Why is Whaleoil soaring and the MSM just holding on? See if you can work it out

…Publishers and editors have only themselves to blame for failing to connect with the Millennial generation that they – and most of their advertisers – covet the most.

The inability of newspapers to resonate with digital natives has left them with a daunting demographic challenge. Two-thirds of the audience at the typical newspaper is composed of people over the age of 55, according to Greg Harmon of Borrell Associates. “The newspaper audience ages another year every year,” he adds. “Everyone’s hair ought to be on fire.”

As the newspaper audience grays, the readers that newspapers – and most of their advertisers – would like to have are, instead, busily racking up page views [elsewhere].

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Missouri reported that only 29% of newspaper publishers conducted focus groups prior to putting paywalls around the digital products that most profess to be the future of their franchises.

Instead of talking with their intended consumers, fully 85% of respondents to the survey said they asked other publishers what they thought about erecting barriers around the content that they had been freely providing for the better part of two decades.

While paywalls boosted revenues at most newspapers because they were accompanied by stiff increases in print subscription rates, the tactic gave the growing population of digital natives – and non-readers of every other age – the best reason yet for not engaging with newspapers.

Of course, newspapers were losing Millenials well before they started feverishly erecting paywalls in the last few years. But what if publishers and editors had begun studying the needs and attitudes of the emerging generation from the early days of the Millenium? Could the outcomes have been more positive?

In the interests of tuning into the thinking of those elusive twenty- and thirty-somethings, a newspaper client recently brought a panel of them to a strategy session. Here is what we learned:

:: The Millenials said the only media that matter to them are the social media, where they get current news about their friends, as well as cues to other interesting or relevant content.

:: They put a great deal of trust in recommendations from their friends but are not motivated by loyalty to media brands.

:: They will click on whatever content interests or amuses them, and they make no distinction among news, entertainment and advertising.

:: They prefer graphic content – images, videos, GIFs, infographics, etc. – over text.

:: They will buy a book, vinyl record or other physical artifact that they view as a collectible, but see no value in paying for access to ephemeral headlines that are freely available everywhere.

:: They are turned off by the dispassionate voice that characterizes conventional media, preferring treatments that evoke an emotional response.

:: They are smart, engaged and want juicy articles that take stands on important topics.

:: They will exercise the full power of choice made possible by their always-on mobile devices.

:: They are decisive. If they don’t like the content they are getting, they will make their own.

Given the above, it is easy to see that publishers and editors have a higher regard for their products than the next-gen consumers they need to attract. Now, the only question remaining is whether newspaper folk have the gumption – and time – to turn things around.

While the New Zealand media continue to label me as vile and using “shock jock” tactics, they are catering with left wing content to an ever ageing right wing subscription audience.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, but apparently the people at the top of the likes of Fairfax and APN (NZME) can’t make themselves believe that their audiences are passing them by.

Yet their shareholders and advertisers aren’t seeing past the old way of doing things.  They think going from broadsheet to tabloid and having digital delivery is all it takes.   Those are indeed the cornerstones, but the rest needs to be built on them.  How long before they will catch up?

 

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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