The 2020s have been defined by news organisations finally understanding how to reach a mass market online.
Websites like Mail Online, The Guardian and BBC have become global news powerhouses by telling stories that engage a broad spectrum of readers.
But as 2023 goes on, we will see increased efforts from publishers to target new audiences more closely by tailoring content for specific demographics.
The key battleground where this new storytelling will take place will be on two fronts – Gen Z and Baby Boomers.
We’re already seeing the first results of this battle for Gen Z engagement – with new platforms dedicated to ‘explaining’ the news – rather than just relaying the facts.
These include The News Movement – set up by ex-BBC editorial director Kamal Ahmed. Their mission is to “explain our world”, which they do primarily through short-form video reports.
The UK’s largest regional publisher is also getting in on the act, with Reach recently launching social-first brand Curiously.
Anna Jeys, Reach’s audience and content director for news audiences, said its aim was to be a “culturally relevant youth brand” while “making sure that our content is reflective of the audience, promoting diversity of thought and perspectives – and making sure that people enjoy our content”.
The brand began publishing content in its soft launch at the end of September and so far has more than 18,000 followers on Tiktok, 15,000 on Facebook, 2,000 on Twitter, 1,000 on Youtube and 800 on Instagram. It has also most recently launched a weekly Snapchat show with “bits for your brain… to keep your mind wide open”.
Intriguingly it does not have a website yet – though one is in development.
It’s an approach that some find patronising and condescending – implying that young people are less capable of grasping complex subjects than those older than them.
It’s a view that Milly who did work experience with us over the summer shared in a Democracy blog.
Both of these platforms have emerged in part as a response to plunging trust in journalism in general. For many people, reporters are no longer viewed as impartial. They are seen as cogs in a machine who trot out misinformation and conspire to mislead the public in order to serve the whims of unaccountable press barons like Rupert Murdoch.
The fightback for a fairer, more balanced journalism begins here….
On the other side of the generation gap we find a pair of platforms that are yet to launch – from a pair of journalistic titans or dinosaurs – depending on your viewpoint.
76-year-old Kelvin Mackenzie – a former editor of The Sun during its most influential and biggest-selling period during the 90s – is readying a new platform called The Daily Disclosure.
It is aimed at “a centre-right audience over the age of 40”. It will act as a counterpoint to The Sun which, he says, “has been taken over by lefty activists”.
In its wake, it is widely rumoured that Martin Clarke – the mastermind who transformed Mail Online into a news juggernaut – will be launching his own similar platform – devoted to those over 40 as well.
Recent years have also seen increasing numbers of people retreating from news in general. This ‘great unsubscribe’ can be traced in part to a news agenda that has been one of wall-to-wall misery – with pandemics, conflicts, economic meltdowns, political instability.
News organisations now need to find a way to re-engage with these lost audiences.
So – we’ve been through a period where the media landscape has remained pretty much unchanged over recent years. Established publishers like Mail, Reach and News UK still dominate the marketplace and face accusations that they have failed to keep pace and reflect how society has changed.
Now we’re seeing new publishers entering the arena for the first time in generations – they are defined by their small scale – allowing them to pivot and iterate much faster than legacy media.
It is our job then going forward to read and engage with these publications – so we can understand how we tell stories that will work for their audiences.
Does that signal the end of the one release fits all approach? In future will we better serve our clients by issuing releases that are tailored for specific demographics?
Does the mere act of writing and issuing press releases define us as being hopelessly out-of-touch?
How then do we build relationships and become a trusted source of content for these new platforms?
Among all this uncertainty – one thing is indisputably clear: For the first time in a generation change is in the air – and with it – a whole host of new opportunities for agencies to build fame for their clients.