Funding journalism into the (New) Newsroom of the future.

Funding journalism into the (New) Newsroom of the future.
September 13, 2017 OPR

13th September 2017: Shrinking newsrooms have, sadly, been something of a constant in the media for the past few years now, with many observers calling the end of print and television and news media as we know it. The question is, what is the viable business model to sustain the important Fourth Estate?

Last week we were lucky enough to attend the annual Storyology conference, held by the Walkley Foundation in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst.

With multiple speakers joining from almost every area of media, insights and tidbits poured forth from the stage, giving us plenty of learnings – and a few questions too – about the industry of journalism.

If some are calling the end of journalism as we know it, others are more positive about the prospects. There is no doubt in some areas, traditional media is fighting back.  Columnist Mark Ritson wrote recently the “tradigital” era is seeing the rise of radio and of billboard reach, and digital channels are being used and fused by big media companies as well as by Facebook and Google.

To quote Tolkien, there’s no “one model to rule them all”. However we hear of a few which appear to be working for now: Memberships & donations are favoured by The Guardian Australia, while digital news aggregator inkl uses a pay per article model, passing revenue back to publishers at a much higher return than they’d garner through traditional banner ads.

B&T reported recently on the media habits of people in the age of social media and found that old school news sites and newspapers are still the most trusted source of quality news.  And, what’s more, Millennials are prepared to pay for it.

Each model has its ups & downs, ins & outs, but what’s important is there’s no clear answer as to how publishers can stay afloat while their traditional sources of revenue are leaking to other platforms. The trick seems to be in isolating what works for your readers, taking into account the news you’re publishing and the medium through which you publish.

As Maria Ressa of the Philippines’ Rappler argued, you can’t “put a finger in the dam” and fight the changes being experienced by the news industry. You must change with the times or risk being left behind.

Structuring your news to grab your audience.

Audiences are now so segmented, and the mediums through which you reach them so fragmented, the idea that you will reach almost everyone with a single story is just not going to fly.

Challenging the idea that once published, the story is done and dusted, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, reporter for Four Corners and a 12-time Walkley nominee, argued that the onus is now on journalists to pre-promote their stories and keep the story going past its publication date through the use of social media and catch-up TV.

This is how PR functions at times. Launch your story in phases and make use of your understanding of the target audience to tailor your approach. Ask yourself which medium the story lends itself to, and play to your story’s strengths to increase your story’s exposure.

A recent observation that aligns with this – Nine Network CEO, Hugh Marks told our recent WPP AUNZ Leadership Day, the traditional media companies are experts at producing content:  “We are in the business of stories.  We know a good story,” he said.  What’s more, he said that because the media is so much more fragmented these days, the audience which watches your shows (or reads your newspapers) is much more engaged because they “are choosing to do so.”

New age. New tools.

A series of short, sharp and stunning presentations towards the end of the first Storyology day showed the amazing progress being made to improve existing staid journalistic tools and save time for journalists and PR practitioners everywhere.

The first was from Peter Fowler from Radio NZ, who is using his passions for coding and radio to create VoxPop – an app which will allow listeners to see what current topics are being covered on their local radio stations, and using their smartphone, record their own thoughts to send directly to producers at near-studio quality, bypassing the oft-messy and time-consuming approach of dialling in manually.

The second was a beautiful, simple tool created by the husband of a journalist who wanted to help his wife reconcile the varied and confusing data from sources such as the ABS and UNESCO. Aptly named Data Explorer, the tool arranges the vast library of statistics – often obfuscated by dated, confusing web portals – in easy-to-create and easier-to-understand graphs and data plots.

Facebook FTW.

Áine Kerr, global manager of journalism partnerships at Facebook, spoke about the social tech giant’s Facebook Journalism Project, which launched in January of 2017, to help educate publishers, editors and journalists about the methods and practices they can use to ensure their news reaches existing – and finds new – audiences.

The platform has also worked with journalists from around the world to draft the Facebook Publisher Principles, designed to help editors and reporters create headlines and articles geared towards better traffic.

Traditional journalism isn’t going away. It’s changing, renewing itself and metamorphosing into a new kind of newsroom which is more flexible and makes use of new technology and tools. But it is, and always was, all about the story.  As PR practitioners, it’s important we continue to provide the best and most effective stories to media that we can – while keeping an eye on the emerging opportunities.

Storyology gave us a glimpse into the future of journalism and newsrooms. Each keynote drove home the need to innovate and to not only accept the inevitable future but to plan for it. It was tremendously encouraging to see the vibe shift from one of grim determination to one of positivity and, indeed, hope.


Written by Jim Barker – Account Manager, Publicist.