Digital media pips news channels at the post

NNES: News is a hard business and it’s only set to get tougher with the proliferation of digital and social media.

Till recently, the 250 news channels across the globe were faced with the task of offering factual news and engaging with their audiences. As if that wasn’t enough, they have to now contend with stiff competition from digital players as well. 

So the big question confronting them is: “How to innovate in order to keep both television and online audiences?”

Day two of Mipcom saw a session titled ‘Programming and engaging in the digital age’ where speakers threw light on new methods and tools of audience engagement. 

The session was moderated by the Association for International Broadcasting chief executive Simon Spanswick with speakers including BuzzFeed president and COO Jon Steinberg; CNN International VP and general manager, digital Peter Bale; Facebook director of partnerships Andrew Mitchell; Al Jazeera Media Network, new media department manager Moeed Ahmad; and Winther Productions creator and producer of Dining with the Enemy Gry Winther.

Spanswick kicked off the session saying: “Almost a third of all UK adults use the internet for news, and similar statistics are coming out from other territories.” 

Mitchell stressed the importance of Facebook and Instagram as platforms to share content produced by broadcasters. “We introduced API here in Mipcom. This will allow more meaningful content and facilitate communication. Facebook is a great tool for growth, allowing people to connect and share content. Facebook has more hard news than soft news. We tend to remember the funny stuff, but it’s the more meaningful stuff that sticks with you,” he said.

Forty per cent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from Facebook, said Steinberg, adding: “In all, 70 per cent of people come to us through various social networking sites. We have 120 full-time writers, doing original content.” Speaking of BuzzFeed’s partnership with CNN, Steinberg said: “The channel gives us video footage which is then remixed and re-cut in shorter, shareable format for YouTube and a younger audience.”

Steinberg opined that social platforms have made things easier for international news organisations. “The stories spread fast as well as powerfully on social networks,” he said.

While Ahmad echoed Mitchell’s sentiments saying hard news was being shared more than soft news. “The lack of sharing for particular verticals is not because of that vertical, it’s because of poor journalism,” he said.

Speaking of Al Jazeera’s online news channel AJ+, he said: “Even today, YouTube has more entertainment than news content. However, AJ+ is an independent destination. We are building teams at a number of locations including New Delhi and Doha among others. The new channel aims at providing clarity through content.”

As for CNN’s digital strategy, Bale said: “The channel will give the background for breaking news rather than simply breaking the information. You will hear the story from the real people.”

A common observation was that no one wanted to read an old story on social media which is why something new and catchy had to be written. Mitchell said: “Channels will also have to think, ‘Why will someone share content?’. Consumers will not share old and boring news. They will share what is heartwarming, new and fresh content or something which they feel is important for friends.” He informed that Facebook was now crunching data to spot linkbait and ensure that they don’t appear in people’s news feeds. “We are now tracking how quickly people return to Facebook after clicking on the news link. We are also trying to cut down on spammers,” he said.

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