What trends are disrupting digital news and newsrooms in 2014 and beyond?
Will editors replace a newsworthy story, with content dictated by ad technology?
It’s a mind-bending thought, but it may happen faster than you think. And when it does, the bastions of breaking news will typically determine a good story by its potential eCPM value (revenue generated from every 1000 views per page), and less by its perceived news value.
Everything is about to get a whole lot more scientific. Our traffic obsessed culture will be increasingly fueled by digital ad technology.
Real time digital news and the impact of advertising technology
The right content will be dictated by the right ad, at the right time, in the right context. What this means is that your future release will become a story, if the ads it can potentially match, will grab enough eyeballs. The shift could make the already blurred line, between news and advertising, even vaguer.
The Huffington Post is one of the first to clasp real time digital trends and is ripe for the next step. The giant news aggregator is built on a foundation of constantly tracking what drives the most traffic. A report from Columbia school of journalism stated; already today, the Huffington Post has more resources allocated to audience valuation than to content creation.
In many online news sites, writers are asked to keep an eye on dashboards, to track stories and headlines of real-time performances. Data analysis is fast becoming an essential skill for editors and content creators. They constantly need to review what “clicks” and what doesn’t and then adjust their stories.
Traffic is the new currency and in some online publisher corporation,s bonuses are already being tied to tracked performance.
Brand journalism leaps into mainstream publishing
At first brand journalism was all about brands creating content ripe for viral marketing. Then publishers such as Forbes launched their “Brand Voice” program over a year ago. (http://www.forbesmedia.com/brandvoice-digital/) Brand Voice is a channel for spreading branded thought-leadership content that wedges its posts in between Forbes news stories.
A few days ago the Guardian published a story on the launch of its new branded content division dubbed the ‘Guardian Lab’ (http://www.theguardian.com/gnm-press-office/guardian-launches-guardian-labs-with-unilever-partnership).
It was officially launched with a seven-figure deal with Unilever. The Guardian Lab’s rickety cosmetic term refers to commercial branded content, created to co-exist more naturally in the Guardian’s online news pages. Under the Guardian Lab the content will be created by publisher’s own in-house writers.
These new native advertising formats are shedding an interesting light on where digital media is heading. It highlights publishers’ desperate plea for new revenue models.
The future real-time newsroom and publisher dashboard
In the race to track eyeballs and respond to trends, publishers rely on tools such as; Google Analytics, Google Mobile Analytics Alexa, a toolbar based on ranking and reach and Quantcast, which shows statistics on social popularity.
New real time digital news tracking tools
But a new set of tools are emerging to help the media industry respond to real time activity. Companies such as Parsely, Chartbeat and Visual Revenue are offering content writers and editors tools to act on events as they roll out.
These news tools are creating a new niche in the real time data tool box. Publishers can track how long users are reading a specific piece of content, where they go afterwards, and most importantly, what articles typically convert new users to regular ‘monetizable’ visitors.
Could these new real time tools help to resuscitate journalism practices?
Tony Haile, the CEO of Chartbeat claims that when you measure visitors’ behavior in real time, you can simply grasp what factors contribute to their chances of becoming a return visitor. Interestingly they found that people who read an article for three minutes return twice as often as those who just spend one minute perusing a piece.
This ‘engaged time’ factor is a metric that publishers should be addressing now. Impressions data is important but it cannot be a standalone measurement.
Online media needs to expand measurement in real time through data on keystrokes, mouse movements, scrolling, navigation, video data and smart phone browsing.
The outcome could reverse the brand managed publishing trend and let quality content dictate advertising spend. The transformation would be a win-win for advertisers, publishers and their readers.