Is it Time to Move ‘Beyond the Article’?

How are news organisations creating editorial and commercial innovation in this period of rapid change?

In a new Reuters Institute report, Kevin Anderson examines how news organisations are moving “beyond the article” and use distributed publishing, chat bots and messaging apps, as well as visual journalism including mobile-first video and virtual reality to develop forms of journalistic storytelling and revenue streams that go beyond traditional formats.

The report, Beyond the Article, Frontiers of Editorial and Commercial Innovation, examines how news organisations across the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Spain, Turkey, and the Philippines are adapting to the fast-changing digital landscape. Anderson has interviewed high-profile digital innovators, including the New York Times, Quartz and the Guardian, smaller digital-born start-ups like 140 journos in Turkey, and legacy media outlets including El País in Spain and Helsingin Sanomat in Finland.

These three areas are examples of experiments currently underway, which I have analysed against the backdrop of already well-documented structural changes in the media: a rapid shift towards a more digital, mobile, and platform-dominated environment combined with significant pressures on existing business models for digital news based around display advertising,” says Anderson, an international media and communications consultant.

Key findings include:

  • Distributed content – diversify your reach: All of the cases involve some form of distributed content, either by spreading content through social networks or increasingly via messaging platforms, apps, and emerging virtual reality stores
  • Targeted engagement is just as important as scale: The news organisations are moving beyond using distributed strategies simply to achieve scale. Editorial priorities include building a more direct relationship with audiences, increasing engagement, and reaching out to a specific audience.
  • Beyond display advertising? Display advertising plays less of a role in monetising these distributed audiences. The news organisations in the report are utilising a number of commercial strategies for these projects including sponsored content, native advertising, commercial partnerships, and the sale of services.
  • Limited resource is no hindrance to innovation:  The majority of strategies in the report do not require a great deal of resources. One of our case studies, 140journos, has a full-time staff of only 10.

“To create the space for innovation and the opportunity for growth, companies at every scale and every stage from start-up to storied legacy media must decide not only what to do, but also what they will stop doing so that they can focus on editorial and commercial innovation – not simply for the sake of doing something new but to achieve their journalistic mission and their editorial ambitions in a constantly changing media environment,” concludes Anderson.

Download the report here

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