Some of my students and I were privileged to hear from Tom Rosenstiel at last week’s Ohio Newspaper Association Annual Convention in Columbus. We were there because Cedars, the student news publication at Cedarville University, received several awards including the top prize in our division.
Rosenstiel is known for his work with Pew Research and as co-author of “The Elements of Journalism.” His new job is executive director of the American Press Institute.
He spoke about what everyone in the news industry wonders about … the future. And as Rosenstiel sees it, the audience will determine the future of news. Appropriately, some were tweeting as he spoke to room full of weekly newspaper editors and reporters, college student journalists and college media advisers among others.
Rosenstiel’s research is compelling. He made six key points as he discussed how news consumers are gaining control from news producers for how and when news will be delivered:
- Audiences are consuming more news, not less: Technology is the reason and mobile is a powerful multiplier for your audience.
- Technology has likely increased your audience: And made it younger. Average age of print reader is 54, average age of mobile reader is 37.
- Understand the cycle of news discovery (or personal news cycle): People move across platforms, based on time of day, the questions they want to know, where they are. And most people are loyal across platforms.
- Your future is mobile … and social: Mobile is the real Web 2.0, it is our second chance. Mobile is growing fast.
- There is no such thing as “the online experience”: Behavior changes with time of day, by device and by place and context. There is a place for long-form journalism online.
- The future is both responsive and Apps: Consider task-specific Apps for Smartphoners; be platform orthodox by exploiting potential of each technology and each device.
In summary, Rosenstiel says thriving equals understanding your audience deeply. To do so you must research, task, ask, respect and don’t underestimate. Design for consumers, not advertisers. He says what disrupted us – the audience – will save us because we have so many ways to reach them.
The mobile audience is willing to pay for content and there are examples of this reality. This is a key to making this model work.
Rosenstiel gave a similar talk to the American Society of News Editors last summer. The video is available on the API website. If you watch, hang on through the Q&A time because he addresses the role of advertising in a mobile world.