In the past few years, various media companies across the industry have slowly but surely reached the same fork in the road. To take the road less traveled presents the risk of the unknown, but a chance to reinvent themselves and change public perception of traditional journalism. The “safe” route reveals itself to be less intimidating and lets journalists stick to what they have always known and done. Unfortunately, the safe route has an abrupt end, forcing most media outlets to take the risk of the bumpier road, with hopes to get farther than the safe route would have ever let them go.
Five different readings this week lead us to draw a common conclusion of today’s evolving media tactics: Innovation. Hundred-year-old news outlets as well as emerging startups are all having to find new ways to reach consumers and deliver news in a unique, commendable way.
Background: The Christian Science Monitor is a 109-year-old publication that went from it’s daily print edition, to web first with a print magazine produced only weekly. Print circulation has dropped since 2012, and decisions were needed to be made.
The Change: The Monitor is hoping to produce news with a focus on shifting perspectives and allowing the news to be told in a non-depressing way. By April, they hope to be a daily, paid (requiring subscription), digital product.
The Benefit: In a time where people’s opinions on controversial topics are so far opposite, the Monitor wants to provides news in a constructive, yet calm and fact-based way to allow people to see the other side’s perspective. Requiring a subscription adds revenue outside of ad sales.
Quote-worthy: “We want to look at the news in a way that has fact-based integrity, but creates a legitimate sense of possibility,” he said, “so that, as much as possible, it’s an empowering and not a depressing experience to read the news.”
Background: The New York Times has done an impressive job adapting shifting from traditional print to digital journalism, but an internal report suggests the company does more to attract subscriptions and keep their business afloat.
The Change: Hire journalists with more varied skills and strengthen consumer engagement to boost subscriptions.
The Benefit: While new sources of news such as BuzzFeed present news in a unique way, the NYT has to do the same to keep loyal consumers buying their product. NYT already has the trust of consumers that adding creative components will keep the loyalty growing.
Quote-worthy: “The world is changing really rapidly,” David Leonhardt, a columnist who led the group’s work, said in an interview. “We have to keep up, and even get ahead of it.”
Background: Business news site that provides global economic coverage for free, resulting in 20 million users per month.
The Change: Adding a subscription product to access additional content
The Benefit: Add to already stable ad sale revenue
Quote-worthy: “But like many companies that rely on digital advertising, it would like to have other revenue sources, including ones where consumers pay it directly.”
Background: 50-year-old publication that shifted to a biweekly print edition. The website attracts 28 million viewers monthly and is up 80 percent since 2015.
The Change: Adding podcasts, creating different verticals for website such as Technology, Fashion, Business, etc. Also, adding a membership program requiring subscription.
The Benefit: Adding to ad sale revenue as well as creating content for a specifically targeted, loyal consumer base.
Quote-worthy: “We’re trying to think about how we can provide unique value in creative ways, adding little nuggets of value. We have a private Instagram account for members. We did an Ask The Strategist thing, where The Strategist can solve your local shopping needs.”
Background: A relatively new media startup was originally known for entertaining consumers while in class or at work. Quirky quizzes and comical memes kept consumers returning to their page, and sharing content through their social media accounts.
The Change: Instead of making consumers go to the website of BuzzFeed, the leaders realized that consumers were staying on social media. BuzzFeed now publishes original text, content, and video directly to the social media platforms and cover real news in addition to their previous ‘bored-at-work’ content.
The Benefit: Readers can now consume BuzzFeed material more conveniently, resulting in five billion monthly views across all platforms. The company is valued at 1.5 billion dollars.
Quote-worthy: “It sounds like a revolution,” says Cooper, 51. “Large corporations don’t like revolutions. They like predictability. They like incremental growth.”