By Meg Dedyne
You don’t find too many news organizations trying to stray from what everyone else is doing. That is why when the Christian Science Monitor wanted to approach how people are getting the most important news and issues of today differently, it was rather unorthodox. With their year-long experiment, trying to revamp its online digital presence and hoping to make it paid, this got me thinking about the research on target audiences we are currently doing in our journalism class.
The Christian Science Monitor started out by testing its new product with a small focus group and then sent it to thousands of people, with a survey attached. I really like this approach. There wasn’t a survey simply asking people how they wanted to receive a different perspective on the news, because most likely, people won’t know the answer to this.
Instead the outlet gave them a product and asked their audience questions based around this product, which is going to be a much more effective way than having an endless possibility of answers from readers.
My favorite part of the Nieman Lab article written by Laura Hazard Owen is when she quotes someone from the publication: “We felt like we were becoming less ‘us’ the further we went with that.” Speaking of click-bait articles. Instead, the publication decided to “shift to a strategy where we could be more ‘us,’ less like everybody else, and win that way.” Speaking of their new digital platform.
I loved hearing that this publication was trying to stay true to their moral standards. Something didn’t feel right to them about click-bait, so they strayed away from it. Click-bait is something many publications already do and have no problem doing it. Staying honest and true to our moral code, is something Ken Doctor also stressed in his article as well.
Something in this article also reminded me of what Donna Ladd described to our class as not focusing on just getting “both sides of the story” as if journalism is stenography. A Monitor editor discusses ‘false balance’ meaning, “you’re balancing fact against empty assertion. You need to look at the facts, wherever they lead. If that makes somebody look so bad, so be it.”
I also am noticing a pattern with The New York Times, Quartz, New York Magazine and BuzzFeed. They are all trying to compete to produce commodity products and it is all stemmed around money. I mean, of course, everything stems around money. However, I liked that the Christian Science Monitor was doing it in a different way.
We know that everything is going digital; that is no surprise. However, The New York Times is trying to create an experience with readers and hire reporters with differentiated skills and New York Magazine is focusing on responding immediately to news, as well as affiliate-focused service content. Quartz is focusing on charging for some of its content and BuzzFeed is focusing on owning all elements of the modern media business.
So my question is, with audience differentiation, commodity products and competition, how do we know what actually works? This is a question I am hoping our group figures out by the end of the creation of our startup company.