Breaking the News

Why news organisations must break to survive.

The digital transformation is breaking the news.

In this article, I’ll show you why online journalism first must break to survive in the online media landscape.

As a digital strategist, I’ve been monitoring media trends and digital transformation for organisations for more than a decade.

Today, news organisations have a choice to make.

Here goes:

Table of Contents

    A New Model for Online Journalism

    In the past, readers, listeners, and viewers found the news in either newspapers or televised broadcasts.

    However, the news media landscape of tomorrow will have little to do with newspapers or broadcast networks. Our traditional news organisations are slowly turning into dusty relics of our non-digital past.

    Change is unavoidable. But one cannot just take these two types of organisations, add digital distribution channels, and then expect it to work.

    We know that news sites and streaming services work, but unfortunately for many traditional news corporations, these two media platforms don’t work in tandem; this is why traditional newspapers and broadcast networks must first break.

    Digital transformation challenge for news organisations.
    Digital transformation challenge for news organisations.

    Starting Point: Newspapers

    Most news sites aren’t “news sites”; they’re newspapers published on websites.

    Producing multimedia news for a digital context takes years to figure out—especially if the transition to digital revenue streams is slow and laden with trial-and-error.

    Also, a news site cannot be successful on its own; it must coexist in symbiosis with search engines and social media platforms.

    Quality is always a factor in reporting the news, but the transitioning newspaper must build speed and volume.

    Starting Point: Broadcast Networks

    Broadcast networks generally have two separate value propositions: On the one hand, they produce high-quality news shows, and on the other hand, they provide episodic entertainment.

    Daily news content won’t survive if the broadcast network migrates into a streaming network.

    Conversely, their episodic entertainment won’t survive if they move into the news site model.

    Since both models require a lot of effort to work, splitting the broadcast network into two separate entities might dilute the resources needed for the transformation.

    Possible Destination: News Sites

    Some newspapers will transition into news sites.

    First, the newspaper must build a user-friendly site with a best-in-class conversion design.

    Second, the newspaper must add the capability to produce video news stories and produce quality news shows.

    Also, they must transition their ad-based print model into a loyalty-based online subscription service—without locking away the actual news behind paywalls.

    Possible Destination: Streaming Services

    Streaming networks have the most straightforward success strategy in the new landscape; provide the highest quality episodic entertainment to paying subscribers.

    To stand out and accelerate growth, produce original content to attract and maintain audiences.

    The main challenge is a costly game with fierce competitors like Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime. Like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, some news shows can survive as a streaming format, but these are likely to be few and far apart.

    Breaking the News

    Tomorrow’s news must evolve into formats compliant with digital-first media logic regardless of the chosen route.

    If compliance means that most news organisations must break, then they will be wise to break on their own terms.

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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