5 Reasons You Need To Change Now

09 Nov 5 Reasons You Need To Change Now

One morning last week I was taking a pre-dawn run in Charleston, SC. As I plodded up to the Federal Court House on Broad St., usually a pretty desolate place at that time in the morning, I spotted five television trucks: One from CNN, one from FOX national and three remote trucks from local stations.

Two reporters stood bathed in light in the otherwise dark courtyard doing live remotes. The time was approximately 5:45 a.m. No newspaper people were to be seen and several local stations also were missing.

The reporters were there to cover the jury selection in the Walter Scott shooting trial in which a former North Charleston policeman is accused of murder in the shooting death of Scott, an allegedly unarmed black man. The event made the nightly news last year. Of course, there was no news at 5:45. It would be hours before the courthouse even opened.

Who knows what the reporters found to say. However, they were there with good reason. People getting up in the morning, getting ready for work, and getting to work are among the biggest news consumers — in print, on television, via social media and especially on their mobile devices.

The TV news folks on site got it right. The rest of us need to change our ways. Now! Here are five reasons why:

  1. Mobile is now

As an industry we constantly talk about how mobile is the future. The problem is: The future is now. According to comScore, mobile already represents 65 percent of digital media time. Next year 75 percent of all internet traffic will come from mobile devices, according to a new forecast from Zenith.

Just like in the early days of the internet when we shoveled print content onto our websites, we are shovel-waring content from the desktop onto mobile devices. Unfortunately, mobile is a “me” medium. Consumers use mobile for what they want when they want it. So what we need is a mobile strategy designed around how people use their mobile devices.

  1. We need to be there when the customer is

When someone wakes up in the morning it is not unusual for them to check their smart phone as one of the first things they do. As news organizations, we need to be aware of when readers are looking for information and the kinds of information they seek at different times during the day.

Our newest and best stories need to be posted according to our readers’ schedules, not ours. If that means having a team on-site streaming video at 5:45 in the morning or right before they go to bed at midnight, so be it.

  1. Every important story should be presented as video (and text)

According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of U.S. adults prefer to watch news rather than read it (35 percent) or listen to it (17 percent). This suggests that television has a huge edge, but not so fast. Mobile devices are video devices. Moreover, while TV has loads of video, video does not do particularly well in search, which is still a vital source of eyeballs today. The highest and best combination is for every story to be presented as a video and as a story.

Before you say we don’t have the time, money or expertise to do that, consider the reporters standing in front of the court house above. They stood in front of the cameras and offered a 2-minute (maximum) overview of the story.  It is not rocket science, nor do you need a videographer and sound man as well as a reporter any longer.

The video and text should complement each other, not be the same. The video can be the above 2-minute summary, while the text can offer a more in-depth picture and thoughtful analysis. Both have their place and audience. This works for mobile. It works for search. And it maximizes eyeballs.

And while you may not be able to find a sponsor in advance to fund your coverage of stories like the Walter Scott case, you can find a sponsor to fund “The 10 Surefire Steps to a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey” (local supermarket) or “Hot Crowd-Pleasing Trends in Holiday Entertaining” (local cookware/tabletop store), etc.

  1. Journalists want an audience

I recently had a great discussion with two seasoned reporters. They were asking me, a former journalist what I had learned from native advertising. We talked about how social media is turning minds into mush as everyone is barraged by too much information of all sorts. We talked about how insignificant topics often deliver more clicks than heavy-weight investigative pieces. We talked about what to do about it.

One of them suggested that the headline on an analysis of the Walter Scott case should be: Six things we learned from Walter Scott. His headline was spot on, yet most newsrooms still insist on headlining important stories with weighty, serious headlines and would not consider making an analysis sound like a listicle.

The point is no journalist gets into the business to become rich and famous. They don’t just want to tell a story. They want to change the world because they tell a story. They want to be heard. And they are more than willing to adapt and change in order to reach an audience.

  1. Social media is the news outlet for millions

I love my print newspaper. I even like watching the news on TV and listening to the news on NPR. I am old as you can tell from my media preferences. According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Americans get news on social media, up from 49 percent in 2012.

scmediapostpicpaulAlthough people often think of Twitter when they think of news, Facebook reaches 67 percent of U.S. adults, compared to 16 percent for Twitter. The Pew study found that 44 percent of the general population gets its news from Facebook compared to about 10 percent for Twitter.

The good news is that most news organizations use social media to get the word out about their stories. However, the bad news is that these posts are most often done on the media company’s schedule with little or no regard to social media usage patterns. This needs to change.

Obviously, breaking news needs to be posted in real time to the extent possible. However, news analysis and features can and should be posted when people are most likely to be accessing their social media accounts.

Oh and by the way, Facebook just reported that third-quarter profits more than doubled, mostly fueled by mobile ad products. It makes sense not only to use Facebook, but also to emulate what Facebook is doing.

Ever place an ad on Facebook yourself? It is unbelievably easy to create a nice-looking, low-cost, highly targeted Facebook ad online. How easy is that to do on your media site?

John Wilpers is a media consultant who helps legacy publishers adapt to today’s media consumption realities. He has an ax to grind in pursuit of customers, of course, but this 4-minute video is well worth your time if you have gotten this far.