The Future of Journalism: Is Data the New Safety Net?

cxense logoThe publishing sector is still undecided about how best to fund its output. Our global journalist research showed two-thirds of those over 150 Journalists surveyed were concerned that ad revenue-based funding models favor more short-form and ‘clickbaity’ content. However, just as many said that readers’ reluctance to pay for digital content was a serious threat to the future of journalism. To combat this, media companies and their Journalists need to work together to create a sustainable, best-in-class product that provides a guarantee of sustained, quality output, job security, and satisfaction—something most Journalists agreed in this research, was sadly lacking. And data may just be the answer for handing Journalists a lifeline.

Technology has enhanced many different aspects of our everyday lives, and it has an important role to play in securing Journalism’s future. Despite nearly 90% of Journalists saying they use technology in their job is a positive thing, only one in five publishers is currently using data to deliver personalized content.

There are many opportunities for technologies like AI and Machine Learning to be used in the newsroom, including analyzing article popularity, analyzing reader behavior and for informing editorial decisions. Better utilization of reader data can help both editorial and commercial teams build a better picture of who their audience is and how they engage with content to better enable organizations to tailor their content to audience behavior.

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When data is used to target audiences correctly and increase personalized content, publishers can drive higher page views, greater dwell time and higher impressions, which enables them to generate higher advertising revenues.

However, whilst generating higher advertising revenues is important and is an easy default model for modern publishers, our research showed that these funding models can actually undermine Journalists’ ability to produce their best work.

A balance must be struck between tailoring content to algorithms and other topics that are important to cover, even if it does not necessarily perform as well. Subscription-based models can help in achieving this and allow reporters to raise the quality of their work and create more long-form content, without the fear of it being punished by algorithms.

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The Reuters Institute reports 52% of publishers to see building a subscription audience as their top business priority this year. Our own research corroborates this, with 90% of the Journalists we surveyed viewing paywalls as a necessary part of funding quality Journalism, speaking to the power of new business models supporting news organizations.

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet here. The challenge is for Newsrooms and Journalists is to use the right data at the right time, to help them inform some of their decisions. Data can never 100 percent replace the human factor, but what it can do is help direct Journalists, Editors, Publishers in terms of how best to monetize their content and create long-lasting relationships with their readers that ultimately drive profitability.

Thriving in 2019, and beyond, will be no easy feat, and data-driven insights should no longer take a backseat. If data is used in the right way, publishers can deliver personalized content, giving the readers the articles, they want to read and the Journalists the job security they desire.

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