More Than “Just the Facts” – Understanding the News Moment


In the current era of “fake news,” the notion of reporters “delivering just the facts” could provide a welcome
relief.

However, a report from Columbia University indicates that journalism, defined as “a factual reporting of current events,” has been in consistent decline, not since President Trump took office, but since the 1950’s when it represented 90% of all front page news compared to less than 50% today.

In its place, we’ve seen the rise of contextual reporting, which helps explain what the news means by offering analysis and interpretation. Meanwhile, investigative journalism, which is rightfully held up as the gold standard of reporting, remains flat over the decades at just 5% of all coverage.

Reporting “just the facts” is an exercise in objectivity. “Explaining what it means” is inherently a subjective process.

This distinction isn’t just a rhetorical exercise.

The News Moment

How the news is delivered and consumed has real implications across media organizations, including radio, especially as Gen Z continues to join the full time workforce.

According to a new report by Reuters, for those under 35 years old, “there is a high level of ‘background’ or ‘indirect’ exposure to news – through social media, other online conversations, bloggers, podcasts, documentaries and TV shows.”

More importantly, “Young people don’t need to seek out the news, as they feel that enough information comes to them.”

When the need for information does arise, the traditional news agenda is often perceived as negative and depressing, with headlines feeling narrow and repetitive.

In addition, “reading” can feel a lot like work (insert your own snow flake joke), which partly explains the growth of visual storytelling like Instagram stories and bite sized informational videos by Vox along with the growth of podcasting.

According to the researchers, what’s often overlooked amidst generational stereotypes is the impact of “the moment” on what a person is looking for in the news.

While a classic news moment might be seen as setting time aside to read the paper or watch the evening news, unsurprisingly more modern consumption requires different formats, tones and content better suited to the mindset, value and focus of the consumer in that moment.

For example, an entertaining, investigative long read is geared toward a Dedicated moment, while a short visual summary of the day’s news suits Updated. An interesting short video is a good Time-filler, while a talking point headline grounded in shared experiences suits an Intercepted moment. (see chart above)

According to the report, “Traditional news brands feel their job is to tell people what they should know. Young people want that to an extent but they also want what is useful to know, what is interesting to know and what is fun to know.”

The authors also suggest that understanding the expectations of different audiences and the “moments” they are in will be critical to drive engagement and occasions.

Media organizations need to make websites and apps easier to use for younger groups – as simple and intuitive as Facebook or Netflix.

Whether you’re a news brand or a music brand, your digital platforms and user experiences are being graded, not just against other radio stations and local media outlets, but against the most popular and intuitive mobile apps available anywhere.

How’s your station supposed to compete? According to author and tech guru Nir Eyal, “People don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently.”

Ease of use is one of radio’s greatest assets. How are we delivering on that expectation with our user interfaces and voice command skills?

Station mobile apps and voice command skills provide a great opportunity for local radio brands to rethink the “moments” around radio listening. The listener has different needs and expectations for a 20 minute commute vs. an 8 hour work day.

Day-parts are a great example of how we’ve long provided listeners what they need, when they need it. The opportunity exists to take the on-air focus of super-serving the employed heavy listeners who matter most and providing them with even greater customization across your digital platforms, while maintaining the familiarity and ease of your core radio product.

When your target audience thinks of you first and thinks of you more often, that’s a winning combination. Generating that top of mind awareness across “listening moments” with your current and future P1s is not a task to be completed or a box to be checked. It’s a relentless pursuit.

On behalf of Catherine Jung, Jen Clayborn and everyone at DMR/Interactive, thank you for reading and working to drive radio forward.

Andrew Curran, President and COO

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