lucrative contract:

Since August, PewDiePie has posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, according to a review of his channel by The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday after the Journal contacted Disney about the videos, the entertainment giant said it was severing ties with Mr. Kjellberg, who as PewDiePie rose to prominence via clips of himself playing videogames or performing skits and making crude jokes.

What’s interesting about this is that a single YouTuber has reached enough prominence that their deals with major corporations warrant the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

Significant enough, in fact, that they pushed out out as a notification:

PewDiePie WSJ push notification

YouTubers are still a massively under-discussed part of the modern media business landscape.